Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson: a postmodern morality play...

Well, they'll stone ya when you're trying to be so good
They'll stone ya just a-like they said they would
They'll stone ya when you're tryin' to go home
Then they'll stone ya when you're there all alone

But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned.

-Bob Dylan, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Although a number of men I'm close to have loved the show for quite some time, yesterday in our pastors meeting I was told Duck Dynasty is one of the most popular TV shows of all time, and I was floored. I've never really gotten reality shows. More recently I haven't gotten FB, either. Everybody shouting at their friends that they just went gluten-free. Scintillating ain't it?

So yeah, the Robertsons are fun and I'd like to blow their duck call once or twice to hear why it made them rich. Is it "Queeeeaaaaaaaaauuuck" or just "Quack Quack?"

In fact, Duck Dynasty's success is mostly about money... {C}The Robertsons' schtick is that you can be a real redneck from way down Looosiana way and get rich and famous just being yourself. Right here in the middle of the good ol US of A, we're still here, y'all.

But then there's that Christian thing. What's that about?

For some, it's the main course. When Phil and his family give their testimonies, that's us. We were sunk deep in the muck of our own wickedness, without hope or a future in this world and the next. We were betraying our loved ones and on the highway to Hell when the merciful God reached waaay down, lifted us out, set our feet on a high rock, and saved us. Hearing Phil tell it, our hearts skip for joy to hear Jesus glorified. Yeah Phil's not much for the historic Christian church, and what little church he gives himself to is heretical. But he loves Jesus and so do I—heart, soul, mind, and strength.

But now what?

Phil's gone and said he thinks every sane man prefers to make love to a woman, and one woman who is his wife rather than copulating with a whole bunch of women, animals, or the backsides of men. Even at this late date, way back there in redneck turf where you can get lost in the swamps and tidal basins some things remain fixed and clear. Who wants to rut with a man when you can make love to your wife?

Then Phil really went and did it. I quote:

"Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."

You know how I've been warning that they'll say we can have our religion in private and then make sure we're never alone? Everyone thought Duck Dynasty was a reality show, and you know what?

It is.

As a private American citizen who belongs to Jesus Christ, Phil quoted God to GQ magazine more accurately than the English Standard Version quotes God, so Phil's been fired. (Well, actually, indefinitely suspended, but we'll see.)

No wonder the ESV scaredy cats toned it down. You quote God accurately today and your peers in the chattering class accuse you of firing a broadside in the culture wars which is tolerated by no one, never.

You do know that President Obama's hate crime legislation was never about protecting life, let alone freedom of speech or religion, don't you? He and his henchman are simply out to gag Jesus Christ as well as every man who loves Him and His Word. The purpose of hate crime legislation is to make martyrs of true Christians, removing them from civil society while not yet killing them. When they said "culture wars," they really meant "war."

First, Christians running for public office learned they couldn't get elected if they quoted God. Then Christian public servants learned they couldn't keep their jobs if their pastor quoted God. Next, Christian profs learned they couldn't get tenure if they quoted God on their blogs or FB pages, Christian police officers learned they couldn't keep their job if they quoted God to their partner in their patrol cars, Christian docs learned they couldn't quote God to their patients, and Christian students learned they couldn't quote God in their speeches or papers.

So why would a redneck think he could get way with quoting God? I mean really! Have we all been in a coma? Can't we read the times? Hasn't anyone been sounding a clear note? Doesn't anyone know history at all?

Yesterday the hucksters we invite into our living rooms and onto our computer screens suspended Duck Dynasty's patriarch, Phil Robertson, from his show.

Turns out it's not Phil's show or our show. It's their show. The spawn of Woody Allen who run the Arts and Entertainment Network have given Phil the boot for the offense of quoting God right there in his own life. Speaking for God is a hate crime now, and that's the real reality show.

Duck Dynasty provided the biggest national screen possible for gagging God. So now, every Christian in America has learned the lesson that, if you preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you'll get what Phil Robertson got. So shut up, you fool. Zip it! Some things are best said in the privacy of your own home. Or prayer closet.

Unless, of course, you're like Phil Robertson and you've invited Hollywood cameras into your home and prayer closet. Then, you're outta luck 'cause you're never alone.

So now, Phil's gone.

You better listen up, dude. Tell your loudmouth preacher he's gonna get you in trouble if he doesn't tone it down. You forget your church's sermons are up on the web. Think your boss or the human resources people haven't checked your church's sermons out? Of course they have.

Those sophisticated Christians were right all along. Gotta pull in your horns and smush yourself into your prayer closet.

Find an inoffensive church.

Hogtie your pastor.

Like the man said, if we keep quoting Jesus, "everybody must get stoned."

* * *

(More on this subject.)

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.


