Posted on Thursday, October 01, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Rod Dreher, one of today's foremost cultural commentators shone what could only have been an unwelcome light on Moscow and Doug Wilson's Christ Church.

 

Dreher graciously allowed Wilson to repsond. But as Dreher notes, the troubling questions remain. About the Sitler debacle Dreher concludes: "Nor do I understand the kind of church culture in which an elder of the church sets up a young woman who is anxious to get married with a convicted pedophile. And nothing Pastor Wilson wrote here makes it any more understandable."

 

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
I came running to the PCA. After years in broader evangelicalism, service in a confessional church and denomination was and remains a breath of fresh air. With its commitment to the Westminster Standards and passion to advance the gospel around the world I count it a blessing to be part of the PCA. I can scarcely describe how life-giving it has been to worship and serve with like-minded brothers and sisters.
 
I do not consider myself a naïve person. I have been serving in churches since I was twenty-years-old. But I admit to being surprised when I discovered that there were quite different understandings of sanctification and piety within my adopted denomination. Some of what I was reading and hearing articulated about law and gospel, sin and salvation sounded more like a sort of quasi-Lutheranism than the doctrines upheld in the Westminster Standards. Certainly and thankfully I was hearing a gospel that powerfully frees sinners from the penalty of their rebellion. Strangely however I was also hearing that any expectations for actual transformation were best kept low. I was hearing what I can only describe as a reverence for failure.  
 
As I say, this surprised me. And it is why I was both relieved and delighted to have discovered the Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) in the early days of my entry into the PCA. Like any good organization the GRN desires to make an impact. Their leadership consists of men well known in the PCA. And to my relief the ambitions of the GRN seem rather modest. They don’t appear to have world domination as their goal. Rather the GRN is a fraternal of PCA ministers seeking to advance a sound doctrine of sanctification and to foster piety among pastors. In this I have been helped by their efforts. 
 
I write this not as an “insider” or member of the GRN’s leadership. I am simply a PCA pastor who needs the encouragement of my brothers to continue on faithfully with Christ. Like every member of the church I serve as pastor I need the indicatives and imperatives of God’s Word. I need to rejoice both in the justification accomplished for me and the continuing work of sanctification going on within me. 
 
My experience with the GRN is quite simple. I attended the luncheons they have hosted at the previous two General Assemblies. At the luncheon in Houston in 2014 Derek Thomas delivered one of the finest proclamations concerning sanctification I have ever heard. In Chattanooga in 2015 Jon Payne challenged pastors to be men of exemplary godliness. I need this sort of sharpening and I am thankful to be receiving it. 
 
I have also been greatly helped by Rick Phillips’ seminar at GA this year. His subject was a critique of the contemporary grace movement. I won’t test you by trying to recapture everything Pastor Phillips said. But I do wish to highlight a few points he made that addressed well the very concerns I had as a newcomer to the PCA.
 
Some of the confusion coming out of the so-called contemporary grace movement is the result of a truncated doctrine of salvation. We must understand both from Scripture and the reformed confessions that salvation encompasses a complex of doctrines including election, effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. Justification by faith alone is a glorious doctrine worth proclaiming and singing. We have no hope without the fact that by grace through faith alone God has justified us entirely upon the merits of Jesus. The contemporary grace movement gets this right. 
 
But as Phillips points out, the contemporary grace movement has a troubling habit of reducing salvation to justification only. In other words instead of a full and robust doctrine of salvation whereby we are saved not only from the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin the focus seems to rest entirely on our forensic standing while neglecting our progressive sanctification. 
 
I do not believe that my brothers who identify with the contemporary grace movement intend to undermine sanctification. I am quite sure that they would all affirm the importance of growing in godliness. But doctrine matters. What we believe makes a difference in how we live. So it should not be surprising that sloppy doctrine often leads to sloppy living. The contemporary grace movement’s emphasis on brokenness and ruination is so strong that there seems to be no hope for actual progress in conformity to Christ. 
 
