Site Meter
|The Thirsty Theologian| |Sola Gratia| |Sola Fide| |Solus Christus| |Sola Scriptura| |Soli Deo Gloria| |Semper Reformanda|
|The Thirsty Theologian| |Sola Gratia| |Sola Fide| |Solus Christus| |Sola Scriptura| |Soli Deo Gloria| |Semper Reformanda|

Ministerial Malpractice

(18 posts)

The Gospel According to … Bozo?

Friday··2006·11·24 · 1 Comments
Church historian J.  A. Merle D’Abigne writes of the condition of the Church at the time of the Reformation: At the same time, a profane spirit had invaded religion, and the most solemn recollections of the Church; the seasons which seemed most to summon the faithful to devout reflection and love, were dishonored by buffoonery and profanations altogether heathenish. The humours of Easter held a large place in the annals of the Church. The festival of the Resurrection claiming to be joyfully commemorated, preachers went out of their way to put into their sermons whatever might excite the laughter of the people. One preacher imitated the cuckoo; another hisses like a goose; one dragged to the altar a layman dressed in a monk’s cowl. A second related the grossest indecencies; a third recounted the tricks of the Apostle St. Peter;—among others, how, at an inn, he cheated the host, by not paying his reckoning. The lower orders of the clergy followed the example, and turned their superiors into ridicule. The very temples were converted into a stage, and the priest into mountebanks. — J.  A. Merle D’Abigne, The History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century (Londo: D. Walther, 1843), 1:37–38. Clown Eucharist, Trinity Church, New York City Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? What they were doing five hundred years ago is being done today. Why? Because the spirit of the age during the sixteenth century is the spirit of our age. People want to be entertained, to have fun, to be made to feel good. Religious leaders want to fill their auditoriums and be admired and make people happy. That is the essence of the gospel in mainstream churches today. In five hundred years, human nature has not changed. Consequently, the methods of attracting audiences have not changed. Religious leaders are still selling the same sugar-coated garbage to those who love it so. At the same time, because human nature has not changed, the genuine need of sinners has not changed. Sinners do not need self-esteem. They do not need to be entertained. They do not need to go to “church” and be religious. They need the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is not found in entertainment, fun, and games. It is found in the pages of Holy Scripture, and nowhere else. Pastors, preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2). Christians, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:2).

“They can read the comics every day”

Thursday··2007·08·16 · 3 Comments
John Piper on pulpit frivolity: The fruit of William Cowper’s affliction is a call to free ourselves from trite and chipper worship. If the Christian life has become the path of ease and fun in the modern West, then corporate worship is the place of increasing entertainment. The problem is not a battle between contemporary worship music and hymns; the problem is that there aren’t enough martyrs during the week. If no solders are perishing, what you want on a Sunday is Bob Hope and some pretty girls, not the army chaplain and a surgeon. Cowper was sick. But in his sickness he saw things that we so desperately need to see. He saw hell. And sometimes he saw heaven. He knew terror. And sometimes he knew ecstasy. When I stand to welcome the people to worship on Sunday morning, I know that there are William Cowpers in the congregation. There are spouses who can barely talk. There are sullen teenagers living double lives at home and school. There are widows who still feel the amputation of a fifty-year partner. There are single people who have not been hugged for twenty years. There are men in the prime of their lives with cancer. There are moms who have risked all for Jesus and bear the scars. There are tired and discouraged and lonely struggles. Shall we come to them with a joke? They can read the comics every day. What they need from me is not more bouncy, frisky smiles and stories. What they need is a kind of a joyful earnestness that makes the broken heart feel hopeful and helps the ones who are drunk with trifles sober up for greater joys. —John Piper, The Hidden Smile of God (Crossway, 2001), 167.

