Gossip Gang: Rosebrough, Johnson, and Peters Show Why Discernment Matters

This video from Chris Rosebrough, Phil Johnson, and Justin Peters is… disappointing.

Full disclosure: I write as a personal friend of Jordan (JD) Hall. I haven’t been in communication with Jordan Hall about Chris Rosebrough’s video or about Jordan’s recent church situation. You can find the most accurate information about that here and here. I have in the past worked as Jordan Hall’s communications manager. I have also worked for him as a contractor, setting up some email marketing tools and Facebook ads.

What follows is my reaction to Chris Rosebrough’s video posted 7/7/2022. I don’t have a personal connection to Chris Rosebrough, Phil Johnson, or Justin Peters. I appreciate their ministries and I pray that the concerns I raise here will be heard by them, leading to public corrections of the problems.

Throughout the video, the three men seem to be spit-balling, and they seem to be somewhat unaware of specific details about the events they discuss. It would have been advisable for these men to ask the input of David Morrill or Dustin Germaine at Protestia, or one of the elders at Jordan Hall’s church in order to check some of their claims.

The three men make general statements about Jordan Hall’s work and personality without bringing specific facts in. This is typical of the poor quality YouTube “discernment” we find today. It disrespects the viewer by not allowing him to personally evaluate the facts.

The video ought to have focused on the facts of the situation:

Jordan Hall has resigned from his role as a pastor after admitting to being addicted to Xanax. He is now seeking treatment for this addiction and submitting to church discipline. This shows character on Jordan’s part, even in a situation of being found in an embarrassing personal failure, and what is likely a sin.

It also shows that Jordan Hall taught his church how to follow the Bible. We can be grateful for the godly example of the elders at Fellowship Baptist Church.

From this situation, we can draw some moral lessons:

  • Be careful about substances.
  • Be careful about accountability.
  • Don’t overwork.
  • Trust God to save the world — God does not depend on you working yourself to death.

But Chris Rosebrough, Phil Johnson, and Justin Peters decided to use this situation not to discuss the difficulties and temptations of pastoring, but instead the things they never liked about Jordan Hall.

In the video at 13:13, Chris Rosebrough, Phil Johnson, and Justin Peters discuss what they did not like about Jordan Hall’s manner of writing. And they stay on that topic for the remaining 35 minutes of the video.

What does this have to do with Jordan Hall becoming addicted to Xanax? Discernment writing can be hard work. But Rosebrough, Johnson, and Peters wade in far over their heads, attempting to speculate about a connection between Jordan Hall’s writing style and his current problem with Xanax.

They had a problem with Jordan Hall before.

They treat Jordan Hall’s current troubles (with Xanax and a recent, ridiculous lawsuit brought against Jordan) as being indicators that Jordan was morally in the wrong over a period of years — that he did not have the right mindset for doing discernment work.

In other words, these three discernment voices did not like the way Jordan Hall did discernment, and they seem to think that recent events should count as evidence that what Jordan had been doing in his writing was unwise.

Chris Rosebrough, Phil Johnson, and Justin Peters were concerned that Jordan Hall was disqualified from the pastorate before he resigned, because he was not temperate, peaceable, etc. They thought he was too combative and caustic. Phil thought Jordan had been unrighteously pugnacious — picking fights he should not have picked. Phil quoted 2 Timothy 2 about not being quarrelsome and about correcting opponents with gentleness.

These are topics I’ve worked hard to understand, and I do not find them as simple as Phil Johnson seems to think. At FTNCI, we have published several videos and articles seeking a principled approach to “tone.” Below are two highlights from our work on that:

Contrast Phil Johnson’s superficial approach (aka: name a verse, then impugn a man’s character as if it is self-evident, with no steps in between) to what we have done at FTNCI. We have aimed to understand why the examples we see in Scripture do not, on face-value, appear to match the exhortations.

Paul calls people foolish and he comments that he wishes his opponents would emasculate themselves, but, in another context, Paul exhorts Timothy to be kind to everyone. Is Paul a hypocrite? Or are we facing an interpretive challenge?

At FTNCI, we have concluded that “tone” is largely dependent on context: Is the issue private vs. public, and what is at stake? We have also determined that the standard of what counts as “overly-critical” or “needlessly harsh” in the Bible is not the same as that held by Americans today.

Contrast this approach to that seen in the video by Chris Rosebrough, Phil Johnson, and Justin Peters. They offer no serious discussion about what Paul’s words to Timothy might have meant in context, or why they think Jordan Hall’s writing does not measure up to the standard of Scripture.

They offer no specific examples of words Jordan Hall has said — no engagement with specific facts.

