Posted on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I will not rehearse the grotesque acts of Larry Nasser.
 

As you probably know by now, Nassar is the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor whose crimes led to his disgraceful end. Today (January 24) he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. It is estimated that Nassar sexually assaulted over 150 women and girls.
 

During the sentencing, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina gave some of those assaulted by Nassar an opportunity to address the court and the man who victimized them.
 

Rachel Denhollander is the woman who first shone the light on Nassar's deeds by recounting the abuse she suffered at his hands. Mrs. Denhollander’s statement in court was powerful. But it was much more than that. She gave a better presentation of law and gospel than you will hear in many evangelical churches.
 

Mrs. Denhollander spoke boldly about the depth of Nassar’s guilt. Her words exposing his actions and the impact of those actions gave him no place to deflect his sin or in anyway minimize its impact. Extraordinarily, after methodically naming his evil she held forth the radical promise of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. I say “radical” because that is exactly how it sounds in light of Nassar’s wicked deeds.
 

In all of this we are reminded that the gospel demands repentance. It is not a self-help program meant to make good people better. The gospel is not a nice word for nice people. It is a word of pardon for those devestated by their sin. It is a promise made to sin's slaves that purchase has been won through the death of God’s Son. So great is the sinner’s guilt that nothing else would satisfy the demands of perfect justice.
 

Speaking directly to Nassar, Mrs. Denhollander said:

In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.

The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God's wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

Read Rachel Denhollander's entire statement HERE
 

 

Posted on Saturday, January 20, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

In a continuing effort to bring to you the voices of those you will likely not hear in the current race "discussion" I pass along an excellent article on the propriety of so-called "Racial Reconciliation" services by Reverend Sam Murrell.

 

Sam Murrell is an Anglican priest living in Little Rock, Arkansas. He is a graduate of Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary.

 

Reverend Murrell writes:

Years ago, I participated in my first”racial reconciliation” worship service. It was a well-integrated gathering of black and white folk. The service, while very moving, left me feeling very awkward as white strangers approached me to confess their racism toward me and “my kind”. It wasn’t that I had never experienced unfairness or injustices because of the tone of my skin. On the contrary, the issue was that the confessions came from people who had never done any wrong towards me in particular. So, I was left not knowing what I should do for them in response to their confessions; I was young and so chalked my discomfort up to my inexperience. Since that gathering, I recall participating in at least two other instances of worship services that were focused primarily on racial reconciliation. And I have actually worked for a church where “intentional racial reconciliation” was part of the mission statement. Over the years, I have come to a greater sense of clarity regarding my uneasiness with such event. Here, in no particular order, are the few reasons that I no longer take part in “racial reconciliation” services:

Too often, the premise of the worship service is that Whites are guilty because they are White. This is evident in the fact that the white people present at such events are expected, even pressured, to confess the sin of racism even if they cannot recall any specific instances of racist action that they have perpetrated. The assumption is that because you are white then you must have knowingly, or unknowingly, caused offense towards Blacks (and maybe other ethnic minorities too). An example of this guilt-by-association is that, although you may be unable to find any instance of slave ownership in your genealogy, you are held accountable for the history of slavery in the United States of America. The black person stands as representative of the innocent victim of so-called racism and thus serves a priestly role for the white confessor who is guilty because of a lack of melanin in the epidermis. The white person’s pigmentation carries with it a privilege, and that is enough to require repentance.

Continue Reading...

 

Posted on Friday, January 19, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Given the profusion of regrettable things being said about race by those who are members of reformed churches like “repent of your whiteness” it is necessary to actively support those whose voices are aggressively marginalized. It does not take much to be marginalized in the current climate. Simply suggest that being a white male does not necessarily mean you are a vile racist and you will be told that you just don’t get it (as I was recently by a fellow PCA pastor). Suggest that there may be a problem with a ministry leader in a PCA church publicly praising the terrorist Angela Davis and you will be called a racist. And then watch all the great people of influence in the PCA remain silent lest they risk their influence. Such is the current condition of the race “discussion” in the PCA.
 

So, in a continuing effort to promote helpful voices on race and reconciliation I give you the following links…
 

Lisa Robinson (someone always worth reading) has posted a helpful article entitled “When They Don’t Want to March.”
 

Darrell Harrison was the guest on this week’s Mortification of Spin. We talk with Darrell about race, the gospel, and being called an Uncle Tom.
 

And here is a heads up for an upcoming Mortification of Spin. We are scheduled to interview Ismael Hernandez on his essential book Not Tragically Colored: Freedom, Personhood, and the Renewal of Black America. You really ought to read this book.

