Posted on Tuesday, December 15, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

If you have not read Carl's piece over at First Things concerning Stephonknee Wolscht, the Canadian man (forgive my binary bigotry) and father of seven who now lives as a six year old girl, here is just a bit:

In this age when every micro-identity and pseudo-victim needs some bit of rebarbative sociological gibberish to give credibility to their angry resentments, I offer a new piece of incantatory mumbo jumbo to help us all identify and demonize yet one more species of unacceptable bigotry: Heterotemporal heliocentrarchic transagephobia.  This is the irrational, reactionary belief that time is significant, that age is a given, and that those who deny this are idiots, liars, or in urgent need of psychiatric help.
Read the entire piece HERE.
 
Posted on Monday, December 14, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
A political science professor at Wheaton College is proudly donning a hijab during the Christmas season to demonstrate her “solidarity with Muslims.” One expects to see such nonsense at secular universities. But at the “Christian Harvard”? Say it ain’t so! 
 
Anyway, while I’m not impressed with Professor Hawkins’ hijab as a fashion statement, I’m even less impressed with her theology. This wouldn’t matter at, say, UCLA or University of Michigan. It would still be stupid, mind you. But this being Wheaton, it is yet another reason why I encourage parents, with very few exceptions, to not send their children to so-called Christian universities. Most of them are not so interested in maintaining anything resembling biblical Christianity as they are in gaining respectability in the world. That will always be a losing proposition for any institution which is not ready to abandon such beliefs as Jesus’ virgin birth, atoning death, and physical resurrection. 
 
An article in the Christian Post records several juicy pieces of wisdom from Professor Hawkins:
"I don't love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American. I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity," Hawkins wrote. "I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind — a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014."
 
Hawkins, who has been on the Wheaton faculty since 2007, further asserted that not only are Muslims her neighbors but they also "worship the same God."
 
"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God," Hawkins stated. "But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity."
 
"As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church," she added.
 
I cannot help but wonder at how someone who writes such drivel can be employed as a professor at an institution of higher learning. But it is worse than that. Her intellectual inconsistency (or dishonesty) is stunning. Only a privileged member of the American Left could conclude that loosely draping a colorful scarf over her hair constitutes “embodied solidarity” with Muslim women. I wonder if Professor Hawkins’ “embodied solidarity” will extend to giving up her rights to drive, vote, appear in public without a male family member, and having her testimony in a court of law rendered unreliable? After all, she apparently has a soft spot for Sharia. 
 
Wheaton College seems to be living off the borrowed capital of its past; the place Billy Graham and Jim Eliot attended. But all indications are that Wheaton is no longer a stalwart of evangelical convictions. Employing professors who promote the jihadi sympathizing CAIR and believe and proclaim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is a bit problematic to that reputation. 
 
Posted on Monday, December 07, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Should pastors who commit adultery ever be restored to the position of overseer in the church?

The following are a few resources to help you think through the issue biblically:

The Stain That Stays by John Armstrong - An outstanding and sobering assessment of the issue.

Up for Debate - I recently participated in a debate on Moody Radio with a Christian psychologist who believes that adulterous pastors may be restored to leadership.

MOS podcast - Carl, Aimee, and I have discussed the issue on Mortification of Spin.

 

Posted on Monday, November 30, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Not long ago a well-known member of the “reformedish” world explained to me that his gifts were too significant to be squandered accepting invitations to speak at anything other than large churches and prominent conferences. My heart sank. This was a man I admired; whose work had been an encouragement to me. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t begrudge him the right to make a living. What shocked me was the unabashed mercenary attitude displayed. Ministry, it seems, goes to the highest bidder and most prestigious gig. 
 
I wish his attitude was the exception. But experience has been teaching me that it is not. I suppose I know too much. I have seen too much of the inner workings of the Evangelical Industrial Complex to remain naïve. Brothers, we have a problem and her name is greed. 
 
We are rightly scandalized by the efforts to sanctify greed by such modern prosperity preachers as Steven Furtick and TD Jakes. But I fear that we in the Reformed world are developing our own versions of Jakes and Furtick (albeit less crass and with better theology). I know that is a provocative statement. I know that some will take offense. Believe me when I state that it gives me no pleasure to write such a sentence. But the evidence continues to mount. We are becoming lovers of money and fame. And I have a suspicion that those who will object to this conclusion know in their hearts that it is true. 
 