Phil Johnson says, “With Jordan there seemed to be almost a contempt for that command (2 Timothy 2:24). He would not under any circumstances be gentle or kind with an opponent… He just burned everything down. I stopped quoting Jordan 3 or 4 years ago.”

Phil Johnson is clearly not aware of the many times Jordan Hall did speak graciously toward his opponents. If he wanted examples, I could provide them. Phil’s words about Jordan were simply unsubstantiated and untrue.

Then Chris Rosebrough described a personal visit that Jordan Hall made to Chris’ house in which Chris ended up rebuking Jordan about his priorities. Chris reports that Jordan did not respond or acknowledge the rebuke.

Jordan Hall actually discussed that conversation on his podcast later and he said he agreed with Chris Rosebrough and was going to do what Chris had advised. It is sad that Chris shared their private conversation in such a one-sided way, oblivious to the rest of what Jordan later said on his podcast, in a way that appears to needlessly undercut Jordan’s reputation.

Chris Rosebrough then questioned whether Jordan Hall even has a vitamin D deficiency, suggesting he might have made that up to explain his recent health problems. That is a fairly serious accusation, and not supported.

No one else challenges this bold claim on the video. For men who work in pastoral ministry and discernment, this is a shockingly lax standard of bringing accusations.

Phil Johnson then recounts a personal conversation with Jordan Hall in which Phil compared Jordan to a fundamentalist pastor from 100 years ago. Later, according to Phil, Jordan read up on that pastor and learned the story, and that pastor had shot someone, purportedly in self-defense in a case that was questionable. Jordan then asked Phil why he brought up that in comparison with Jordan and said he found it frightening. Phil then said, “The next thing I heard was that he had been arrested.”

Is this how friends treat friends? Recounting private conversations in ways that seem designed to incriminate?

Chris Rosebrough then said Jordan often reported on heresies in a way that needed to be done, “but what was missing was any of the love of Christ in many of the ways he presented it.”

I’d like to see some actual research and quotes from Jordan Hall before people make such a claim. Otherwise, this is just someone’s opinion. Before condemning the man, it would be right to ask whether he did in fact express the love of Christ in his personal encounters or some of his public speech. I can attest that he did. It is almost as if Chris Rosebrough hardly knows Jordan Hall and has never spent any extended time with him.

I have.

I have observed Jordan Hall share the gospel with a tender heart. I have observed him pray for strangers and encourage brothers. I have observed Jordan correct people with patience, and no ridicule at all.

Jordan has corrected me several times, and he showed true grace, as a shepherd.

I have seen Jordan display righteous indignation toward wolves. No one would deny that. But so did Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, Jude, and so on.

What specific situation do these three men have a problem with? What standard are they using? How do they get that standard from a robust survey of the Bible’s teaching and example? To simply assume the accusation is a slippery thing to do.

Phil Johnson then implies that Jordan Hall was bearing false witness, because, according to Phil, to “slant” a story deliberately is to bear false witness. Jordan never claimed to be neutral. But why is that wrong?

Phil Johnson said Jordan Hall “did more damage to the truth than some of the liberals he opposed.” Really? In what way?

Chris Rosebrough then misrepresented Jordan Hall’s legal battle, suggesting that Jordan “had to admit that he spoke lies,” and saying this fact has thus called into question Jordan’s whole body of work. Get the facts straight: Jordan publicly retracted a statement in an article because his source had mistakenly identified a person in an eye-witness account. Are we to believe that an error of that kind would call all of Jordan’s work into question?

Phil Johnson followed up that statement by saying, “It’s easy in the heat of a polemical battle to exaggerate or oversell…” but Phil seemed to have no idea about whether that point applies to the legal battle Jordan was in. (Note: it does not.)

Justin Peters then suggested that Jordan Hall had no grief in calling out false teaching, but reveled in it. This is simply not the case. Justin, my brother, you are sinning against Jordan Hall to suggest such a thing. I ask you to make it right by correcting the record on that.

Chris Rosebrough then suggested that Jordan Hall became a reviler.

The three men all agreed that Jordan Hall should never be behind the pulpit again. They did not offer an argument for why. Was it because he used more Xanax than his prescription allowed? Or does their choice of discussion topics suggest that their issue is with Jordan Hall’s writing? Who knows. They offer no explanation.

Getting hooked on Xanax is not a “spectacular sin” (their words). It might be a cause to reevaluate one’s call to ministry. But that is an issue to explore, not to simply assume.

Some “friends.”

This video was a major disappointment.

We should pray that Jordan Hall will get free of his addiction to Xanax.

And, as we do, we should pray these three brothers will develop a greater love of the methods of truth in public discourse.

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