Mother Teresa again … [sigh]

Tuesday··2011·03·08 · 4 Comments
An Open Letter To . . . No, no open letters here. A memo, perhaps, to anyone who would utter σκυβαλον like this in public. 1. Neat story about Toscanini. It creates a nice façade of humility, but behind that façade is the implication that “I have produced such a pure rendition of Beethoven’s symphony that it bears none of my own personal marks.” That’s pretty high praise snuck in the back door. I don’t think that’s an example you want to emulate. But that’s just a little annoyance. What really has me going is . . . 2. “Jesus lived like Mother Teresa.” Please don’t say that. Don’t compare my Lord and Savior to a disciple of an idolatrous religion, especially one whose public persona was a fraud. It’s way past time—and I’m not the first to say so—that Christians stopped holding Teresa up as an example of Christian faith, piety, and charity. She was not a Christian; she was a Roman Catholic. But she wasn’t even a good Catholic. Please, before you lift her up in praise one more time, make the effort to find out who she really was. Here are a just a couple of sources: The Myth Of Mother Teresa by Tim Challies The Missionary Position by Christopher Hitchens (read a good review, also by Challies, here) Some of you might object to using an atheist as a source, but this isn’t theology. This is just a matter of reporting facts. Sure, Hitchens’ animosity toward religion in general comes through in The Missionary Position, but Teresa’s religion is not defensible, anyway. The facts he reports concerning her alleged charitable work, and the contrast between the public persona and the private reality, will forever change the way you think of Mother Teresa.

Sex, Lies, and Disqualified Pastors

Thursday··2011·08·18 · 4 Comments
Don’t be so gullible, McFly! A couple of weeks ago, I commented that “Pentecostal/charismatic theology in all its shades is dangerous, and inherently non-Protestant.” Since I and many others have demonstrated that universally inclusive words like “all” (or exclusive words like “none”) are seldom meant absolutely universally, but rather, should be interpreted within their contexts, I want to specify that, in this case, I mean it universally. While I appreciate the sincere attempts of many so-called Reformed charismatics to be more biblical than their crazy uncles, and readily accept them as genuine spiritual siblings, the charismatic elements of their theology remain troublesome and inevitably nullify any attempts to separate themselves from outright charlatans like Benny Hinn and Todd Bentley. Take, for example, Mark Driscoll (insert a Henny Youngman “. . . please” here). You have probably already have seen the video below, as posted by Phil Johnson. If not, you should go to the Pyromaniacs blog and read Phil’s analysis. Warning: the verbal images Driscoll paints are, true to character, rated R. I’ve addressed Driscoll’s offenses obliquely in The Parable of the Bookstores, but if I’m not forgetful, I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned him by name on this blog. Driscoll has been a troublesome character from the beginning. With his penchant for perverse talk, even pornifying Song of Songs under the pretense of preaching, his appeal has always been a mystery to me. The video clip above is not new (February, 2008), nor is it the first time Driscoll has claimed to have received direct revelation from God. The legitimacy of his position as pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle is dependent on his claim that God spoke to him audibly. “God told me to move back home, start up a family and plant a church in Seattle,” he claims. When I hear such claims, I think two things: the individual is either deceived, or lying. In the cases of Hinn, Bentley, and the like, I most often suspect simple fraud. In many other cases, I suspect it’s just wild imaginations, spiritualized by charismania. That is what I’ve thought of Driscoll, until now. Now I think he’s flat out making things up. If he had stopped with stories of his visions, I could have chalked it up to his well-documented dirty mind combined with a wild imagination. But when he added the “proof” of the confessions of his imaginary offenders, that was too much. No one, confronted with such accusations, accusations of things that could never be proven, simply says, “Yeah, I did that.” They lie. They deny it. They deny it right up to the point that the evidence is shoved in their faces, and they have nowhere to run. Only then will they confess, and even then, they will leave as much as possible unconfessed until, and only if, convicted by the Holy Spirit and led to genuine repentance. Not one of Driscoll’s stories involved a denial. When I hear a story about a child molester who doesn’t lie about it, I know the story-teller is lying. How long before leaky-canoners like Piper wake up to the fact that their open attitudes toward extra-biblical revelation inevitably enable this kind of blasphemous nonsense? Mark Driscoll has become another of their unpaid bills, and the interest is piling up. Update: The video above is from 2008. As of September 11, 2011, he’s still at it. Met a former warlock today who was near death on a drug OD & heard God say, "This one is mine & I love him". Yup. He's elect. — Mark Driscoll (@PastorMark) September 12, 2011 And more, with commentary from the Sola Sisters.
A brief rant about one of my pet peeves: Mark Driscoll (a name that, I promise you, will not be seen often on this page) says, “Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives.” Of course, he does not actually know that, because, as he also apparently doesn’t know, most pastors don’t have the big, foolish mouths required to let such information slip. Whatever is happening—or not—between them and their wives is kept private, as every honorable man knows it ought to be. Okay, maybe that’s not long enough to qualify as a rant, but multiply it times the depth of my hatred for indiscreet talk, and it’s more than enough.

