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A Rejoinder to Dr. B

Jun 5, 2024 — Conley Owens

A recent blog post[1] from Mindanao Grace Seminary written by the pseudonymous “Dr. B”[2] offers some criticisms of my book, The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity (TDP). I’m thankful for the interaction; obviously this is an important topic in which we both have a vested interest.

Much was said in the article, and responding to all of it seems counter-productive, so along with Dr. B, “My intention is not to pluck ever[sic] leaf, not to chop each branch but to attack the root of the proposition.”


Dr. B begins by asserting that the novelty of the thesis demands weighty proof. This seems to be one of his primary concerns, even concluding on this point.

Certainly, there should be serious concern around doctrinal novelty. As a Christian in the Reformed tradition, I feel a great burden to demonstrate how any position I hold can sensibly be accounted for in light of the Spirit’s work throughout the history of the church. I attempted to do so in chapter 10 where I argued that the early church held this ethic, which was subsequently compromised due to various forms of pragmatism and substantially restored in the Reformation. As a Baptist—who presumably affirms congregationalism and credobaptism—hopefully Dr. B can resonate with this historical trajectory.

My position is not that the dorean principle is truly novel, but as has been the case with many truths, different eras produce various challenges that demand greater clarity in doctrinal formulation. Our own era has faced the changes of copyright and royalties since the 18th century and digital publishing since the 20th, both of which require the church to consider how doctrine should be reformulated and/or applied. For example, we should not be satisfied with Luther’s writings on indulgences as though they are the final word on the sale of spiritual things. While his objections were sufficient for such obvious transgressions, the challenges we face today require greater precision.

It’s worth pointing out that since publishing TDP, a good bit of my research has focused particularly on identifying the more nascent forms of this ethic in history, especially under the heading of simony. I hope to write on this more in the future.


Dr. B likewise has concerns over anachronism. That is, he asserts that TDP makes modern applications where Scripture is silent.

At one point, he says of conferences, book stores, and seminaries, “Paul could not possibly be concerned about such things as they did not exist in his time.” No one is suggesting Paul had these exact institutions in mind, but certainly modern institutions are not immune to the regulation of biblical principles. For example, did Paul know about the internet? It seems unlikely, but his exhortations on proper speech should guide digital communication as well as analog.

For the interested reader, I have addressed related concerns around anachronism here.


Dr. B begins, “The systemic issue is an improper, and often inconsistent hermeneutic. The author’s treatment of the passages repeatedly demonstrates the failure of proper exegesis.” With all due respect, it is difficult to accept charges of poor interpretation when the author of this critique does not seem to have interpreted my arguments according to my intention. It is very well possible that I have failed as a communicator. However, to put a few of these examples on display:

Dr. B takes issue with my comments regarding Matthew 9:37-38 on p7 where I speak of God as the employer of the workers in the harvest. He says the argument does not consider context and that “The text says nothing about God, employers, employment, sources of income, grain, or money.” However, the point of my citation was to provide context in the discussion of Matthew 10:8-10, which does speak directly of financial concerns.

Early in the book, I mention the cleansing of the temple in demonstration of Jesus’s concern over misusing the things of God for the sake of gain. Dr. B objects that “These verses fail to support the assertion of the author because those were who[sic] were ran[sic] out of the temple courtyard were not ministers.” Of course, I never offered this verse as evidence of the dorean principle itself, only as a reason for us to take seriously the subject matter of money and ministry.[3]

In that same section, I point out that "…Jesus rejected Satan’s proposal for material gain (Matt. 4:3, Luke 4:3).” Dr. B objects that this is not the point, providing what supposedly is an alternative: “Jesus already possess[sic] the entirety of creation and Satan can give Him nothing that is not already rightfully His. At issue is that Jesus was tempted in every way and yet sinned not.” If I understand correctly, Dr. B seems to have read me as supposing some peccability of the Son, which I deny. Jesus is impeccable.

Just as one more example, Dr. B asserts that in my discussion of widows, I redefine “honor” to preclude any reference to material compensation. I don’t know how he reaches this conclusion. Part of my argument is that the Greek word for honor frequently has reference to prices, and I even gave the example in English of an “honorarium” being a form of honor that involves payment.

I’m not sure how to begin responding to the criticisms of exegesis when none of them seem to represent my actual position. I’d be happy to have that interaction, but a number of misunderstandings would need to be cleared up first.


Dr. B additionally seems to have some suspicions around my approach to biblical studies as a whole.

It should be noted that the author makes word study arguments in an attempt to make distinctions between certain types of giving. We often see this with people who cannot read the Greek text but have access to a dictionary or lexicon. This approach lends itself to rootword[sic]/word search fallacy, and is never the way we would prove a doctrine.

My point here is not to defend my Greek skills; I just don’t know how one could object to providing brief word studies as we examine the text. What’s the alternative? That in a consideration of finances we don’t recognize the financial implications of the words “propempo” and “timao?”

This concern about approach seems to pervade the book review. The article is replete with accusations of eisegesis, presumption, proof-texting, covering for inconsistency, ignoring the text, adding to the text, etc. Of course, I am not above examination and welcome critical feedback, but these conclusions seem to be based on a misunderstanding of what those terms actually mean, and charged with an unfounded presumption that I lack true concern for handling the word of God with care.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is out of such a concern for that proper handling of Scripture I write and plead with those who have engaged in the sale of ministry. This includes those well-meaning seminary administrators who have chosen to charge tuition from men who only desire to become competent handlers of the word of God themselves.[4]

A Challenge

Dr. B! Thank you for taking the time to read my book and interact with it. If you are open to it, I believe real time communication would clear up some of the fog; I’d love to engage with you further on this topic in a public dialogue. I know several unbiased YouTube channels that would be interested in hosting such an event. Would you be willing to consider any of these topics you addressed for a focused discussion?

  • Should the necessity of a ministry determine whether it may be sold?
  • Does 1 Timothy 5 advocate for a direct reciprocity for ministers?
  • Do the metaphors of 1 Corinthians 9 demonstrate that obligation to ministers is mediated by an obligation to God?
  • Is Paul’s refusal of funds in 2 Corinthians 11 merely strategic?

I’d be open to other topic suggestions you might propose as well.

  1. For posterity, this has been archived on the Wayback Machine. ↩︎

  2. I have been informed that Dr. B is Barry Carpenter. ↩︎

  3. However, the cleansing of the temple does apply more directly to the dorean principle. Jon Here has written an article on this. ↩︎

  4. Mindanao Grace Seminary Enrollment Information ↩︎

Conley Owens

Author of The Dorean PrincipleMDiv

Conley is a software engineer, a pastor at Silicon Valley Reformed Baptist Church, and a father of eight kids. He is also the author of The Dorean Principle: A Biblical Response to the Commercialization of Christianity.

I began exploring issues with licensing back in college, and over time I witnessed the substantial friction it created in ministry. I was convicted regarding the harm commercial practices cause the church, but for a long time, I was never sure if the Bible had much to say directly about the matter. It turns out it does!

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