Now before any straw men are quickly built and cast down allow me to clarify a few things.
1. Faithful preachers are worth their keep. The Bible tells me so (1 Cor. 9:3-14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18).
 
2. There is nothing noble about asceticism. I hate asceticism. It is nothing more than self-righteousness placarded as self-denial. I remember Tony Campolo’s ridiculous line (he had a lot of them) that you cannot be a Christian and drive a BMW. Nonsense. 
 
3. Churches that refuse to care for their preacher’s financial needs are sinning. Again, the Apostle Paul makes clear that those elders who serve well in teaching and preaching should be given “double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17-18). Just as a pastor should not demand an unrealistically high wage so too a church must not deliberately withhold a sufficient salary from their pastor. 
 
I am wading into this issue with much fear and trembling. The siren song of greed sounds loudly in my heart. I understand the desire to have more money, more security, and more status. So, I do not desire to establish some arbitrary standard whereby anyone who has more money than me is in sin. I vigorously reject that sort of self-serving standard. At the same time I do not want to pretend as if wealth is not a dangerous temptress. And we who are Reformed, who affirm the authority and inerrancy of Scripture ought to heed God’s warnings concerning the pursuit of money and possessions. 
 
I am challenged by the example of Paul who chose at times to relinquish his right to financial support from the churches he served. We know that at Corinth and Ephesus he chose to make tents rather than receive financial support from the church. At least one of the reasons for this was his desire to not be identified with the super apostles who exploited the churches for financial gain. So great was Paul’s concern that he not be perceived as a mercenary minister than he refused payment at various times.
 
Paul never made his choice in those instances a command for the rest of us. But at the very least shouldn’t we imitate his example of vigorously avoiding any reasonable accusation of greed? Instead, it seems that a growing number of those within the Reformed community of ministers are becoming conspicuously wealthy and powerful. This is dangerous brothers. It is dangerous for our witness and our souls. I write this because I do not want us to preach to others that they must treasure Jesus while we treasure money and fame. I do not want us to bring disrepute upon our Lord and His church by loving the world, its trinkets, and its notions of security. 
 
I invite you to join me in asking these questions routinely: 
 
1. How much wealth should I amass? 
2. When was the last time I accepted an invitation to preach and refused payment?
3. When was the last time I preached at a small church?
4. Would I be embarrassed if my church or donors knew how much money I made annually? 
5. Does the house I live in, the cars I drive, the clothes I wear, the restaurants in which I dine (etc) open me to a realistic charge of materialism? 
6. Do “ordinary” people have regular access to me or only those who are influential?
7. Do I censor myself on certain issues for fear that I may lose access to well-paying ministries? 
 
Posted on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

The Southern Baptist Convetion has too many godly men and faithful pastors to ignore Steven Furtick's continued cavorting with false teachers. I was raised Southern Baptist. I love the SBC. And it breaks my heart to see this tickler of men's ears continue to spread confusion at best and heresy at worst.

You can see the latest sad example HERE.

 

 

Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

I have been preaching through the Book of Acts for over a year. This Sunday, Lord willing, I will be preaching from the second half of chapter 20. Following three years of ministry in Ephesus Paul circles back to Miletus so he can speak to the Ephesian elders one final time. Paul's words are filled with pathos and passion as he recounts the priorities of his ministry and charges them to exercise the same care for the church. He also warns them that as shepherds they have the responsibility to protect the flock from ravenous wolves. 

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.  (20:29-31)

Problems exist in every church and every denomination. We are, after all, still south of Heaven. But some problems are so egregious, so damaging to the peace and purity of the church that they must be publically identified. I believe that such a case is Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC.  Elevation Church is one of the largest and fastest growing Southern Baptist churches in the country. Furtick is well known for his man-centered preaching, "creative" methods for increasing baptismsand near cult-like expectations of his followers

 

But Steven Furtick is also known for cavorting with false teachers like T.D. Jakes and Joyce Meyer. Furtick has welcomed the Oneness Pentecostal and word/faith heretic Jakes to the pulpit of Elevation. And now Furtick has preached in Jakes' Dallas mega-church the Potter's House. You can see some action shots HERE.

 

To my brothers in Christ who serve in leadership in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina: You have, in the past, done the right thing by removing pastors and churches who embraced the sin of homosexuality. But will you now seek to address one of your pastors who is actively exposing many thousands of Southern Baptists to man-centered preaching and the teaching of heretics like T.D. Jakes? God's people are precious to him. He purchased them at the price of his beloved Son's life. Wolves have infiltrated the flock. Please protect them. 

