Sarah Young recently issued a reply to Isaac’s post critiquing her Check My Church (CMC) and I wanted to provide some input on the controversy. First, it’s puzzling how much she insists that Isaac respond to her review of Living Faith. At best he’s a church member, not a pastor, elder, or leader. Why should he respond to her review? Isaac makes very clear from the beginning that he’s only interested in critiquing her site’s methodology and the McCraneyism that inspired it. Having initiated the debate, he’s free to direct the debate in whatever way that interests him. But because he doesn’t frame the debate in the way that Sarah demands, she acts as if this somehow does damage to Isaac’s response. It does not. Part of the reason that she does this is because she wants to paint a picture of a disgruntled member who starts a fight because she gave a negative review of their church. This is just not the case. He was aware of the site well before it reviewed Living Faith and had the same qualms then as he does now.
Second, it’s important to understand Isaac’s aim in that post. His goal was to parody CMC and simultaneously use a superior methodology (actually visiting the church) and formulate a biblical + logical critique of Shawn McCraney’s church. If he is right, it would invalidate CMC because it recommends a church that is clearly not biblical. Contrary to what Sarah claims, she does seem to approve churches that line up to her beliefs. Now she would deny this and claim that she focuses only on what is essential to Christianity. This is interesting because in her review of Living Faith, she critiques them for their view on tithes. How in the world is that essential to the faith? She may reply that legalism is contrary to the essence of the faith. Well okay, except there was no good reason to dock them for legalism. All she had was some very vague “hint” of legalism.
Third, Sarah makes a big point about how Isaac’s review is an ad hominem. But unfortunately this completely fails to understand the nature of an ad hominem fallacy. It is not fallacious to insult a person. Sometimes it can even be called for when it is precisely the person that is the problem. Attacking the person becomes fallacious when the issue is the truth of a claim, but instead of addressing the argument for the truth of a claim, you ignore the argument and directly attack the person in order to justify dismissing their argument. This is not what Isaac did. He attacked Shawn, yes, but he sought to point out logical and biblical inconsistencies to justify this attack. If this counts as an ad homimen, then Sarah’s attack on Isaac for being a “disgruntled member” is itself an ad hominem because it attacks his motives rather than the logical content of his review.
Lastly, I want to make a few general remarks. I was there with Isaac when we visited the church and there was indeed a bisexual man that CAMPUS applauded. It’s not hearsay if we saw it with our eyes, which we did. Sarah is so out of touch with the church, that she thinks she knows the church better than we do because she’s got a computer. This is why visiting a church is so important. Yes, you can get most of the cold hard facts about a church right from doing your “research” just as you could by reading up on a movie. But you can’t expect anyone to take your review of a movie very seriously when you haven’t seen it yourself. Maybe if you’re trying to be some robotic Wikipedia could this work, but it misses out on the heart of a church. To her credit she does at least aim to visit churches, but still, that’s like a movie critic saying it is ideal to see the movie but happens to be unable to see most of them. You can’t get the feel the heart of a movie that way, it has to be experienced.
I also find it very telling that she thinks the Trinity is not an essential doctrine. It may not be essential to salvation in cases where real ignorance (and not explicit denial) is involved as we see of the OT authors, but if one discovers but still resists the claims that are historically essential to Christianity, one has in fact forfeited the gospel because the identity of Jesus is crucial to the possibility of salvation. Jesus must be God, and not only that, He must be a distinct person that eternally shares in the divine essence (Philippians 2:6). God never became three persons, there always was three persons in one being. That she doesn’t see this as essential when just about all of Christian history does demonstrates a bias toward McCraneyism. Every possible church checker will have some kind of bias, but at least make it as close to Mere Christianity as possible.
For the record, I do not attend Living Faith. I have theological disagreements of my own and prefer Refuge Church. In fact, I agree with Sarah on tithing. But unlike her, I can attend their church and enjoy fellowship without my “heresy tingles” going off. Nevertheless, as someone who has attended their services, I found Sarah’s review to be quite unfair. Is she really going to judge how biblical a church is by how many times a Bible verse was mentioned? And is she really going to expect an exegetical defense of their interpretation to an audience that already agrees with her? This isn’t seminary. If requested, I assure you they would be able to provide a biblical defense. Whether you agree with it or not is a different story. She then goes on to say how man-centered it was to talk about healing. What? Has she read the promises of healing all throughout the Bible for faith and obedience? Now if they taught a prosperity gospel I would agree with Sarah, but I know for a fact that they preach against this.
All in all then, I don’t see any reason to think Check My Church is credible.