office_gossip-web1 I confess that the words of our Lord in Matthew 12:36-37 have long sent chills down my spine. Most of you have read them: “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you” (NLT).

I think it is imperative that we get the sense of this text right. The traditional translation of the word “idle” should be challenged. The impression is that all random remarks will be judged and (this is what sends chills down our spine) if we are guilty there is no hope for us. If this were correct  then no one would be justified on the last day. A truer explanation is that the phrase here means “every deedless word.” Matthew 7:22-23 has already told us that we will give an account for all our deeds. Thus it seems to me Jesus is saying that on the last day people will give an account for their lives and this includes their words that resulted in deeds, or the lack of Christ-like deeds. The first “you” in this text really means every single person since it is plural. The word “every” suggests that the whole of one’s life is examined.

Having said this what hope is there for any of us? Matthew 3:6, with 3:2, indicates that a word of repentance, as in real confession, produces good deeds (i.e. “fruit in keeping with repentance,” in Matt. 3:8). That’s the basis for justification on the last day, confession of sin and trust in Jesus Christ revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees, in this context, had “convicted” Jesus’ innocent disciples (Matt. 12:7), thus they are condemned for their speaking against the Holy Spirit. The sin against the Holy Spirit is to not flee to Christ in confession for justification through his grace alone.

Having said this it is abundantly clear that the Bible speaks a great deal about the sin of speaking inappropriately. Such speech is not innocent or innocuous. The two major sins involved in speaking, besides just talking too much and creating an abundant context for sin, are gossip and slander. This is what I noted yesterday in regard to the Ergun Caner conflict at Liberty University.

Gossip, I noted, is idle talk. It is careless speech. It may be malicious and it may even be true. The gossip spreads rumors but sometime the gossip spreads facts to the wrong people, in the wrong context and in the wrong spirit. Webster’s New World Dictionary says a gossip is “a person who chatters or repeats idle talk and rumors, especially about the private affairs of others.”

Nehemiah 6:5-8 indicates that gossip (false rumors in this instance) was used to intimate Nehemiah in his leadership. One of the most powerful descriptions of gossip in all the Bible is in Psalm 41:5-6:

But my enemies say nothing but evil about me. “How soon will be die and be forgotten?” they ask. They visit me as if they were my friends, but all the while they gather gossip, and when they leave, they’ll spread it everywhere. All who hate me whisper about me, imaging the worst. “He has some fatal disease,” they say. “He will never get out of that bed!” (NLT).

We read in John 7 that the crowds grumbled about our Lord. John says, “Some argued ‘He’s a good man,’ but others said, ‘He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.’ But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders” (John 7:12-13, NLT). And the little epistle of 3 John refers to man named Diotrephes, a church leader, who “made evil accusations” (verse 10) against the apostles.

Proverbs 18:28 says that gossip “separates the best of friends.” And a gossip is a person who “goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” Proverbs 20:19 repeats this statement and then counsels “don’t hang around with chatterers” (NLT). Proverbs 26:20 sums this up rather well: “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops” (NLT). Stop the chattering gossip and the quarrel will most often end.

Make no mistake about the conclusion here: gossip is a sin. Paul speaks of confronting the church in Corinth and of addressing their numerous sins that will require him to deal with them on a future visit. Among the sins he lists are “quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior” (2 Cor. 12:20, NLT). Note how closely all of these are related to one another. They actually tend to fly together like a flock of Canadian geese heading south for the winter. Where you find jealousy, anger and arrogance you also find gossip, slander and selfishness, and vice versa.

In the particular case of Dr. Ergun Caner, which I referred to yesterday, it seems that a whole load of gossip was involved with some facts that were used to “make evil accusations.” The board of Liberty University, which no one would rightly suggest had any reason to cover up the facts if they found them worthy of letting him go, has retained Dr. Caner on the Liberty faculty. I think fair-minded and gracious Christians should leave it there. It is none of their business to engage in this dialog any further when proper channels of authority were followed and a process justly concluded that said the charges against Dr. Caner were not sufficient to warrant dismissal. My advice: Pay no heed to further discussion about this issue or you will likely be engaging in gossip yourself.

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Comments

  1. Vic Woodward July 28, 2010 at 6:09 am

    John…I so appreciate your post on gossip. I did not read your previous post and am not familiar with the discussion at Liberty, but your unveiling of truth here in regards to gossip needs to be talked about more in Christian community. Thank You!

  2. Francis Turretin July 28, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I must respectfully disagree with your application to the Ergun Caner situation. I’ve provided a detailed explanation why, at the URL below:
    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2010/07/response-to-john-h-armstrong-on-caner.html
    -TurretinFan

  3. Debbie Kaufman July 28, 2010 at 8:44 am

    I’m sorry but this is ridiculous. It’s a ridiculous argument as we have already shown through scripture. I guess God himself was engaging in gossip when he killed Aninias and Sapphira for lying to Holy Spirit. Paul must have been engaging in gossip when he publicly rebuked Peter and the examples go on.
    Ergun lied publicly, even lying to our military, our government concerning his past that wasn’t. He spoke at many churches, wrote books that sold widely, audio, video, and was on television etc.
    Liberty did not attain him, he is not listed among the professors for the curriculum this year. If one is going to lie publicly, the public needs to be made aware. That is not gossip, that is calling for Holiness in the church, and you as a minister should of all people know that. Scripture interprets scripture and to say this is gossip is to join those who sweep sin under the rug under the guise of gossip. It needs to stop.

