Posted on Wednesday, February 03, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
I have been weighing for some time the possible benefits and dangers of writing something about the current debate over race relations generally and within the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) specifically. The ice of this discussion is notably thin so there is little or no room for error either real or perceived. 
 
My goal in this piece is to address the problem of Christians associating with and/or promoting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization and perhaps make a suggestion or two along the way. Since some of my brothers and sisters within the PCA are positively inclined toward BLM to the extent of association and promotion I believe it is important to openly discuss what it is exactly that BLM promotes. 
 
There have already been some excellent articles pointing out some of the problems with BLM:
 
From the BLM website:
Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes. It goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within some Black communities, which merely call on Black people to love Black, live Black and buy Black, keeping straight cis Black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all. Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.
Among BLM’s “principles” is the statement, “We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.” BLM also states that they are “committed to fostering a queer-affirming network…with the intention of freeing ourselves from the grip of heteronormative thinking.” They also state their intention of “doing the work required to dismantle cis-gendered privilege and uplift Black transfolk…” I could go on but you get the idea.
 
There is no question that BLM advocates positions which are antithetical to God's Word.
 
I am left wondering how it is even an option for a Christian to support, openly or otherwise, any organization which pursues such abominable ends. 
 
The site is filled with the sorts of inflammatory language which if voiced by whites on behalf of “Whites” would be rightly considered racist and divisive. If a redemptive conversation is truly desired then racist and deliberately provocative rhetoric ought to be shelved by all participants. 
 
It seems to me a particularly condescending form of paternalism for whites to excuse behavior in one race which they would never tolerate in their own. 
 
As many of my PCA brothers and sisters know, our denomination is currently working to draft a statement of corporate repentance for racism. It is understandable why. Southern Presbyterianism has a sad history of racism extending well into the 20th century as various churches openly advocated racial segregation and other unacceptable positions on race. Indeed southern Presbyterians do a disservice to our brothers and sisters as well as to our Lord when this history is either denied or excused. We also err when we deny that the racism of the 1960’s, for instance, has absolutely no bearing on present reality for many of our brothers and sisters.
 
However I am torn on the propriety of a corporate statement of repentance. Certainly there are times when whole bodies ought to corporately repent of sins. This was the case with Old Covenant Israel at various times. But it seems to me that the PCA does not correspond in this sense to Israel under the Old Covenant. There are PCA churches across the country which have no history of racism. A rather large percentage of PCA churches were not even in existence until the 1980’s, 90’s, and beyond. How would it be anything other than empty symbolism (at best) for churches to repent of sins for which they share no guilt? I cannot help but think that such a statement would tend to empty repentance of its actual force. Otherwise, the PCA ought to also compose a statement of corporate repentance for the theological liberalism and rejection of biblical authority which characterized so many northern Presbyterians in the 1920’s and 30’s and southern Presbyterians in the 1960’s and 70’s. 
 
Certainly there are churches within the PCA who do indeed have a history of racism. Those churches by all means should be urged to, if they have not already, openly acknowledge this past and offer sincere repentance. And that repentance ought to be more than a carefully worded statement. It ought to be a repentance expressed in action as is all genuine repentance. That seems to me to be a much more biblical and therefore meaningful approach to repentance. 
 
But there is something by way of public statement that the PCA can do which would avoid the vagaries and errors of a statement of denominational repentance. Over the years the PCA has produced clear statements condemning such sins as abortion and homosexuality. It would be helpful, I believe, to have an equally clear statement condemning racism as a sin incompatible with the gospel of Jesus and unwelcome in the PCA.
 
I am blessed to serve a church which has in the past and continues to this day to make genuine progress in bridging various ethnic and socio-economic boundaries in our community. And while we have made strategic choices toward this goal, those labors have all been within the orbit of the ordinary means of grace. We’ve joined no national movements nor engaged in accusations and recriminations. We have, by God’s grace, avoided treating each other as ethnic monoliths. Does it look like the wedding supper of the Lamb yet? Of course not! But neither liberation theology nor partnerships with the ungodly have been necessary to make measurable progress.
 
I trust that any church or office-bearer in the PCA who has clearly held and advanced the sin of racism would face discipline from the denomination. I trust also that all churches in the PCA will make clear that racism is no more welcome within the fellowship than are the sins of adultery or slander. 
 
During these days I pray that the PCA will not be taken off course by the siren song of the social gospel. I pray that we will be aware of the failures of past generations of Presbyterians which has led to grievous apostasy for an untold number of souls.  
Posted on Friday, January 22, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
In the beautiful Shenandoah Valley we are expected to be covered in 24 to 30 inches of snow. So after securing the necessary provisions – adequate coffee, pipe tobacco, and more coffee – there is the question of what to read. So, I’ve pulled a few titles off the top of the stack:
 
 
I am a little over halfway through this excellent book. If I had done a “Best Books of 2015” post this one would surely have made the cut. 
 
 
This Gulf of Fire by Mark Molesky
I received this in the mail earlier this week and am loving it. It is a history of the terrible 1755 earthquake which leveled Lisbon Spain. Molesky pays special attention to the theological and philosophical debates which were touched off by the disaster and massive loss of life. This event perhaps more than any other fed the modern debate over “the problem of evil.” 
 
I’m enjoying this quite a bit. As a pastor in the PCA I am keenly interested in the history of American Presbyterianism generally and the PCA specifically. Lucas focuses much of his attention on the conditions in the old PCUS (the liberal Southern Presbyterian church) which gave rise to the formation of the PCA. This is probably a timely release given the increasing division within the PCA between confessionalists and progressives. 
 