The Wife of Her Husband

Here’s a good article from 9Marks for potential pastors: Is She Up for This? Questions for a Potential Pastor’s Wife. Included is an important “word to the church”: When a church hires a pastor, the church hires a pastor, not the pastor and his wife. Granted, she is going to be a member of the church and will serve in the church like other members. But the Bible does not provide a specific job description for an elder’s wife. So resist the urge to place additional expectations on her. Her primary responsibility is not to organize the annual mother-daughter tea, VBS, or the ladies retreat. It is to be the wife of her husband and to be his helper. That is a major responsibility. Elders’ wives are critical to helping their husbands manage their households well, and to help him providing hospitality for members in the congregation as seasons permit. The fact that a woman’s husband is in the ministry does not mean that she has more time; she probably has less. In other words, don’t ask a pastoral candidate if his wife plays the piano.

Let not many become teachers

Monday··2013·11·11 · 2 Comments
The fill-in preacher last week spoke on the Prodigal’s older brother. He read his text from The Message1 off his iPhone; quoted a song called More Like Falling in Love, the gist of which is found in the sentence, “It ought to be more like falling in love than something to believe in” (what “it” is is rather vague, but I think I can accurately substitute something like “religion” or “faith”);2 quoted John “Jesus gave me a heart-shaped cow-pie” Eldredge;3 described the Prodigal’s behavior as “inappropriate” and the “opposite of what God would have wanted”;4 spoke of owning one’s mistakes rather than repenting of sin. Through it all, he was all chuckles and smiles. O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. —1 Timothy 6:20–21 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. —2 Timothy 1:13–14 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. —James 3:1 As bad as I felt for everyone listening, I feel worse for the poor man behind the pulpit. In his shoes, I would be terrified. 1 Shall We Read The Message?. 2 I Don’t Need a Boyfriend. 3 No, I’m not kdding. If you don’t know Eldredge, you’ll find all you need to know here. 4 He should have read this or (dare I suggest?) this.

Tactical Distraction

Suppose, one day, I go next door and shoot my neighbor. I claim it was an accident, a bullet that went astray when I was chasing coons out of my corn. But then evidence is discovered that proves premeditation. Furthermore, it is evident that I cleaned up the scene afterwards to cover my tracks. Suppose, then, that my friends and admirers, and anyone who felt some interest in getting me off the hook, began making statements like this: Murder isn’t the problem. The problem is the culture of violence in which we live. The problem is the widespread anger, jealousy, bitterness, and hatred that has become normal and accepted. Sure, murder is a bad thing, but let’s keep it in perspective. There are worse things of which lots of people are guilty. We need to focus on stopping those things.