The problem is: many of us who are believers in Christ have pastors who are trying to hogtie us--to have us believe in their nuanced version of Scripture, sanitized so that it is palatable to those who have not yet come to Christ and happen to be a part of an audience on any given Sunday.  This was already going on to a lesser extent during my seminary years way back in the dinosaur age of the eighties.  Biblical sexuality and biblical creation are both being sanitized in our day by a majority of self-professing, born-again evangelical church pastors and leaders.  The enemy is not just "out there;" the enemy is well within our own ranks.

Much agreed. I'm curious about your allusion to heresy. Do you have a source embellishing on P.R.'s doctrinal beliefs? Sadly some former pastors whose names rhyme with Kuyper took the "high road" poo-pooing Christians who would brandish faith, righteousness, truth, and other heavenly arms against our enemy the Devil in this skirmish. To paraphrase the rapper Atmosphere: Evangelical pastors need to take they bras off and burn them. @joebancks

The Robertson family has posted a response on their website. It was quite refreshing to read that they are more concerned about their family and the Gospel than the future of the TV show.

We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support.  The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E's decision.  We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word.  While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Phil would never incite or encourage hate.We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm.  We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty.   Again, thank you for your continued support of our family.

>>allusion to heresy. Do you have a source embellishing on P.R.'s doctrinal beliefs?

Denominations aligned with the Robertsons' Church of Christ denomination own this part of Southern Indiana in the way congregationalism owns New England and the Steelers and Pirates own Pittsburgh. Historic Protestants refer to these denominations (Church of Christ, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, etc.) as the Restorationist or Campbellite Movement which came out of the Second Great Awakening. Thomas and Alexander Campbell were a Scottish Presbyterian father and son who repudiated historic Christian doctrine and led a bunch of souls away into heresy. Campbellitism, (also Campbellism or Restorationism) is best explained as a sort of Evangelical Roman Catholicism. It is the repudiation of all doctrines except the heresy of Sacramentalism, and thus they believe in baptismal regeneration and celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly.

But beware, they're extremely hard to pin down which itself is a function of their "no creed but Jesus" and "doctrine divides, Jesus unites" mantra. When I was running CBMW, I asked one of our council members, Jack Cottrell (a theology prof at the Campbellites' Cincinnati Bible College with his M.Div. from Westminster Seminary in Philly and his Ph.D. from Princeton), "Do you hold to baptismal regeneration?" He said yes.

Their practice of weekly communion indicates they also believe what Jonathan Edwards' grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, believed: that the Lord's Supper is a converting ordinance. Historic Protestants knowledgeable in sacramentology would have a hard time coming to any other conclusion. As Mary Lee and I have experienced in the worship of several of their megachurches in this area, there are no words of institution, no fencing of the table, and young girls serve the elements while announcements are given just prior to the concluding benediction.

That's just a quick response, but I'm out of time.


One of the Campbellite slogans is, "Call Bible things by Bible names." At first glance, it sounds great, but let's reflect a bit.

The doctrine of the Trinity (there is one God who eternally exists in three co-equal persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is the first tenet in orthodox Christianity. Only those who hold to it are real Christians. Yet the word, "Trinity," is never found in the Bible. How are you going to call this Bible doctrine by a Bible name?

In our day, the confession of Biblical inerrancy (there are no errors in the autographs of Scripture) is an absolute necessity. Some of us believe that no true Christian will deny this doctrine. But, again, the Bible never uses the word "inerrancy." How are you going to call this Bible doctrine by a Bible name?

What about God's providence, His omniscience, His simplicity … The list goes on and on. I appreciate the spirit behind this slogan but it doesn't work.

Yes, some teachers in some traditions do not work hard enough to make doctrine plain. Presbyterians are usually guilty of this and their teachers are often "show offs."

For more on Campbellitism from a baptist perspective I'd recommend the chapter in what some folk regard as the definitive book defending credobaptism called 'Believer's Baptism' ed. Schreiner and Wright (the one that contains the landmark essay by Stephen Wellum on Baptism and the Relationship between the Covenants).

The chapter is very insightful, written by a man who has previously been described on this blog as 'friend of the Word of God', A.B. Caneday (in connection with John Collins I think).

Here is a teaser:

Yet, if one perseveres in reading his works with care, one discovers that Campbell, particularly on baptism, has been unfairly treated to this day.

If I recall correctly, while eschewing baptismal regeneration, Caneday, with an eye to Campbell, argues that in the NT baptism is a much more integral part of the conversion experience than most credobaptists today allow for and we have separated confession of faith from baptism in a way that is foreign to the apostolic practice and teaching. In sympathy with some of what Campbell was getting at, he distinguishes between baptism as an efficient cause (i.e. baptismal regeneration) and baptism as an instrumental cause. Baptism is not just a symbol. It should not be separated from the unbeliever's repentance. This is quite shocking to read if you have never considered the issue before.