As Pastor Phillips pointed out in his address, one of the chief errors made by many in the contemporary grace movement is an overreliance on the law/gospel dialectic. It is certainly true that the law is not the gospel and the gospel is not the law. But the two are not enemies. In the life of a Christian, one does not cling to one and evacuate the other. While it is true that the law of God can only terrorize and (hopefully) convict the sinner, for believers, the law serves as a light illuminating our path. By his law, God shows us how to live in such a way as to glorify Him. This is what is meant by the “third use of the law.” So the gospel must never be used as a means to indict God’s law as though it was something less than pure and good and helpful for believers.  
 
A related error which Phillips highlighted is the tendency of this movement to force a too radical separation of the Bible’s indicatives and imperatives. Again, as in the case with law and gospel there is a clear and vital difference between Scripture’s indicatives (statements of truth) and imperatives (calls to obey). We must never look to the imperatives as means by which we may be made right with God. 
 
However, the imperatives are more than mere reminders that only Jesus obeyed the law perfectly. That Jesus did obey the law perfectly is gloriously good news for us sinners. But the Bible’s calls for obedience must never be taught in such a way that ends up blunting their salutary force. The imperatives in God’s Word are a vital means toward our sanctification. That means, for instance, that Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan really is about our being good neighbors. 
 
The church of Jesus Christ ought to have pastors and ministers who are actively growing in likeness to Christ. Our godliness must be evident so that we can say to God’s beloved flock, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Certainly I am not recommending that pastors cover themselves in a veneer of piety. Nor am I suggesting that we somehow cast ourselves as spiritually superior to anyone. We must follow Jesus’ caution against practicing good works as a way of receiving public praise. But surely McCheyne was right when he said, “A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” 
 
He breaks the power of cancelled sin. 
He sets the prisoner free.
Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
All good churches, all good movements, and all sound doctrines eventually attract a few outliers now and then. Calvinism, the pro-life movement, and even the OPC all have their loony hangers-on. This is also the case with complementarianism. 
 
Before I go any further let me establish my bona fides…
 
I am committed to the clear biblical teaching concerning leadership in the church and home. God’s Word establishes that spiritual leadership in the church is provided by elders, an office to be filled by qualified men. Likewise, it is the husband’s responsibility in the home to provide spiritual leadership through Christ-like sacrificial love. I have little time to debate with those who deny these clearly biblical patterns of leadership.
 
Also, gender matters. God created mankind male and female in his image. Men and women are alike and different in ways that make marriage and child-raising possible. The complementary design of husbands and wives makes it possible for marriage to be a reflection of Jesus’ relationship with his church (Eph 5). 
 
These are positions held by all of us here at Mortification of Spin. And yet, it seems that holding to those biblical teachings is not enough to be considered a real complementarian. In fact, you may even be a stealth feminist. 
 
So, some of us complementarians are wondering if complementarianism is morphing into patriarchy. If so, then a lot of us will need to come up with a different way to identify ourselves. If being a complementarian means believing there are genuine problems with a woman offering a man directions then we will need a new name. Maybe something like "menandwomenaredifferentanditsagoodthing."
 
Since various people across the interwebs have accused Carl and Aimee of being liberals, feminists, and even zinfandel aficionados it occurred to me that those rather strange reactions could possibly be chalked up to the shock that someone had publically disagreed with John Piper. But maybe it is also because the rather exotic teachings of Patriarchy are taking hold within complementarian circles. 
 
Perhaps I am naïve. I have always assumed that complementarianism simply affirmed what the Bible states about male leadership in the church and headship at home. I was not aware of the fact that in order to be a proper complementarian one had to worry over the possibility of a woman giving driving directions to a man. That said, I was relieved to discover that a woman can possibly be a city planner so long as no men are aware of it. In that case they would be able to stop at a Stop Sign with a clear conscience.  
 