 

Posted on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Recently I witnessed a man take his ordination vows before the Presbytery to which I belong. I never get tired of those moments. It is a solemn occasion; one accompanied by no small measure of sobriety. The vows are, after all, promises the candidate for ordination makes before God and his brothers in Christ. The promises he makes are specific and, one would hope, binding.
 
In the Autumn of 2013 I went through the process of transferring my ordination to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Those of you who have been ordained in the PCA know that the process can be rather grueling. That, of course, is a good thing. Upon completing the process I was presented to the Blue Ridge Presbytery (Virginia) whereupon I took my vows as a teaching elder. I will never forget that moment. It stands as one of the most moving events in all my years in ministry. 
 
The following are the vows (by way of 8 questions) that every candidate takes upon his ordination in the PCA: 
1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?
3. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity?
4. Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?
5. Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son?
6. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?
7. Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer?
8. Are you now willing to take the charge of this church, agreeable to your declaration when accepting their call? And do you, relying upon God for strength, promise to discharge to it the duties of a pastor?
 
Obviously, the candidate is expected to answer in the affirmative to each question. 
 
Pay special attention to the second vow:
“Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?”
 
Every man ordained in the PCA makes a solemn promise before God and the church of Jesus Christ to make known to his Presbytery if there is a change in his doctrinal convictions. In other words, if over the course of time the theological convictions of an ordained man change such that he is no longer in accord with the system of doctrine carefully laid out in the Westminster Standards then he is honor bound to inform his presbytery. The implication is clear: Ordained man, since you have taken vows both to believe and uphold the doctrinal standards of the PCA you must surrender your ordination should your theological convictions change. 
 
The second vow depends upon the honor of the ordained man. One of the things I appreciate about Presbyterianism is that it is considered a very serious matter to level charges against an elder. What is more, anyone making charges must be ready to back them up in the courts of the church with evidence. It is not enough to make a charge based upon intuition. This helps minimize frivolous charges and slander. At the same time, for the system to work, it requires that the elder be an honorable man. That is, it requires that he actually abide by his vows. 
 
When a PCA pastor leads the church he serves out of the denomination over a shift in his doctrine, I believe it is reasonable to assume that his personal change occurred long before his actual departure from the PCA. How long does it take for a man in violation of his vows to go public? Am I unreasonable in assuming that it takes significantly longer than a week for a pastor to decide he no longer accepts the doctrinal standards of the PCA and then lead his church to abandon the denomination? 
 
It takes time for a pastor to lead a congregation to accept his own doctrinal evolution. And then there is the decision to break with the denomination. That requires significant grooming. I wonder if any former PCA pastors would be willing to share publically how long they continued serving in the PCA after their change in doctrinal convictions. One month? One year? Five years? Longer?
 
This is a matter of integrity brothers. 
 
We are witnesses to the sad story of City Church in San Francisco which recently announced their decision to affirm the sin of homosexuality and give support to same-sex marriage. City Church is a member of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) so their decision will not raise any concern in their denomination. But City Church was originally a PCA church. Significant sums of money were given from the denomination to plant a confessional Presbyterian beachhead in that rather infamous city. PCA laypersons generously give to support such worthy causes. The vision was right. The key players, however, were not. 
 
The pastor of City Church led the congregation out of the PCA a number of years ago because he no longer accepted the denomination's position on the ordination of women. I believe it is reasonable to assume that his personal conviction changed well before City Church left the PCA. I hope the point I am making is clear. For how long was the pastor or pastors of City Church in violation of their vows prior to departing the denomination which had given so generously to bring the church to life? At any time did any of the pastors of City Church think to themselves, "I no longer hold to the doctrinal convictions of my denomination. I am honor bound to leave"? Instead these pastors led the church to follow their own shifting convictions. Considering the solemn promises these men made, the whole thing stinks. 
 
Brother elders in the PCA, we must be men of honor. We took vows in the sight of God before our brother presbyters. We made solemn promises to the churches we serve. If you did not truly hold to the Westminster Standards when you took your vows then you are guilty of a grievous sin. Notify your presybtery immediately. If your doctrinal convictions have changed since your ordination and you have yet to honor your second vow then do it today.  
 