Another quote:

Ironically, since the Second Great Awakening, this same zeal [to avoid baptismal regeneration] has permitted "new measures" of various kinds, such as the "mourners' bench," the "invitation system," or a recited "sinner's prayer" to displace baptism as the rite of conversion, thus shirking and even marginalizing Christ's command to the church. Zeal to avoid "baptismal regeneration," which many perceived to be the necessary consequence of Alexander Campbell's teaching, actually spawned another error, "decisional regeneration"... that is now a traditional element in American evangelicalism.

He also notes Campbell is partly to blame for how he was received by many in the way he conducted himself at times.

One more quote:

This essay has shown, however, that it is both historical and theological malpractice for Baptists and others to impute to Alexander Campbell the flaws of his theological heirs.

The chapter really is excellent, and I would recommend the reading of it to those who wish to inquire further about these things.

Henry (and Jonathan, Tim and David),

While I regretfully haven't read the work to which you point (I'll remedy that some day), I'm stoked to see A.B. Caneday's influence spread around. Caneday was an immensely important teacher for me as an undergraduate 15 years ago. I can say anecdotally from classroom and personal conversations, your summary of his important contribution to Baptist understanding of baptism is accurate.

Here in Missouri/Kansas/Oklahoma, the Cambellites' heritage are well-established, though I rarely interact with them. All I retained of my church history was that they were frontiersy Presbyterians who didn't like their doctrine, so they chucked it for mushy experience. I'm grateful for the several pithy and dense reminders from Jonathan, Tim, and David, of Cambellite teaching.



Another Campbellite slogan: "No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no law but love, no name but the divine." This is really awful, especially for its pride and condescension. 

It's not too hard to make it look silly. No creed but Christ? Which Jesus? The Jehovah's Witness/Arian Jesus? The Mormon Jesus? The New Age Jesus? The Islamic Jesus? The Docetic Jesus? Is He truly God and truly man, the Christ of the early ecumenical councils? Their attempt at simplicity ends in irrationality and silliness. Creeds, confessions and catechisms have always guided the faith of God's elect.

The second clause is, "No book but the Bible." Let's remember, Protestants hold to Scripture alone, not Scripture only. The risen Christ has given gifts to the church and one of them are pastor-teachers. We need them. Yes, some of us came to Christ by reading the Bible. Some were led to Christ by fathers and mothers. But most of us were led to Christ by the officers of the church. Learn from their summaries of the Bible's teaching.

The third clause is, "No law but love." Whew, boy! Not even sure where to start. It's a case study in reductionism. No law at all but love? That sure wasn't Jesus' view. He loved the Law and quoted from it constantly and fulfilled it. His apostles call us to the life of holiness and that means obedience to the Law. Love is indeed the summary of the law but sinner-saints need more details and God has given them in His word, in both testaments.

"No name but the divine." This clause reminds me of the debates in Corinth. "I follow Paul. I follow Cephas. I follow Apollos. I follow Christ." I remember when my teacher in seminary (in this case, Don Carson) told us that the worst was undoubtedly the last. At least they were the most proud. Christ is not divided. We all learned of him from different bondservants of Jesus and we are to remember and honour them.

After spending my public university years with room mates who attended a Campbellite Flagship school, these are all spot on in dealing with the errors. Also very frustrating to nail down when dealing with men directly.

This from a brother who had trouble with our spam filter:

I preach at one of these Christian Churches. It's a small group. There are 15-20 if everyone comes. It was 7 years ago when the patriarch, a very godly man, called and said they were looking for a preacher and that I may be able to help. Knowing what CC doctrine is and that I am Reformed in my theology, I was skeptical but went to talk to him and another man. I told them what I believed and that it may be divisive and upsetting to the congregation. If they didn't like what I preached, Norm could tell me and I'd go quietly away and they could find someone more akin to their theological heritage.

Well, like I said that's been seven years ago. The church hasn't grown, but the people have been fed from God's word. Norm has told me several times that they've never had someone preach from the Bible like I do. It is a nice compliment, but sad that at least from Norm's perspective they've not had meaty biblical preaching there for a long time.

The issue of baptism has come up. I've expressed the covenantal view. While they said that they've always been told, "Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins" my biblical exposition of baptism and directly saying the bible does not say baptism saves you, has not sent me packing.

I do like communion every week. Two men handle the elements. I give a communion meditation with words of institution. I love it. What an opportunity every week to share a part of the glory of Christ and his gospel!

What has been rewarding is seeing these good people respond like King Theodin when Gandalf 'exorcises' him. The clearly presented Word is a marvelous thing even in the hand of this weak and leaky vessel.

Jeff, the 'J' in RJ Honey, LLC

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