Check the Ingredients

Monday··2014·03·24 · 2 Comments
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything strident. Here’s something for you controversyphiles. This being the Lenten season, and feeling the need for some self flagellation, I picked up (figuratively, as it’s in my Kindle for PC) Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev. As you may already have observed, I’m no fan of Driscoll. I approach his work with prejudice, and no apologies. The list of reasons for my disdain is long and well documented, but it begins with the quotation below, which I have seen on several occasions, but have just encountered for the first time in its original source. So I decided to start a church, for three reasons. First, I hated going to church and wanted one I liked, so I thought I would just start my own. Second, God had spoken to me in one of those weird charismatic moments and told me to start a church. Third, I am scared of God and try to do what he says. —Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformission Rev. (Zondervan, 2006), Kindle Locations 547–549. As a tangent, Driscoll also claims that he married his wife because God told him to, which, if I was Grace Driscoll, would be rather disappointing. But I rather suspect there was something a bit more romantic and, dare I say, in an entirely non-reprehending manner, fleshly behind his move to matrimony. So we’ll just let that be that, hoping that, as we refrain from discussing the secrets of Driscoll’s marriage, he might follow suit and, to put it in the blunt language he so prizes, just shut up about it. As I’ve said, there is a long list of reasons, some of them quite spectacular, to reject Driscoll as any kind of spiritual leader, and I don’t need to belabor them here, since you either already know of them or are perfectly able to Google "Mark Driscoll" yourself. Those sins are far from unimportant, but we wouldn’t even be talking about them if something much more fundamental had been recognized the first time Driscoll’s name hit the mainstream. The most fundamental disqualification of Mark Driscoll is found in the quotation above, namely, that he is self-ordained. I find no word anywhere that he was ever recognized by the elders of any church as gifted and qualified for the office of elder, and consequently trained and raised to that position, mentored by his elders. No, he occupies the office because, if we believe his story, the voices in his head said he should. And that is not a source of authority in the church of Jesus Christ. That is not how a man becomes a pastor. But none of that was ever questioned. On the contrary, publishers snapped up his manuscript submissions, pastors who should have known better gave him platforms at their conferences, bloggers drooled all over themselves reading and praising him, and Driscoll became a sweetheart of the Young, Restless, and ersatz-Reformed. It all reminds me of the day I, an aspartame-hating sugar purist, picked up a can of Fresca, didn’t check the ingredients, and liked it. By the time I found out, I had been drinking it so long that I just decided to ignore the facts and, well, it’s still in my refrigerator. Comparing fraudulent ministerial qualifications to artificial sweetener would, of course, be ridiculous. I trust you haven’t missed the point. While aspartame is harmful in extreme quantities, a smidgin here or there is probably quite harmless. An unqualified shepherd is anything but harmless, as becomes more evident every time Driscoll’s name hits the news. It’s easy to get excited about the outrageous things we see on blogs, Twitter, and the news. What ought to concern us more are the ordinary things that happen quietly—or don’t—in the orderly routine of the church.

“Good preachin’, Pastor!”