 

Posted on Friday, January 12, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

On Friday February 16 our friend Carl Trueman will be lecturing at the Washington DC campus of Reformed Theological Seminary. He will deliver two lectures on the subject of "The Road to Nowhere: How Our Understanding of Human Identity Has Changed and Why It Matters."

 

If you are anywhere near the D.C. area you will want to check it out.

 

I might even drive out for that and I've heard everything Carl has to say.

Posted on Wednesday, January 03, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Imagine a man named A. Davis. Mr. Davis is a white nationalist and a former leader in the Nazi Party in the United States. He has had membership or at least close affiliation and sympathy with various domestic terrorist groups. The groups which he defends have been responsible for an array of crimes including drug dealing, money laundering, bank robbery, stockpiling weapons, and the murder of black police officers. But A. Davis is no backwater red neck. In fact he is a scholar with multiple degrees. As such he has been honored by various fascist and white nationalist groups in the United States and Europe. A. Davis also served time in federal prison. His crime? He purchased and supplied weapons used to murder a black federal court judge in 1970.
 

Davis remains unrepentant for his views and crimes. But with his age and the adoration of white supremacists, he continues to speak and deliver lectures as something of an elder statesmen in the white nationalist movement. He continues to decry what he calls “the mongrelization of the white race.”
 

Continuing with our thought experiment…
 

Imagine that an influential voice in the PCA routinely praises Mr. A. Davis. Imagine that this man is not only a member of a PCA church but a graduate of the denomination’s college and seminary. Imagine also that he is a ministry leader on staff in a PCA church. Imagine that he is an active presence in the life of our seminary, even speaking in classes and mentoring students. Imagine that, though he praises A. Davis on social media, celebrates his birthday, and refers to him as “King” and “Teacher” he is still asked to speak at the PCA’s college and Seminary. Imagine that he is asked to speak at gatherings of the more conservative ministers of the PCA who praise him and actively defend him against any and all criticism. Imagine that the session of his church support him. Imagine that the presbytery to which his church belongs remained silent. Imagine that the TE’s and RE’s of the PCA were collectively frightened to speak out.
 

Can’t imagine it? Neither can I.

 

Posted on Friday, December 22, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

My pick for book of the year…
Sanctification by Michael Allen
Michael Allen has contributed the third volume in the New Studies in Dogmatics series. It is a feast and my pick for book of the year. I won’t try to describe the book other than to say that Dr. Allen grounds holiness in the doctrine of God, Christology, and the covenant relationship between God and his people. Jesus saves his people not only from the condemnation of sin but from its power as well. This is a must read. You can listen to the Mortification of Spin interview with Dr. Allen HERE.
 

Between Wittenberg and Geneva: Lutheran and Reformed Theology in Conversation by Robert Kolb and Carl Trueman
What an appropriate subject for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. These two scholars help the reader understand the distinctives of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions. This book was a pure pleasure to read. Drs. Kolb and Trueman are at the top of their game. It is an irenic dialogue between two men who understand and are committed to their respective traditions.
 

Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper
It was certainly appropriate to read at least one biography of Luther this year. When some of the world’s notable Luther scholars recommend a biography it’s a good idea to read it. Though described as a feminist historian by some, Roper is a first-rate scholar and her biography on Luther was a delight to read. This is both one of the most enjoyable biographies on Luther I have read and one of the best examinations of 16th century Europe.
 

Not Tragically Colored by Ismael Hernandez
Though published in 2016 I could not help but include it in this list. Hernandez gives us one of the most insightful, compassionate, and courageous books I have read in some time. A native of Puerto Rico and former Communist, Hernandez’ pilgrimage to the United States and rejection of Communism is deeply moving. But that is only the introductory material. The book is subtitled “Freedom, Personhood, and the Renewal of Black America.” I would suggest that if anyone desires to contribute something helpful to the current discussion of race and racial reconciliation they would be wise to read Mr. Hernandez’ outstanding book.
 

All That is in God by James Dolezal
The doctrine of God has received renewed attention in the last couple of years. Specifically, there seems to be renewed interest in those classic categories that many contemporary theologians have rejected, redefined, or not understood. This is an important book. You can listen to the Mortification of Spin interview with Dr. Dolezal HERE.
 

On Human Nature by Roger Scruton
For those not familiar with Scruton’s work, his latest book is a good introduction to the British philosopher. Here, Scruton argues for the uniqueness of humanity. He argues against philosophical and Darwinian materialists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett.
 