So, a few questions for my fellow complementarians:
1. Is it a sin for a woman to run for public office?
2. Is it a sin to support Carly Fiorina’s run for the Presidency? If a woman offering directions to a man is possibly problematic then how can it not be a sin to support a woman in public office? 
3. Are adult women who are unmarried obligated to live in their father’s home under his authority?
4. Is it generally advisable for women to not pursue a college degree? 
5. Is it a sin for a woman to write a blog? (I include this question because we have heard from some complementarians who believe it is a sin for Aimee to write a blog on the chance that a man may read it. Not kidding). 
6. Are military conquest and colonization apt metaphors for the physical union of husband and wife? 
7. At what point is it no longer appropriate for a woman to be a teacher? In other words, is it a sin for a woman to teach 18-year-old males? What about 17-year-old? Is it a sin for a woman to be an instructor for male university students? 
 
None of these questions are meant to be cheeky. These are serious questions that I think ought to be answered by those who believe that the complementarianism espoused by Carl and Aimee is too thin. Because if “mainstream” complementarianism looks like Douglas Wilson or Jim Bob Duggar or Bill Gothard then we have a problem. 
 
Update:
That didn't take long. 
One blogger has already accused me of writing that anyone whose views of complementarianism extend beyond the church and home is a loon. Of course, a simple reading of my post would correct that notion. I included three names to help readers such as that blogger understand specifically whose views were particularly troubling. There are complementarians whose views are more comprehensive than mine for whom I have a lot of respect. The three of us at Mortification of Spin probably have different opinions on the comprehensiveness of complementarianism. However once we start worrying that women city planners present a problem because men will be required to stop at their stop signs, well, that's a bit...crazy. 
 
Posted on Wednesday, September 02, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

The news came yesterday that Tullian Tchividjian is now the Director of Ministry Development at Willow Creek Church in Winter Springs, Florida (not to be confused with Willow Creek Community Church of South Barrington, IL). Willow Creek Church is part of the Central Florida Presbytery of the PCA. Tchividjian was added to the staff of Willow Creek just two weeks after filing for divorce from his wife Kim and only two months after he resigned as Senior Minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church for having “an inappropriate relationship” with another woman (adultery).

 

The South Florida Presbytery (PCA) where Tchividjian had previously served as Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian did the right thing by removing his ministerial credentials. In a word, the presbytery to which Tchividjian belonged defrocked him. He was stripped of his ordination. If you are not familiar with Presbyterian polity, this is a big deal. Ministers within the PCA are not expected to hop from one church into another after such a serious action. Presbyterian churches are expected to cooperate with one another. This is vital in matters of discipline. When a pastor falls to disqualifying sin and is given a way out of ongoing shepherding by being quickly hired by another church, the process in place meant to guide the man to mature repentance is undercut and the health of the church put at risk. 

 

The South Florida Presbytery has also attempted to shepherd him during this time. But those offers appear to have been rejected.

 

Before we go any further let’s rehearse a few truly glorious truths:

 

1. We are all, without exception, sinners in desperate need of grace (Rom 3:23).

2. When a sinner repents there is forgiveness in Christ and complete freedom from the condemnation of sin. That is, in Christ, we sinners are fully justified (Rom 8:1; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 John 1:9)

3. When a sinner repents he or she should experience the welcome and fellowship of the church of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 2:5ff).

 

But there are other complementary truths which are needful. For instance...

 

1. Sin is desperately wicked. It is mutiny against God. It is a rejection of his Lordship and love. Therefore sin and its consequences must never be trivialized (Gen 3; Rom 1:18ff, 6:23) . 

2. Grace must never be used as a license to sin (Romans 6:1).

3. Sexual sin is a particularly grievous sin (Romans 1; 1 Corinthians 5-6). Sexual sin does great harm not only to the sinner but those who love him or her.

4. Those who provide oversight for the church must be above reproach. They must be men who have disciplined themselves against sexual sin (1 Tim 3:1ff; Titus 1:5ff).

5. The church holds the responsibility of disciplining erring members (Matt 18; 1 Cor 5).

6. When the church fails to exercise proper discipline or undermines the discipline of a sister church they are trivializing sin and sending damaging messages to the church and the world.