One of my favorite messages from Reformation Montana 2014 was Voddie Baucham’s first message in which he demonstrates that Genesis 41 is not the zenith, but the nadir, of Joseph’s life. Consequently, I purchased his book, Joseph and the Gospel of Many Colors. The story of Joseph, like most biblical narratives, is typically interpreted as a moral tale, like one of Æsop’s fables or a Veggietales episode. And that is how we tend to see most biblical passages: do this, don’t do that. Baucham explains why we do that: We all want black-and-white rules. We want someone to tell us, ‘This is right . . . that is wrong.” It’s clean. It’s simple. It requires little or no self-examination. Consequently, the legalist that resides in every last one of us wants law! Thus, those of us who teach the Bible (and we have the same tendency) get a unique kind of response from people when we give them moralism. ‘That’s good preachin’, Pastor!” In my experience, this kind of response almost always follows a law/rule/morality-based statement. It’s a sort of, ‘Attaboy. You sure told them” response. And frankly, it feels good! We all have to guard against this tendency. We look at the world through a lens that is calibrated for legalism. We see something sinful or unjust, and we know immediately (1) that it is wrong, and (2) what ought to be done instead. This is not wrong, per se; it’s just not enough. Sure, Joseph’s brothers were wrong to be filled with such hatred for him. That’s a no-brainer. However, did we need the story of Joseph to show us that? Certainly there’s another point to be made. Ultimately, we lean toward moralism because it’s easy. Moralism is, as noted earlier, the low-hanging fruit. It’s the way we’re all wired, and it takes very little effort or creativity to pull off. And it feels good to boot. We all feel better when we’re taking the speck out of someone else’s eye. Especially when it looks nothing like our plank. In other words, it’s easy for me to preach hard against plotting to murder your brother and then throwing him in a pit to be sold into slavery when I’ve never done anything of the sort. Several years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution against alcohol consumption. The resolution read: RESOLVED, That we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages. Aside from the terrible wording of the resolution (i.e., this statement technically excludes anyone who eats chicken marsala), it has zero scriptural support. However, it is incredibly easy to adopt such a resolution. The SBC has never had a problem with drunkenness among its clergy or denominational leaders. The SBC is by and large a teetotaling bunch. Hence, it took absolutely no courage to pass this statement. On the other hand, the SBC considered another resolution the same year calling for integrity in church membership. That resolution did not pass. What would it have required? Simply that churches be honest about how many members they have and clean up their roles of inactive, nonexistent members that inflate their numbers. The drinking which nobody does (the speck) was much easier to deal with than the bearing false witness (the log) that characterizes the overwhelming majority of the churches in the Convention. The SBC is not alone in this hypocrisy. You and I do the exact same thing every time we read the Bible! More importantly, we act out our hypocrisy in practical ways every day of our lives. We look for specks in our children, our coworkers, our teammates, and our friends. And our hypocrisy infects the way we read the Bible in general, and Old Testament narrative in particular. —Voddie Baucham, Joseph and the Gospel of Many Colors (Crossway, 2013), 19–20.

Grief and Joy

The big news today is that the Acts 29 semi-pseudo-non-denomination has, after enabling Mark Driscoll in his very public sin for years, given him and Mars Hill Church the boot. As one might expect, admonitions are being issued scolding anyone who might be rejoicing in Driscoll's demise. We should only be sober and sad, they say. Half of that is correct. We should be sad. We should be sad for Driscoll's spiritual condition. We should pray for his repentance and restoration—although to what, I don't know, as I have no knowledge of a time when he was not (as Phil Johnson points out) well known for ungodly behavior. (And let me remind you: he got his ordination in the self-service aisle.) However, there is also cause for joy. Scripture does not leave us scratching our heads, wondering what to do with the Mark Driscolls in the church. If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. —Matthew 18:15–18 The incorrigible are to be, if necessary, removed. This is done for their own sake, in hope of bringing them to repentance, but it is also—and I would argue moreso—for the sake of the purity of Christ's church. It glorifies God when a sinner is brought to repentance, and it glorifies God when the unrepentant are removed from his church. If it is not so, then wherefore the above passage? Yes, I grieve for Mark Driscoll, as I do for anyone in his ignoble and dangerous condition; but I rejoice for the church, as I see his reputation—and therefore, influence—waning. The church and Driscoll are at odds. For which should I care most? Addendum: This post by Aaron Armstrong, which I had not read prior to posting my own (and is the kind of mature, humble confession that, coming from Acts 29 (among many other influential enablers), would make a good start towards restoring their credibility), provides a good example of the kind of rejoicing in which we cannot engage. Had I read it, I might have included words to that effect. On the other hand, while I do not consider Driscoll to be my enemy, I believe his ungodly behavior, and much moreso, some of his wildly unbiblical doctrine and horrific ecclesiology, do make him an enemy of the gospel.