Retrieving Eternal Generation edited by Fred Sanders & Scott Swain
The debate over the Trinity which began in the summer of 2016 involved a discussion about the propriety of the translation of John 3:16 and the doctrine of eternal generation. This book removes all reasonable doubt that eternal generation is thoroughly biblical and ought therefore to be retained by the church. These series of essays establish the hermeneutical, historical, and dogmatic foundations of this vital doctrine.
 

How To Think by Alan Jacobs
Jacobs is a wonderful writer who I enjoy reading even when I don’t necessarily agree with him. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his latest which is subtitled “A survival guide for a world at odds.” If you get a chance listen to the interview with Dr. Jacobs on Mortification of Spin HERE.
 

Descriptions and Prescriptions by Michael Emlet
Every pastor and elder ought to read this wonderfully helpful book by Dr. Emlet. It is concise and yet highly informative. Emlet gives the reader a much needed tour through the challenges complexities of psychiatric diagnosis. Throughout the author tethers his counsel and conclusions to God’s Word. Watch for the upcoming Mortification of Spin interview with Dr. Emlet.
 

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids by David Murray
The last several years have seen the production of many excellent books for children. David Murray has added a worthy volume to the list. Described as “52 expeditions through God’s Word” Exploring the Bible provides children ages 8-12 with daily Bible readings and brief meditations to guide them through the whole Bible. Parents, this is one you want.
 

Worth Mentioning…
These are books that are high on my “must read” list. Unfortunately I have not had time to get to them. But judging by the reviews and what I have read by these men previously I am looking forward to digging in…
 

Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis
As I write this list I am in the middle of reading Dr. Goothuis’ moving account of his beloved wife’s descent into dementia. If the second half of the book is like the first then it belongs on a best of 2017 list.
 

Christianity at the Crossroads by Michael Kruger
 

The Last Adam by Brandon Crowe

 

Posted on Friday, December 15, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

The first book I read from a Reformed scholar was The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. It was 1987 and I was a student at a Southern Baptist University. I had no idea what Reformed theology was or what Presbyterians believed. I picked up the book because the title struck me. Also, it was relatively brief. The other reason I decided to read The Holiness of God was because I had heard the name of the author on the radio (Christian radio was a constant presence in my home).
 

It was about 10 years later that I listened to a series of lectures by Dr. Sproul entitled “Chosen by God.” By that time I was wrestling with Reformed theology because as a youth pastor I studied and taught the Bible weekly. I was increasingly haunted by the doctrines of grace and the biblical vision of a God who works all things according to the counsel of his will. Here was a God who did not bow to my will but rather decreed all things which come to pass.
 

I did not consider myself “Reformed” or “Calvinistic” until I was the pastor of a church in the Midwest in the early 2000’s. I no longer had to explain away massive portions of Scripture. I was free to read it all and thrill in a God who sits above the heavens and does all that he pleases. You may not understand how revolutionary that was unless you were raised in the sort of tradition that makes the will of man the power to which God must adjust his purposes.
 

Like so many around the world I was caused to be quiet and reflective by the news of Dr. Sproul’s death yesterday, December 14, 2017. There are men whose lives and works have an impact which is hard to quantify. I can say without hesitation that it was The Holiness of God, purchased on a whim, which planted the seeds of my current vocation as a Presbyterian pastor. It is unlikely that there is anyone in the 20th century more responsible than R.C. Sproul for so many embracing the beauties of the Reformed faith.
 

How grateful I am for the life and labors of R.C. Sproul. In every vital matter of evangelical conviction from defending the inerrancy of Scripture, life in the womb, substitutionary atonement, and justification by faith alone, Dr. Sproul was on the leading edge. In these days of fading conviction may God give us many more who will do the same.

 

I would encourage you to watch or listen to the message from Dr. Sproul at the 2008 Together for the Gospel conference. It is entitled The Curse Motif of the Atonement and is the most powerful message I ever heard from Dr. Sproul. More than that, it is one the best proclamations of the atonement I have ever heard from any preacher in any venue. At a time when so many in my denomination are throwing overboard the unfathomable riches of the gospel for horrendous errors like the New Perspective on Paul, this message is medicine strong and sweet.
 

Posted on Monday, November 27, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Mark Jones has written a review of John Frame’s review of James Dolezal’s fine book entitled All That Is In God.

For good reason, Jones is puzzled by some of the statements in Frame’s review. Jones points out the rather uncomfortable fact that some of what Frame writes simply does not make sense. For instance:
 

I may be missing something, but this by Frame makes no sense to me:
 

“But if we say that God only appears to change in these contexts, must we also say that God only appears to enter time, that the Son of God only appeared to become man (that is the textbook definition of Docetism), that he only appeared to die on the cross and rise again?” Frame also says, “Why should we believe literally that God is changeless, but not that God literally became flesh in Jesus?”
 