The following is excerpted from a letter written in 1833 by Rev. Prof. Samuel Miller of Princeton Seminary concerning the elder’s adherence to his vows:
I shall close with remarks along this same line made by the late Dr. John Witherspoon: “I cannot forbear warning you against a piece of dishonesty which may possibly be found united to gravity and decency in other respects. I mean a minister’s subscribing to articles of doctrine which he does not believe. This is so direct a violation of sincerity, that it is astonishing to think how men can set their minds at ease in the prospect, or keep them in peace after the deliberate commission of it. The very excuses and evasions that are offered in defence of it are a disgrace to reason, as well as a scandal to religion. 
 
What success can be expected from that man’s ministry, who begins it with an act of such complicated guilt? 
 
How can he take upon him to reprove others for sin, or to train them up in virtue and true goodness, while he himself is chargeable with direct, premeditated, and perpetual perjury?…I have particularly chosen to introduce the subject upon this occasion, that I may attack it, not as an error, but as a fraud; not as a mistake in judgment, but an instance of gross dishonesty and insincerity of heart. I must beg every minister, but especially those young persons who have an eye to the sacred office, to remember that God will not be mocked, though the world may be
deceived. In His sight, no gravity of deportment, no pretence to freedom of inquiry, (a thing excellent in itself,) no regular exercise of the right of private judgment, will warrant or excuse such a lie for gain, as solemnly to subscribe what they do not believe.” (Witherspoon’s Works, Vol. I, pp. 313-4.) 
Posted on Wednesday, November 04, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

If you'd like, between 5:00 and 6:00 EST you can listen in on a live stream interview I am doing with Chris Arnzen at Iron Sharpens Iron. I'm told it will deal with issues related to my departure from broad evangelicalism to embrace confessional Presbyterianism. We may talk about puppies also.

Just go HERE at 5:00 and click on "Live Stream".

 

Posted on Friday, October 30, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
I don’t know how you men do it! 
 
You pastor churches, write books, travel extensively, speak at all the conferences, blog, pursue advanced degrees, teach, etc. Oh, and you are husbands and fathers and neighbors. Honestly, I shrink at the very thought of it all. 
 
Granted, and I say this with complete sincerity, you all are more gifted than me. That is not false humility on my part. It is just the fact. Some of you have been given gifts that boggle the mind. And certainly, there is a weighty stewardship behind possessing prodigious gifts. “To whom much is given…” 
 
I look up to many of you. You have written wonderfully helpful books. You have gifts for preaching and teaching that most pastors would love to possess. I have personally benefitted from the teaching and preaching of many of you brothers. For that I am grateful. But I am also scared. I am scared that the weight of responsibilities combined with the fawning praise of fans has placed you at enormous risk. Please do not hear this as criticism but for what it is: the genuine concern of a brother who cares for you. 
 
I do not want to see you fall. You are well known. Imagine the harm that will be done to the church if you take a nosedive. Imagine the damage that will be done to the Reformed faith and the reputation of Reformed churches if you fall under the pressure and the fame. Has the recent fall of a prominent PCA pastor caused you to stop for at least a moment to consider your own vulnerabilities? 
 
Allow me to offer a few suggestions:
1. Go to your wife in humility, ready to lay aside some of the very things that have been so personally meaningful. Ask her if you are too busy to love her well. Ask her if your current commitments are good or bad for your family. Ask her if she feels cared for. Ask her if she is satisfied with the time you are able to give her. Ask her if your commitments have placed an unreasonable burden upon her. 
 
2. Go to the session of your church and ask them if your current commitments are hindering your ability to be a proper shepherd to the flock. Now, understand that your session will be inclined to tell you everything is fine. After all, they are not stupid. They want you to be happy. They don’t want to risk losing you. They know that the majority of people who attend your church do so because of your gifts and the name those gifts have given you. The session will probably not want to place limits on you which will make you unhappy. So you are going to have to make it very clear to them that you need their candor. 
 
3. Go to the ministry staff of your church. Ask them if your current commitments are hindering your ability to lead and care for them well. See the previous point. 
 
4. Go to your children. Ask them if they miss you. Ask them if you are gone too often.
 
5. Look at yourself in the mirror (so to speak). Are you the husband, father, and pastor the Lord has called you to be? Or have the crush of other opportunities so ravaged your time that your first callings are suffering? 
 