A Fistful of Heterodoxy

While everone many are saying that Mark Driscoll has good doctrine but bad practice, let me remind you that this is primarily a doctrinal problem: You can read my full post on the subject here: Sex, Lies, and Disqualified Pastors

The Need Not Felt

There is a great difference between preaching to felt needs and preaching to actual needs. As John MacArthur writes, “people’s deepest need is to confess and overcome their sin.” No one, by nature, feels that need. Paul also gives Timothy instructions about the tone of his preaching. He uses two words that carry negative connotations and one that is positive: reprove, rebuke, and exhort (2 Tim. 4:2). All valid ministry must have a balance of positive and negative. The preacher who fails to reprove and rebuke is not fulfilling his commission. I recently listened to a radio interview with a preacher well-known for his emphasis on positive thinking. This man had stated in print that he assiduously avoids any mention of sin in his preaching because he feels people are burdened with too much guilt anyway. The interviewer asked how he could justify such a policy. The pastor replied that he had made the decision early in his ministry to focus on meeting people’s needs, not attacking their sin. But people’s deepest need is to confess and overcome their sin. So preaching that fails to confront and correct sin through the Word of God does not meet people’s need. It may make them feel good, and they may respond enthusiastically to the preacher, but that is not the same as meet­ing real needs. Reproving, rebuking, and exhorting is the same as preaching the Word, for those are the very same ministries Scripture accomplishes: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for cor­rection, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Notice the same balance of positive and negative admonition. Reproof and correction are negative; teaching and training are positive. Although the reproofs of God’s Word are essential and must never be neglected, the positive part of instruction is, for obvious reasons, where the majority of our energies ought to be invested. The word “exhort” is para­kaleō, a word that means “encourage.” The excellent preacher confronts sin and then encourages repentant sinners to behave righteously. He is to do this “with complete patience and teaching” (4:2). In 1 Thessalonians 2:11–12, Paul talks about how, “like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God.” This often requires great patience and much instruction. But the excellent minister cannot neglect these aspects of his calling. —John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel (Crossway, 2010), 47–48.

Grudem’s Lexical Lunacy

Michael Beasley calls into question—rather embarrassingly, I think—Wayne Grudem’s lexical basis for tinkering with the definition of New Testament prophesy. [Grudem’s] list of examples of prophetes is derived from page 794 of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT). Though I can credit him for supplying the reference, it would have been better for him to mention the section/subsection from which he harvested his data. I say this because lexical articles found within TDNT normally peruse a variety of scriptural word uses from OT, LXX, rabbinic, intertestamental, profane Greek, and NT sources. The value of this is that the student of Scripture can learn about the full lexical spectrum of words that are used in the Bible, from the good, bad, and ugliest examples. What is so striking about Grudem’s citation is that TDNT’s complete section dealing with the word prophetes begins on page 781 and ends on page 861 of volume VI in the series—a fairly large section for just one biblical word. Thus, for the full span of 80 pages, there is a wealth of information supplied concerning the use of prophetes—most of which deals with the OT and NT uses of the word. However, Grudem chose to draw from the least relevant section: profane (secular) Greek, a section which spans thirteen pages. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 54–55.