  4. Bennett Willis July 28, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I don’t think that the Caner discussion fits the definition of gossip. We have the presentation of hundreds of hours of video and audio recordings of Ergun Caner saying many things. We have numerous documents that show what he says is not true. There is certainly enough information available to draw a conclusion. It does seem inappropriate to draw a conclusion without viewing a reasonable sampling of the information that is available.
    And (as has been said so many times) once you view the information, then you KNOW that things were said that simply were not true. You also know that the Caners benefitted from our belief in the statements that were not true.
    Then the conclusion choices seem to be either, (a) lies don’t matter in the case of the Caners, (b) lies don’t matter much or (c) lies do matter.
    My conviction is that lies matter and should not be ignored–and that this especially applies to lies by teachers and pastors. I am amazed that there are people, who expect to have credibility, who will defend EC without examining the information. And those who defend him after examining the information–well, actually I don’t remember anyone who admits to examining the details of the information who defends. There is so much that cannot be defended. They would have to decide which version of where he grew up to defend. Or the number of wives the A. M. Caner had and how they were sequenced. Or when Ergun came to the US. And it continues indefinitely.

  5. Bennett Willis July 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Had you written today’s posting before you read the comments on yesterday’s? I certainly hope so.
    And I did write my previous comment on this posting before I read yesterday’s post. 🙂
    I have been waiting for someone to get out on the limb based on Dr. Geisler’s (or other’s) writings and then examine the information. Are you going to do this? Will you be the first to adjust an opinion?

  6. Tim G July 28, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Debbie,
    “Liberty did not attain him…”?????
    He is listed as a Prof and was retained – check the web site. You are WRONG again. Talk about proving the point of the post.

  7. Tim G July 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Debbie,
    Read this:
    Dr. Ergun Caner – email
    //Professor of Theology and Church History
    /Apologist, http://www.erguncaner.com
    /LU Online and Residential Classes
    From the Liberty Web site. You are wrong again! Will you now repent of gossip?

  8. DE123 July 29, 2010 at 8:17 am

    John,
    Could you give us examples of this gossip that you are talking about? You say a “whole load of gossip” and “some facts” were used to make accusations. How can using audio and video of Caner to point out his lies be gossip? Most of what I have seen has been pointing out the descrepancies in Caner’s story using his own words.
    To me, gossip would be “he cheated on his taxes, he cheated on his wife, he beats his kids” kind of statements. I’ve not seen this. In fact, I’ve seen “Caner is a nice guy, a talented speaker, he’s great with the college kids,” etc
    In fact, he’s so nice that many are just refusing to listen to the evidence and finding fault with the bloggers and Calvinists instead.
    Caner has sinned very publically and needs to apologize very publically. If all Caner did was teach at LU then fine, it would be LU’s problem. But he has told these lies all over the country and presented himself as an expert when he is not. There’s a price that comes with “celebrity” and that is accountability.

  9. Fredericka July 29, 2010 at 8:43 am

    “The board of Liberty University, which no one would rightly suggest had any reason to cover up the facts…”
    John, Liberty University is a political animal. Ergun Caner, their expert on Islam, is a vocal proponent of the idea that ‘Islam’ attacked America on 9/11, not some heretical offshoot thereof: “And high jihad simply means, when there has been a signed fatwa, a signed ruling, that declaration of holy war, that you are then obliged, as one who is an adherent,— you are obliged to fight holy war, against a stated enemy, or a stated infidel. In this case, the fatwa signed was February 23, 1998. And when that fatwa was signed, by Osama bin Mohammed bin Laden, Fasul Rahman, al Zawahiri, all the rest of them,— when they signed the fatwa, it obliged a huge segment of Muslims, specifically the Saudi region, but also to those, as we now know, in Afghanistan, and the Pakistan in ulema. Here they are. They have to fight. If you are obliged to fight and you do not fight, quite frankly you are putting yourself in danger of hell-fire.”
    (Former President of Liberty Seminary, Ergun Caner, on the Faith and Family broadcast). (http://faithandfamily.com/mp3/20070828.mp3).
    Notice Ergun’s award of legitimate authority to Osama bin Laden: “…when they signed the fatwa, it obliged a huge segment of Muslims…” His constant effort is to normalize Islamic terrorism. To him, there are two kinds of Muslims: those who follow bin Laden, and those who have never read the Koran and would be surprised to discover it advocates holy war. This non-mainstream viewpoint is guaranteed by Ergun’s personal testimony, his very own youthful experience of jihad: he has seen it from the inside. So they say. Once you realize he made it up, not only does he have problems, they have problems.

  10. Debbie Kaufman July 29, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Tim: Ergun Caner is not listed to teach any classes. By distorting the truth you are the one doing more harm than good. As for repentance, I thought my answer was clear. I will not repent for something that is not sin. Give it up Tim.

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