 

When a minister falls to adultery it is imperative that he be removed from his position of oversight. It is dangerous both for the church and for the fallen pastor’s own soul to remain in a position of spiritual oversight when he is unfit for such a responsibility. By stripping Tchividjian of his credentials and extending pastoral care to him and his family the South Florida Presbytery did the right thing; the Christian thing.

 

I wonder if the church that has just hired Tchividjian understands the peril in which they have placed him. I wonder also if they understand what hiring as a minister a newly confessed adulterer broadcasts to their church and community. Do they understand what this action communicates about the gravity of adultery and divorce? Do they understand what this action communicates about sin and repentance?

 

There is nothing glorious or gospelish about this ugly mess. 

Posted on Wednesday, August 19, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
While traveling with my family to attend a heterosexual wedding in Missouri I found out that Aimee and Carl kicked the hornet’s nest. 
 
I was surprised by all the hubbub. It hardly seems controversial to suggest that the Bible does not in fact explicitly forbid women from serving in law enforcement. Such dogmatic prohibitions are typically reserved for sects who rely on divinely given revelations outside the Bible.
 
And what are we to make of the handwringing over whether or not it is appropriate for a woman to offer directions to a man? The whole thing seems rather, I don’t know, weird. 
 
Now, Christians of good will who happily embrace the Bible’s clear teachings about gender roles in the home and church can agree to disagree on whether or not a woman should ever don riot gear. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I do not like the idea of women serving in combat. But I also confess that I do not stand with a clear biblical prohibition in hand. I think it is a bad idea to send women into combat. It doesn’t seem right. Not to me. Not at all. But I also admit to having a different opinion about women serving in law enforcement. That seems to be quite different. Why? I’m not really sure. It just seems different. 
 
Do you see what I just did there? I stated a rather strongly felt opinion of which I, unfortunately, do not have a series of biblical texts to support. I believe I am right. I just can’t bind the consciences of my brothers and sisters. I cannot demand that they concur with my application of complementarianism or else be cast away into the depths of egalitarian compromise. 
 
I hope we are not witnessing a trend wherein the only two options are Rachel-Held Evans and Jim Bob Duggar. I hope there are more than two camps – one ruled over by egalitarian Amazons on the one side and on the other a pastor who has written that the conjugal union within marriage is akin to the husband conquering and colonizing his wife. Surely someone who has written such troubling things would not be taken seriously within complementarian circles. Surely not. 
 

 

Posted on Friday, August 14, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

  Last year Karl Vaters wrote a thougtful article on the pain pastors experience when people leave their church. Vaters writes specifically on behalf of pastors of small churches. I have pastored a small church. In a small church a pastor is more likely to know the members of his church. He's been with them in their joys and sorrows. He has worked hard to preach faithfully week after week as God has commanded. He has labored over their souls in prayer. These are blessed labors for the faithful pastor. He is grateful for the priviledge of being entrusted with such a precious stewardship. But these blessings are at least part of the reason it is so painful when members leave. Because problems or failings in a church are generally attributed to the pastor, he cannot seem to escape the gnawing feelings of shame and failure when members leave. 

If you are a pastor I don't know of any easy answers to the pain when those you have invested in break fellowship with you. People will complain about your preaching, your lack of empathy, your lack of courage, your excessive boldness, that you're too political or not political enough, that your car is too new, that you failed to notice them at the store, etc. It is simply part of the calling.  

Last year I wrote a series of posts on a different but related subject: battered pastors. The MOS team also recorded an episode on the topic. You can find the posts and the podcast HERE.

 

 

 

 

Posted on Thursday, August 13, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Westminster Bookstore is currently offering special discounts on some excellent books dealing with abortion...

Defending Life by Francis Beckwith                                                   

The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Megan Best

Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue by R.C. Sproul 

Adoption by Russel Moore

Healing After Abortion (CCEF Booklet) by David Powlison

 

 

 

Posted on Monday, August 10, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

The historic First Baptist Church of Greenville, SC will now openly bless same-sex unions and offer ordination to those who practice homosexuality. There is no real surprise in this to those who have followed the conservative/progressive divide within the Southern Baptist Convention over the past few decades. The heat has mostly subsided given the fact that the conservatives were able to wrest control of the Southern Baptist seminaries from the control of progressives.