More Than a Two-Week Notice, Please

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want Until he leaves me for another flock. —Psalm 23:1 MMV (Modern Ministerial Version) Imagine a shepherd herding his sheep, seeing that they have good pasture in Spring, Summer, and Fall, providing good feed and shelter through the winter, treating their illnesses and injuries, and protecting them from predators. Imagine he does all this with the greatest skill and care. Then imagine, one day, another flock catches his eye. Maybe his own flock is not producing like it should, like he had hoped. Maybe it is not behaving as it should. Maybe he is discouraged. Maybe the other flock is just more attractive. Whatever the reason, the shepherd just packs up and goes, leaving his flock to fend for itself until it finds a new shepherd.1 Inconceivable! But it happens all the time, in churches everywhere. Shepherds leave their flocks, to escape unpleasant circumstances, seek greener pastures, or follow some mystical, indefinable, and, I dare say, unsupportable, “call.” Some are legitimately called (not by the voices in their heads, fatuously assumed to be the Holy Spirit) to go elsewhere.2 But whether to leave and how to leave—and prepare for leaving—are two connected, yet separate issues. Yes, pastors, I am talking to you. When you tender your resignation, do you know what you are leaving behind? Have you prepared your congregation? Have you provided your replacement? Many of you have, and I commend you. Many—I suspect most—have not. My passion for this need is borne of the experience of seeing two good pastors, in two separate churches, leave, with disastrous results. I will not question their reasons for leaving (both left on good terms). I do lament the vacuum they left behind. I have seen congregations left to flounder and fight “like sheep without a shepherd.” I have seen an elder thrown under the bus for questioning the errors—nay, heresies—of an interim pastor whom I am now pretty well convinced does not understand the gospel, which is to say, is not saved. This is not as it should be. Pastors, you may be planning on making your current congregation your life’s work. If so, I commend you, and pray it will be so. But you do not know the future. You do not know what God has planned for you, or your church. You might legitimately be called elsewhere. In a best-case scenario, you will die. Your congregation needs to be prepared. Towards that end, here are a few questions to ask: Have you taught your congregation to be theologically astute and discerning? Have you raised up co-elders who are theologically astute and discerning? Does your congregation, especially the elders, know what you do, why you do it, and how it is done? Are any of your co-elders prepared to step into your shoes? If not, do they know what to look for in a replacement, and how to examine a candidate's qualifications? How detailed is your confession of faith?3 When asking candidates to affirm the confession, are they only confessing to be generically evangelical? If so, are you insane? I am sure there are many more to add,4 but I think that is a good start. Please, do not just leave. Your church needs more than two weeks notice. 1 Real sheep, of course, wouldn't go looking for a shepherd, or even know they needed one. No analogy is perfect. 2 The question of what constitutes a legitimate “call” is a topic for another time. 3 For example, this. You may need to alter a few details for your church, but this is a good model. 4 Feel free to add suggestions via email, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Grudem’s Hermeneutical Hijinx

As we have seen, Wayne Grudem’s doctrine of fallible prophesy depends on some desperately selective lexicology. On top of that, his hermeneutics make a pretty desperate stretch, leaning heavily on the much-debated prophesy of Agabus (Acts 21:11). The advocates of fallible prophecy have analyzed Agabus as never before in church history. Grudem insists that Paul was not bound by the Jews, but by the Romans. Recalling the simplicity of Agabus’ prophecy, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands, and declared, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” Within this prophecy, nothing is said about the timing, duration, or final outcome of Paul’s captivity. When we consider Paul’s initial arrest by the Jews, Luke tells us nothing about how Paul was restrained, except that the Jews took hold of Paul and dragged him. Concerning this last observation, it is helpful to note that the Jewish attorney, Tertullus, testified before Felix that Paul had been arrested [ekratesamen] because he “stirs up dissension among all the Jews through the world.” When we consider this account, we should note that the concept of Paul’s arrest by the Jews raises further questions about the manner in which he was restrained by them seeing that the concept of being formally arrested typically included the idea of being bound, as in the case of John the Baptist and Christ: John the Baptist: Matthew 14:3 For when Herod had John arrested [kratesas], he bound [edesen] him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. (NASB95)Jesus Christ: John 18:12 So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound [edesan] Him, (NASB95) Though none of this explicitly proves that the Jews temporarily bound Paul directly, it does raise serious questions about the veracity of those who insist that such a matter is impossible. Despite this, Grudem insists that Paul was never directly bound by the Jews. It would be one thing if Grudem dismissed this discussion for a lack of scriptural evidence, but this has not been his approach. One of the central arguments of fallible prophecy rests upon the absence of any explicit reference to the Jews binding Paul. By rendering an argument which rests on the absence of data, Grudem supplies nothing more than an argument from ignorance. To his mind, the fact that Luke says nothing about Paul being directly bound by the Jews actually proves that it never actually occurred. In reality, the lack of such a record proves nothing by itself. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 88–90.

