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? 
 
Posted on Thursday, July 16, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
I remember when the word missional was new. It was filled with all the facial hair, slim-fit shirt, Avett Brothers cache that a single word could carry. If churches were not actively seeking how to be “missional” they were missing out on the next great thing. And no church wants to miss out on what’s hot. 
 
It has not been easy nailing down just what missional means. I have heard about as many definitions for it as there are people who have attempted to define it for me. But taking what I have been told and what I have read and cooking it all down I come up with this reduction: To be missional or to live missionally means that Christians live their entire lives (family, vocation, church, money, friendships, recreation) for the advance of the gospel beginning in the community in which they live.
 
If that’s what missional means then count me in. That is a bandwagon I’ll gladly hop aboard. Of course it sounds a whole lot like ordinary biblical Christianity but I digress. My dilemma is that (it seems to me at least) the word is often used to justify a pattern of ministry that reduces matters of biblical truth to the level of mere opinion. Vagueness or even silence about certain culturally privileged sins is justified as missional.  
 
The chief example of this in our particular moment is that of homosexuality (and along with it human ontology, original sin, and marriage). Many of us on the more conservative side of things are wondering if our more progressive counterparts truly believe what God has declared about homosexuality and human identity and marriage. And it is not because we are simply daydreaming about what they may believe. It is because of their own public statements which seem at least to suggest that Scripture is vague about gender, marriage, and sexual ethics. And given the number of once confessional pastors/churches who have joined their hearts to the spirit of the age it is a question worth asking. 
 
There is a scene in one of the early seasons of The Office (when it was still funny) where the hapless Michael Scott is explaining why he does not like to tell anyone what they don’t want to hear. Looking into the camera fully expecting his audience to understand he says, “If you were a doctor you wouldn’t tell someone he had cancer.”
 
A lot of the explanations I hear from pastors in confessional churches who are either silent or vague about issues like homosexuality and the abortion holocaust justify their approach by saying things like: 
“We’re not going to get political.” 
“We want people to know that our doors are open to all.”
“There are many LGBTQ people in our community and we want to reach them.”
 
In the end it sounds a lot like Michael Scott’s hypothetical doctor.
 
To be clear, I agree that churches must be careful about wading into political issues. A church should not allow itself to become a subsidiary of any political party or politician. Of course homosexuality and abortion are biblical, moral, and justice issues so to remain silent is simply irresponsible.
 
I also agree that a church’s doors ought to be wide open to sinners. If we close our doors to sinners then we all better stay home. I happily serve as pastor of a church that includes among its members former homosexuals and those who struggle faithfully against same-sex attraction. We have former adulterers, former gamblers, former self-righteous religionists, former racists, former drunkards, former gluttons, etc. You name a sin and you’ll probably find a former practitioner in our church. Every week I get to stand and preach before this gloriously redeemed collection of “formers.” 
 
I never want to tell sinners the truth about their sin. I like being liked. I hate it when someone gets mad at me. From time-to-time on certain Fridays I will edit out some lines from a sermon for fear of offending. So I am grateful for those times when by God’s grace I add those words back on Sunday morning. Pastors, doesn’t faithfulness to our calling require honesty, even about what the Bible calls sin? 
 
Let’s do a thought experiment. 
 
Suppose I was pastor of a church in South Carolina. And let’s suppose that during this hubbub with the confederate flag I decided to write something to my congregation on the church’s blog concerning racism. And suppose it went like this:
These are momentous days in South Carolina. With all the controversy swirling around the confederate flag and in light of the tragic deaths in Charleston many are no doubt wondering if we as a church have a position on racism. Well, as you know we love people at this church. Jesus loves everyone no strings attached. And he desires that we be united in the gospel. That means we should not divide over lesser issues. We major on the majors and minor on the minors. So we can afford to disagree on racism. And we certainly don’t want political issues to divide us.
 
In our church we have a variety of opinions on racism. Some say it is clearly a sin. They read certain passages of the Bible and interpret them to mean that any sort of racial prejudice is wrong. And they have good reasons for interpreting the Bible that way. Others however understand the Bible to say the opposite. They even cite studies that indicate that division among the races can lead to healthy self-esteem and more tightly knit communities. Others are still trying to make up their mind and wonder why some people make such a big deal about it.
 
Whatever your opinion on this issue we want you to know that you are always welcome in this church. Jesus and the gospel are far more important than whether or not we agree on politics. So let’s be known for what we’re for, not for what we’re against.  
 