Posted on Monday, January 04, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Not long ago my MOS compadres received criticism (some of it rather harsh) for their critique of statements made by John Piper about the roles of women in society. There is no need to rehash that particular debate now. However, it is important to remind that we here at MOS share with John Piper and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) the belief that preachers and office-bearers in the church are to be men. That is clear in Scripture. How exactly or even whether those roles of headship and submission translate into spheres outside the family and church is a worthy debate. Dr. Piper has long advocated that male headship transcends church and family and is to be reflected in civil society as well. I point that out simply to underline the fact that Piper holds to a more sweeping understanding of complementarianism than do many of us who nevertheless fully affirm what the Bible teaches about roles within the family and the church. 
 
That is why I was so disappointed to see that at Passion 2016 John Piper shared the preaching duties once again with a woman preacher. This time it was Christine Caine (in the past it has been Beth Moore). Incidentally Caine preaches many of the troubling errors of Word/Faith and Prosperity theology. She also claims Joyce Meyer as a mentor and promotes her ministry.
 
As I have written at other times, this sort of partnership by a man of great influence like John Piper with someone whose doctrine is quite troubling places local pastors in a difficult position as we seek to guard our churches from false and divisive doctrines. This was a major concern that many of us had with Piper’s embrace and promotion of Mark Driscoll. Something that he recently said he did not regret. 
 
As I have already stated: I agree with what Piper and CBMW and the Danvers Statement all affirm about the roles of men and women within the church. How is it that John Piper, who has spoken and written so copiously on male headship, would appear with a woman preacher (and do so numerous times)? Is this not terribly inconsistent? 
 
I know that asking inconvenient questions of any of the stars in the reformed(ish) firmament renders one irrelevant and invisible. I understand that one just does not publically disagree with the heroes. Yes, we in the reformed(ish) world do have our Popes. 
 
I write this with great caution because I owe a lot to John Piper. For me, like so many Baptists who saw the Doctrines of Grace throughout the Scriptures, John Piper was among the first men who helped us understand the beauty of God’s sovereignty in the salvation of his people. He has written books that have been and continue to be helpful to me. Books I still gladly recommend. 
 
But these sorts of inconsistencies ought to be named. These sorts of partnerships which lead to confusion in churches ought to be called out. How many people will now follow the teaching of Christine Caine because John Piper has given her the proverbial green light? How many pastors will now have to risk the disapproval of Piper fans in our churches by pointing out that his sharing preaching duties with Christine Caine was unwise at best? Oh how I wish the stars would appreciate how their actions and associations impact the ministries of ordinary pastors. 
 
I wonder how many council members of The Gospel Coalition or of CBMW would share a preaching platform with a woman preacher or someone associated with Word/Faith error? I don’t expect anyone in Dr. Piper’s sphere to press him on the issue. There is simply too much to lose. 
 
I wonder if any of the men who took Byrd and Trueman to task for holding what they believed to be an under-developed doctrine of gender roles will now seek answers from John Piper. I certainly will not hold my breath. One simply does not do that and keep his or her seat at the table. The phone will stop ringing. The email loop will have one fewer participant. The invitations will disappear. The blog will become irrelevant. 
 
I know that sounds cynical. But I have been an observer of these things for too long to believe otherwise. The Reformed(ish) Industrial Complex is too insular and self-protective. It is too sensitive to anything that sounds like critique. It is too committed to its own promotion. Early on I suppose I was too sanguine about the rise of the YRR movement. I assumed that holding to reformed doctrine would guard us from unwise practice and the celebrity culture that was so much a feature of broader evangelicalism. I was wrong. 
 
But I will throw out the questions anyway: Is it consistent with the complementarianism of CBMW, TGC, and Danvers to share preaching duties with a woman preacher? Was it wise for John Piper to offer his de facto endorsement of Christine Caine? Will anyone whose voice actually has a chance to make a difference speak up? 
 
 
From Christine Caine:
“Oh yes, I did lay my own hands on @joycemeyer bible & teaching notes & prayed for an impartation of that teaching anointing & revelation. It was a privilege & honor to shadow her this past week. Far more is “caught” than is ever “taught” in life!” 
Posted on Tuesday, December 15, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Earlier this week I offered a few observations about the decision of Wheaton College Professor Larycia Hawkins to wear a hijab during Advent to demonstrate her "solidarity" with Muslims. Christianity Today is now reporting that Wheaton has suspended the tenured professor while an inquiry can be conducted. CT reports:

“Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion, and theological clarity,” the college stated in announcing the decision. “As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college’s evangelical Statement of Faith"...
 
"Wheaton College said the disciplinary action was taken not because Hawkins was wearing a hijab, but "in response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that [Hawkins] made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam." Hawkins will receive “the full review to which she is entitled as a tenured faculty member,” the college stated.
I applaud Wheaton for taking decisive action. Professor Hawkins' belief that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is demonstrably untrue and undermines the faith once for all delivered to the saints. 
However, I do quibble with one point in the statement from Wheaton. They make it clear that the disciplinary action has nothing to do with Hawkins wearing a hijab. However, for Muslim women, wearing a hijab is an act of religious devotion. Indeed, they believe that to not wear a hijab is to insult Muhammed. In her statement Professor Hawkins acknowledges that wearing the Hijab is part of her worship during Advent. My point, is that there is in fact a problem with a Christian wearing a hijab precisely because it is an act of Muslim religious devotion. It is not just a scarf any more than Yoga is simply stretching or the Lord's Supper a mere meal.
 
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.