A Saga of Subjectivity

Last week, I posted on the damage done to our view of God if we embrace the doctrine of fallible prophesy. Second only to that, its most dangerous product (in my opinion) is this: In light of its problematic interpretations of prophecy, fallible prophecy promotes subjectivism among Christians and supplies a dangerous form of protection for false prophets, whether they are self-deceived or intentional deceivers of others. —Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism (2013), 171. John Piper tells a story of a “prophesy” he received from a member of his congregation in which his wife, pregnant at the time, was to give birth to a girl, and die in childbirth. This was his response: I went back to my study, I got down and I just wept. I said, ‘Lord I have been trying to help these people take this gift seriously and I don’t know what to do with this. This is . . . I cannot imagine why this would be helpful. It doesn’t feel like it’s of You, and yet I don’t want to discourage people.’ So I kept it totally to myself. I didn’t tell Noel my wife about it and when we delivered our fourth boy, not girl, I gave a ‘whoop’ which I always do, but this ‘whoop’ was a little extra because I knew as soon as the boy was born this was not a true prophecy and Noel is still alive and Barnabas is, what, 27 years old today; but that’s the sort of thing that makes you despise prophecy — you just say ‘I don’t want anything to do with that kind of stuff’ and I don’t blame people for feeling that way but the Bible says, don’t despise them; be careful and discerning and so, my answer to your question is: if you sense something you have for somebody, offer it them as a gift, don’t thrust it at them as a demand — ‘I sense’ — I would use the words like, ‘I sense that God wants me to say to you.’ . . . Offer gifts to people — these are spiritual gifts, these are not spiritual hammers. And so, offer it to them and say, ‘just test it and if it seems to help, wonderful. —David Matthis, Piper on Prophecy and Tongues, cited in The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism, 177–178. Beasley recognizes Piper’s doctrinally-induced helplessness to respond in any sensible manner. Though Piper recounts the story from the standpoint of hindsight, we should wonder how he could have known that this was a false prophecy from the beginning, as he said: “I cannot imagine why this would be helpful. It doesn’t feel like it’s of You . . .” In what sense might this not have felt to be of the Lord and by what scriptural standard did he make such an initial assessment? Apart from any scriptural test, is the criterion for testing a fallible prophecy to be reduced to the subjective question of one’s own “feelings?” —Beasley, Ibid., 179. Then there is the danger, from which Piper—the shepherd—should have protected his flock, of the false prophet left free to practice her “gift” among the sheep. In Piper’s cited example, no single aspect of this woman’s “prophecy” was valid, except for the mention of pregnancy—a fact that would have been visibly evident to all. Piper correctly calls the prophecy “false,” however, we hear nothing in his testimony about the scripturally requisite tests of love being applied to this situation (Deuteronomy 13:1–5, 1 Corinthians 13). With the presence of a false prophet in the church, such tests are not an option. Perhaps there was a follow-up provided to this situation, but if this is the case, we are left without the central lesson of such follow-up. Thus, one must wonder if this woman is still in the church today practicing her “gift,” thereby binding the consciences of others with her falsely claimed prophecies; or has she moved on to other churches unabatedly spreading her influence to others? —Ibid. When the shepherd allows wolves among the sheep, who will protect the flock?

Ready-Made Sermons

Patrons of might find the following anecdote from the life of Augustus Toplady of interest. As Toplady was approaching ordination the famous incident occurred where he was approached by a well known bookseller when leaving the shop he was asked: “Sir, you will soon be ordained. I suppose you have not laid in a very great stock of sermons. I can supply you with as many sets as you please. All originals: very excellent ones and they will come for a trifle.” Toplady's response was that “I certainly shall never be a customer to you in that way, for I am of opinion that the man who cannot or will not make his own sermons is quite unfit to wear the gown.” The bookseller responded “Nay, young gentleman, do not be surprised at my offering you ready-made sermons, for I assure you I have sold ready-made sermons to many a bishop in my time.” Toplady responded by stating that “if you have any concern for the credit of the Church of England, never tell that news to anybody else from thenceforward for ever.” The Church of England may have been in moral crisis, Toplady certainly was not.


Who Is Jesus?

The Gospel
What It Means to Be a Christian

Norma Normata
What I Believe

Westminster Bookstore

  Sick of lame Christian radio?
  Try RefNet