In a consistent manner

As recent events have shown, churches contain perverts.  Churches contain perverts who are Christians.  Churches contain perverts who are Christians who do real harm to others and to themselves in their sin. And pastors are called to confront such people, to protect the flock, and to ensure that civil authorities deal with them.  But they are also called to pastor such perverts, to call them to repentance, to faith, and to lives that reflect their status in Christ.   How is that done?  Our theology of the Christian life needs to be able to address all Christians in their sin in a consistent manner. 

When a man comes to your office and tells you he’s just violated a little girl and left her bleeding and half dead in a gutter, yes, you immediately phone the police.  He has got to be punished by the civil authorities and taken out of society for the protection of the innocent.  But then, when you visit him in prison as his pastor and he tells you he feels this compulsion that will make him commit the same crime if he is ever released, does your advice simply amount to encouraging him to reflect in deeper ways on the love of God and simply remember he is a magnificent ruin?  I do hope not.  And do you have more resources for him than simply telling him to reflect in deeper ways on his justification?  I do hope so.  The New Testament seems to offer a few. 

Of course, we need to make sure that we do not allow the extremity of such a situation to lead us to fall into the error of teaching salvation by works. We should all know and make it clear that no-one goes to heaven just because he has ceased to indulge in internet pornography or to rape little girls or to kick his wife’s teeth down her throat.  But is ‘Don’t think that not being a violent psychopath will save you’ all that the New Testament has to say to such a church member?  I do not believe it is.

– Dr. Carl Trueman; A Few Practical Questions

Out with the new, in with the old.

Carl Trueman is his usual self about the latest in Driscoll-gate.  The article is not available, but I was able to capture one of the (many) money quotes. The article is now back up on First Things:

Mark Driscoll is one person, a uniquely talented individual. Yet he is also a function of structural problems within the new Reformed movement itself. Despite its distinct and in many ways sophisticated theology, the “young, restless, and reformed” movement has always been in some respects simply the latest manifestation of the weakest aspects of American Evangelicalism. It was, and is, a movement built on the power of a self-selected band of dynamic personalities, wonderful communicators, and talented preachers who have been marketed in a very attractive manner. Those things can all be great goods but when there is no real accountability involved, when financial arrangements are opaque in the extreme, and when personalities start to supplant the message, serious problems are never far away. 

The overall picture is one of disaster. Within the church, I suspect most pastors look on with horror at the amount of money involved in some of these projects and will turn away in disgust. Outside the church, people know sharp practice when they see it, no matter what the strict legality of such might be. The reputation of the church suffers, and sadly it does not suffer in this case unjustly.

As a former New Calvinist, I benefited greatly from men like Driscoll who gave me an entry level to Reformed theology, broadly understood.  I imagine there are many like me who were swayed from the siren calls of liberalism to a more firm doctrinal understanding of the Christian faith.  I am thankful for this.

But as the Reformed tradition began to encompass not just my theology but my worldview as well, I found that I was leaving behind (New) Calvinism through the Driscoll lens.  Now a confessional Presbyterian, I find myself at odds with some of the very teachings I would have defended not just a few years before.  Some of the church governance structures in congregations today just makes me shake my head, or worse.  The reformation of the church according to the Word of God was just for the sixteenth and seventeenth century.  As Reformed Protestants, this same principal matters just as much today.

Rather than defending “New” Calvinism, a movement which I fear will burn over far more than expected, I’ve run to the OLD Calvinism.  Where congregations may not flare up to thousands, but will faithfully preach the Word and administer the sacraments to the tens or dozens present.  Movements come and go, but the Church endures by the grace of God.

So like I said in the title, out with the new and in with the old.  Semper reformanda.

03/14/14 update: Added strike-through, link to First Things.

Thoughts of a Bearded Presbyterian

But not me. Seriously.

I do not argue (debate, discuss, etc.) for the sake of arguing, but genuinely because I think I’m right. It’s not hate, but love that drives me to critique sub-biblical theology. Iron must sharpen iron, and I am no exception. As the body of Christ, we have to be able to debate whatever issue may be at hand, but it must be out of genuine love and concern.

Concerning Polemics 

More anti-chocolate chip cookie grouches

Pastor Matt Richard at Steadfast Lutherans has a great piece on Liquid Drano in chocolate-chip cookies, and why the people who refuse them are valuable to the purity of Christian doctrine.
He begins with a personal anecdote detailing how he thought a seminary professor was unloving because of the professor’s harsh critique of theological errors in Rick Warrens Purpose Driven Life.  Using the “we are all on the same team” approach, Pastor Matt did not come to see the professor’s brilliance until a youth conference where the main speaker baked chocolate-chip cookies with Liquid Drano in them.  It’s not as creepy as it sounds, read the article for the rest of the details.
In a Chestertonian way, Pastor Matt realizes the value of speaking out against false teaching, bringing in examples of Martin Luther and semi-Pelagianism.  False teaching in the church should be condemned not because the teachings are new, but precisely because they are old.  
Reacting harshly against someone critiquing false teaching misses the point completely.  Had Paul just “let it go,” we wouldn’t have Romans through Philemon.  If Twitter had been around, could you imagine the “Bro, your harsh words are being unhelpful. Be loving” replies Paul would’ve received after penning Galatians?
I’ll let Pastor Matt tie it all together:

Metaphorically speaking, my professor did enjoy chocolate chip cookies, but he hated Liquid Drano and he hated the adverse effects of the poison upon the church. Frankly, he loved me enough to disrupt my enjoyment of Liquid Drano cookies and he was courageous enough to criticize those who baked these corrupted cookies for me, even though these actions would earn him the stigma as being unloving, nitpicky, and an anti-cookie grouch.Honestly, I believe that what we need most in the church today is more anti-chocolate chip cookie grouches, for there are indeed a lot of individuals cooking up and distributing Liquid Drano cookies in our post-modern pluralistic context. Furthermore, I believe that it is truly dangerous and foolish when we rationalize in our minds that a little poison won’t hurt anyone and when we attempt to preserve tranquility within a community by applying ad hominem stigmas to those who are attempting to expose stealthy poison.