The Apostle Paul wrote to churches which existed in pagan cities filled with all manner of sexual license, greed, idolatry, and injustice. And yet his letters are crystal clear about the sins that abounded in those cities; sins which many of the members of those churches had once practiced. Was Paul being an insensitive pastor to condemn those sins so clearly? By writing that homosexuals and drunkards were going to Hell, was Paul risking his opportunity to reach them? 
 
I pastor a wonderful congregation in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. While Virginia is not the Deep South like Mississippi or Alabama it is nevertheless blessedly south of the Mason Dixon Line. Suppose for a moment a significant percentage of my community proudly unfurled confederate flags in their front yards every morning. Suppose that many in my community lamented desegregation and longed for separate water fountains. What does missional mean in that case? What should it look like to reach out to such folk? What should they hear from the pulpit of the church I serve? 
 
Is it missional to be silent or vague about the sin of racial bigotry? Could I justify my silence by saying something like, “We want to be like Jesus so we do not condemn anyone”? Would I need to add to our lexicon terms like “same-race attracted” in order to not use an insensitive clobber term like “racist”? 
 
What would my progressive pastor friends think about my competence if an unrepentant racist could attend my church for two years and never once be called to abandon his bigotry? What would be the verdict on my ministry if the only indictment I leveled against racism is that it may not be optimal for human flourishing? 
 
There is a whole complex of activities I may have to employ in order to reach such sinners as these. But one thing I think we all agree upon is that I must not welcome them to remain unchanged. I must not in any way suggest that Jesus is agnostic about their sin or that they can claim Christ as Lord and remain racist while maintaining membership in our church. I must call their racism what it is. To do less would be to fail as a pastor.
 
What is your community’s most popular sin? Is it racism or greed? Is it the idolatry of education or leisure? Perhaps there are members of your community who make a lot of money in pornography or abortion. Or maybe the rainbow banners of homosexuality decorate the neighborhoods around your church. 
 
If being missional means not addressing clearly a city’s most beloved sins then count me out.
 
Posted on Monday, July 13, 2015 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
I don’t like controversy even though I write things which, judging by my inbox, get me into a little hot water now and again. We are a soft generation so I understand how any willingness to confront error or rebuke one who spreads it seems to be mean-spirited, Pharisaical, or lacking in compassion. But it seems to me that the church’s new standards for compassion are shaped more by our culture than what is actually modelled in Scripture. 
 
Please understand that I believe God’s people ought to abound in compassion. We have been shown breathtaking compassion by our Lord most especially by his dying for our sins. Daily we are recipients of God’s compassion. So compassion ought to characterize our lives. Like God, we ought to be slow to anger and abounding in love. This should be so not just in the case of those who are kind to us but to those who have mistreated us. In fact, we owe compassion to our neighbors (all of them). As recipients of the greatest act of compassion in the history of the universe we are obliged to be overflowing in compassion to others.
 
But God is not merely compassionate. He is also holy and just and jealous. In our own lives compassion must not go un-complemented by biblical clarity, jealousy for God’s glory, zeal for holiness, and love for the peace and purity of the church. This is why we see many exemplary acts in Scripture that would not typically be described as “compassionate” in our day. 
 
• Were the prophets being compassionate when they railed against the unfaithful shepherds of Israel?
• Was John the Baptist being compassionate when he called a group of sinners “vipers”?
• Was it compassionate for Jesus to publically rebuke the teachers of the law for their biblical ignorance and lack of mercy?
• Was Jesus being compassionate when he made a whip and physically drove swindlers from the temple?
• Was Jesus compassionate when he compared Peter to Satan? 
• Was it compassionate for Peter to preside over the deaths of Ananias and Saphira? 
• Was Paul being compassionate when he publicly named individuals who were troubling the church?
• Was he compassionate for commanding the Corinthian church to kick out a member for sexual sin and “turn him over to Satan”? 
• Was it compassionate for Paul to invite the judaizers in Galatia to emasculate themselves? 
 
I could go on but you get the picture.
 
I am not saying that we ought to recommend self-mutilation for every person guilty of error. But it is clear that compassion for the church and compassion for sinners will at times be expressed in strongly worded rebuke toward those who traffic in error or otherwise harm the people of God and distort the good news. 
 
That means that compassion sometimes requires that we wade into the thick of controversy. Sometimes our presence should offer a soothing word to quiet unnecessary thunder. There are times however when a soothing word is the opposite of what compassion requires. I can think of not a single example in Scripture where those teaching error were dealt with politely. And why? Because of compassion for the flock of God. Compassion for the church will lead to clear rebuke for those who trouble her. Those are the times we discover that men who are “personally orthodox” but unwilling to contend for the truth do more damage than those who are actually peddling the error.