 

The battles between the two sides resulted in, among other things, the organization of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) to which FBC Greenville belongs. Like the Southern Baptist Convention, the CBF is less a denomination and more a fellowship of cooperating Baptist churches. From the beginning the CBF seemed to embrace a doctrinal continuum ranging from those who remained relatively conservative to those who were angling for a redefinition of Christian orthodoxy. In such a situation the center simply cannot hold. And in the case of the CBF it seems to have given way completely.

 

Early on, the most visible leaders of the CBF scoffed at concerns that the group was “liberal” and would go down the same sad road of apostasy that the mainline denominations had traveled. More recently the CBF has been asked to clarify its positions on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Leaders in the CBF have dismissed such calls for clarification as fishing expeditions from rascally fundamentalists. But First Baptist Greenville, one of the most prominent churches in the CBF, seems to have answered the question quite clearly.

 

One of the lessons for the denomination to which I belong is that progressivism is by very nature always pushing. One might say that progressivism tends to keep progressing. Progressives rarely say, “this far and no farther.” What begins as merely gentle trimming to the doctrine of Scripture continues on to the inevitable swamp of heterodoxy. 

 

Posted on Sunday, August 09, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Does engaging the culture mean speaking out about the over 55 million abortions committed in the United States since 1972? Is it about calling the civil authorities to act against an organization that aborts babies and harvests their organs for profit? Or is cultural engagement more about fighting for more public art, drinking craft beer, and listening to Wilco? 

 

Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
In recent weeks, thanks to the excellent work of David Daleiden the mask of respectability has been ripped from the face of Planned Parenthood.
 
Of course there has never been anything respectable about Planned Parenthood from its founding by a racist eugenicist to its current status as the number one abortion mill in the United States. There is nothing new about the wickedness of Planned Parenthood. What is new are the public revelations of its role as a trafficker of human flesh and organs. Of course what Planned Parenthood does every day is wicked regardless of what they do with the corpses of the babies they kill. What was so shocking about the videos was the banality of the evil they exposed – Doctors casually discussing “less crunchy” methods of abortion between sips of wine. 
 
So, we have use for babies’ organs but not the babies themselves. And now the Department of Justice under the direction of President Obama has just opened an investigation, not into the organization aborting babies and selling their organs, but into the organization that exposed the practice. Francis Schaeffer may have been hard pressed to imagine such a scenario as this. 
 
Planned Parenthood knows they are in trouble over these latest revelations. They have already lost some significant corporate sponsors. Look HERE for a list of Planned Parenthood’s current corporate sponsors. I urge you to find ways to boycott these companies. Write to them. Encourage your friends to do the same. Remember, money is the lifeblood (pun intended) of Planned Parenthood’s ghoulish existence. Let us band together to make it impossible for them to ply their wicked trade. We may never have another opportunity quite like this. 
 
Write your representatives in Washington. Flood their office with calls demanding that Congress defund Planned Parenthood. How is it anything other than an injustice to require taxpayers provide financial support for a murderous organization? If you have not already, I urge you to commit to never voting for a pro-abortion politician for any office. The last six years have put the lie to the notion that the President of the United States makes no real impact upon abortion policy.
 
For my more progressive fellow pastors, now is not the time for missional quietude over abortion. Now is the time for outrage. Now is the time for public disgust. Slavery would never have been abolished through missional conversations. Public outrage was necessary to bring the whole sinful enterprise crashing down. The same public outrage must be brought to bear on abortion. If it will help, perhaps you can imagine that Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, is a fan of Dukes of Hazzard and refuses to drink fair trade coffee. You have spoken out on the Confederate flag. Now is the time for abortion to capture your outrage. Get your back into it and help out with the heavy lifting. 
 
How will we be assessed by future generations of Christians if we do not speak out clearly, if we do not flood social media, if we do not decry this wickedness from our pulpits?