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How Can Someone Be Right, but So, So Wrong?

11 January 2012

Alexander StrauchI want, so badly, to be a fan of Alexander Strauch. I REALLY do.  I have known about Strauch for several years. He first published the work for which he is most widely known, Biblical Eldership, in the late 1980s. Someone who writes intelligent biblically-based works on the importance of lay eldership would seem to be someone who would excite me.  Right?

But he doesn’t. And it is not so much what he says. I agree with probably over 95% of what Strauch says. But what I don’t like is the condescending know-it-all attitude that permeates the book. I was amused when one of the most conservative elders in my last church told of throwing the book Biblical Eldership across the room in anger as he read it. The irony was that this elder should have agreed with even more that Strauch says than what I do. But it was the attitude that the book communicated that infuriated this elder.

Why do I raise the subject of Alexander Strauch now? (I haven’t cracked my copy of Biblical Eldership in years and have no intention of doing so any time soon).

The reason is that Strauch was the speaker at the Spurgeon Fellowship lectureship yesterday at Western Seminary here in Portland. I have written about the lectures at the Spurgeon Fellowship numerous times—generally very favorably.

When I saw that Strauch was on the docket for yesterday, I really debated about whether or not I should go. Why go when I figure all that will happen is that I will be irritated?

But the subject (believe it or not) was (drumroll please) “Love.”

Wow.

Love.

OK.

Maybe I should go. It so happens (I discovered) that Strauch has written such tomes as “Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-up Call to the Church”, “Leading with Love”, “Agape Leadership” and the wonderfully titled, “If You Bite & Devour One Another.”

So, I took a risk.

Bad mistake.

How can someone take the subject of “love”, fill his presentation with scriptures on love and do it in such an unloving manner?

Strauch’s first lecture was on losing one’s first love (Rev. 2:1-7). Strauch is known for his exegetical approach to scripture and he eminently demonstrated that in his first lecture. Alex noted that in Rev. 2, the phrase that the Ephesian church had “lost [their] first love” (mentioned in v. 4) does not have an object. Their love of what?  Strauch states (correctly, I believe) that that first love can be a combination of love for God, love for the lost and love for one another.

His second lecture was from Heb 10-:24-25: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Strauch spoke about how to “stir up one another to love and good works.” He suggested that we more intentionally study love, pray for love, teach love, model love, guard love and practice love.  WONDERFUL outline. 

I really liked his suggestion in premarital counseling that we have couples take the first 15 weeks of their marriage and look for ways to implement the fifteen descriptions of love found in I Cor 13:4-7)

  1. Love is patient
  2. Love is kind
  3. Love does not envy
  4. Love does not boast;
  5. Love is not arrogant
  6. Love is not rude.
  7. Love does not insist on its own way
  8. Love is not irritable
  9. Love is not resentful
  10. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing
  11. Love rejoices with the truth
  12. Love bears all things
  13. Love believes all things
  14. Love hopes all things
  15. Love endures all things

But that hoary problem of Strauch’s attitude crept in again. It was that cocky, “I’m right, you’re wrong.” One example: he posited that while women flocked to women’s workshops in the 1980’s to learn how to be a submissive wife, husbands would never go to workshops and conferences to learn how to to be a more loving husband. When several of us shook our head in disagreement, (I was thinking of the millions of men who flocked to Promisekeepers conferences in the 1990’s) he looked straight at me and said (quite literally), “It doesn’t matter whether or not you agree. I’m right.”

The mocking of others was a continual verbal parade during his presentation. He referred to the Beatles’ song “All You Need Is Love” and (appropriately) pointed out its vapid emotionalism. But he then went into a mocking tirade against the Beatles.

His shameless plugging of his books was also blatant. He kept telling people to quit taking notes and buy his books instead. “Every time you take a note, you miss the next thing I am saying.” (as if the worst thing in the world was to miss his next “gem” and thus not have the need to give him money by buying his book.

Perhaps it is picky because I evaluate public speakers, but that cocky, “I’m special and important and you’re not” came through even in his ignoring of the clock.  The speakers at the Spurgeon Fellowship are given a large block of time in which to make their presentations.  Any announcements are minimized and this time even corporate singing was cut shorter than usual.  But did Mr. Strauch honor those present by staying within his time frame?  No, and he boasted that he wasn’t about to do so.  “You don’t look hungry.  You need to hear what I have to say.” was what he said when the time appointed for ending had passed.  He exceeded his allotted time by 15 minutes both times that he spoke.  The rudeness and arrogance of that behavior did not jive well with a presentation on the importance of love. 

I am sad to say that my opinion of Alex Strauch stays intact. Someone who is so right in (most) of his doctrinal beliefs and teachings, but so wrong in the attitude that he uses to communicate it.

Strauch closed his talk with the words of the apostle John: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:18)

If only Alex Strauch would heed the very words he reads.

Attitude, Portland, Preaching, Spurgeon Fellowship , , , ,

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