6. Go to the Lord in prayer. Ask him to help you see your own heart; your own motivations.
 
Posted on Monday, October 19, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
In a couple months I will be posting the obligatory “best reads of the year” list. But as a guy who loves books and reading I thought I’d post a list of the books that have figured particularly large in my life. These are not merely books I love (that list would be too long). These are books that helped to shape my theology, my broader worldview, and made me fall in love with reading. 
 
I know what you’re thinking: “What a good Presbyterian!” But truly this is not just a perfunctory tip of the hat to Calvin. The Institutes is the most beautifully written theological and devotional text I have ever read.
 
Knowing God by J.I. Packer
After the Bible, the first book I direct people to is Knowing God. I read this book when I was struggling with my own theology. The chapter on the kindness and severity of God changed everything for me. 
 
I read this book at a time when I very much needed a better grounding in the doctrine of Scripture, particularly its inerrancy. I still consider this a “must read” for Christians. 
 
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul 
When I moved away from home to attend university I took my Bible and a copy of a book I had purchased just days before – The Holiness of God. If my memory serves me, it was the first Christian book I ever read cover-to-cover. 
 
Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon 
The chapter entitled “The Minister’s Fainting Fits” is worth the price of the book. 
 
The Roots of Endurance by John Piper 
This book makes the list because of the role it played in helping me stay afloat during the time I was a battered pastor. The chapter on Charles Simeon was a life preserver for me.  
 
While I am now a convinced Presbyterian, it was Nine Marks of a Healthy Church which first introduced me to some categories which I had lacked having been brought up in the broad evangelicalism of the SBC. During my early and formative years in ministry I had been steeped in the categories and methods of the church growth movement. Reading Nine Marks for the first time was like a much-needed detox. 
 
There are a lot of great books on preaching out there which have helped me immensely. But all things considered Goldsworthy’s excellent volume made this list because of the way it helped me make the necessary connections between the Old Testament and Jesus. 
 
Witness by Whitaker Chambers 
Chamber’s account of his journey into and out of communism and his subsequent legal battles with Alger Hiss is one of the most important books of the 20th century. It is also beautifully written. Witness makes my list because it serves as a sort of political Rosetta Stone for understanding the first half of the 20th century. It is also timeless for Chambers sounds the alarm against that system of governance which makes the state the matter of ultimate importance. If nothing else, read Chambers’ introduction which takes the form of a letter to his children. That letter concludes with words that always bring me to tears:
"My children, when you were little, we used sometimes to go for walks in our pine woods. In the open fields, you would run along by yourselves. But you used instinctively to give me your hands as we entered those woods, where it was darker, lonelier, and in the stillness our voices sounded loud and frightening. In this book I am again giving you my hands. I am leading you, not through cool pine woods, but up and up a narrow defile between bare and steep rocks from which in shadow things uncoil and slither away. It will be dark. But, in the end, if I have led you aright, you will make out three crosses, from two of which hang thieves. I will have brought you to Golgotha – the place of skulls. This is the meaning of the journey. Before you understand, I may not be there, my hands may have slipped from yours. It will not matter. For when you understand what you see, you will no longer be children. You will know that life is pain, that each of us hangs always upon the cross of himself. And when you know that this is true of every man, woman and child on earth, you will be wise." 
 
Modern Times by Paul Johnson 
In one volume, Johnson explains the 20th century. 
 
The Wizard’s Tide by Frederick Buechner 
Frederick Buechner helped me to love reading. I discovered him during my first year of seminary. I read Whistling in the Dark and was hooked. The Wizard’s Tide is Buechner’s slightly fictionalized biography of his younger years which included the suicide of his father. It is a book one should read more than once. 
 
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
This rather slim novel was mandatory reading when I was in high school. Not surprisingly, the story of a New England prep school student during WWII did not exactly resonate with this high school student from Houston, TX. However, something about it stuck with me over the years. I read it again after I was married and working as a pastor. I concluded that A Separate Peace is quite nearly a perfect book. I think the reason it has remained with me is because of the way Knowles writes about evil. He never names it. He doesn’t have to. It is the thing crouching in the heart of a good kid.
 
Actually I could have listed almost everything by Bradburry. I read Bradburry for the sheer joy of reading beautiful sentences. I think the reason Something Wicked This Way Comes makes my list is because of the way he captures the nostalgia of his own early 20th century Midwestern upbringing without falling into sappy sentimentality. And, as in most of his works, Bradburry shows how even in the most idyllic settings mystery and danger always lurk in the dark corners.