It seems Frame is putting Dolezal on the horns of a false dilemma. Why can we not, with pretty much every Reformed theologian in the 16th-18th centuries, say that both are true? God does not change in his essence and the Son literally did become flesh. There is essence-appropriate language and persons-appropriate language. These are not mutually exclusive positions, but actually prove that you can hold to divine immutability and also speak of “God” (i.e., the God-man, Jesus Christ) in ways that are truly/literally anthropomorphic.
 

Jones includes this sobering, but I believe, entirely called-for assessment of theology in the 20th century:
 

Theology in the 20th century was, in my estimation, a dunghill upon which there are occasional diamonds peeking out of the manure. Liberalism, Neo-orthodoxy, and a bastardization of Reformed theology have brought us full circle to the problems that plagued the Reformers and their heirs hundreds of years ago.
 

More specifically, the recent ESS/ERAS doctrine is one offspring of this revisionist approach to the doctrine of God, and it is not only a doctrine of God and a Trinitarian error, but also a Christological error. Quite frankly, I don’t care about what consensus someone can build in favor of the ESS theology; it needs to be called out for what it is: a theological aberration where the tail (complementarian fancies) is clearly wagging the dog (the Trinity).
 

Theological mutabilism, as advanced by some, is closer to Socinianism than Reformed orthodoxy. It is hard not to be sympathetic to a large number of Dolezal’s critiques when you consider that many of the theologians he critiques adopt a Socinian method and approach to theology that masquerades under the guise of being biblical.
 

I would be remiss if I did not include Jones’ final statement which left me unsure if I should laugh or cry. So I did a bit of both:
 

In the end, I am glad to see this debate happening. The Reformed Baptists are debating the doctrine of God; the OPC is debating Republicationism; and the PCA is debating the legitimacy of men dancing in tights during a worship service. Well done to all.
 

You can read the entire review HERE.
 

Posted on Sunday, November 26, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).
 

I have noticed a trend which ought to concern any member of a PCA church. There seems to be an increasing number of PCA church plants whose stated definition of the gospel is void of any mention of the cross or atonement. In other words, there seems to be a growing number of PCA churches and/or pastors who do not properly define the gospel.
 

The following example from the front page of a PCA church’s website was sent to me from a concerned member of one of our churches. Notice that they are answering the question, “What is the gospel?”:

What is the Gospel? It is the announcement (literally “good news”) that Jesus’ resurrection was the beginning of salvation for the entire cosmos and will be completed when he returns. God is restoring the peace (shalom) of his creation through the work of Christ and is renewing people, families, neighborhoods, cities and nations, as people trust and follow him.
 

I have read a number of other definitions of the gospel on other PCA church websites that define the gospel in essentially the same way.

 

I have no reason to believe that the writers of statements such as the one above are anything other than fine brothers in Christ. It may be that they are pastors who preach Christ crucified every Lord's Day. I certainly hope that is the case. The fact remains however that the answer given above to the question "What is the gospel?" is so incomplete as to be wrong. It is not possible to explain the gospel without placing Christ's death for sinners at the center.
 

Certainly the resurrection of Jesus is essential to the gospel. If we are not proclaiming Christ as risen then we are not proclaiming the gospel. Jesus’ resurrection is necessary for our salvation. Likewise, it is true that the salvation Jesus accomplished is cosmic in scope. That is, there will be a new heaven and earth in the age to come. Sin has ruined everything so the new creation will include both redeemed persons as well as a redeemed creation. I also understand that it is not possible to include everything about the gospel in a single statement. Certainly a statement that addresses the gospel in all its fullness and implications could not fit in a simple statement.
 

But there is simply no gospel apart from the cross. There is no proper explanation or proclamation of the gospel apart from the fact that “Christ died for our sins.”
 

So how can it be that there are PCA churches which define the gospel in such a way as to leave out the heartbeat of the gospel itself?
 

One of the standard features of progressive or liberal theology is a disdain for the atonement. You will hear talk about the various “theories of the atonement.” It will be said that while some accept the “theory” of penal substitutionary atonement others prefer another theory like Christus Victor. Of course they fail to understand that Christ’s victory is grounded in part in his death as our vicarious substitute; our propitiation.

 

Incidentally, I am making no claim about the intentions of those pastors who neglect to mention the cross or atonement in their definitions of the gospel. They may well be wonderful folks. But if we can't be "sticklers" about getting the gospel right then what are we?
 

So, what are we to think about pastors in the PCA who, when asked to explain the gospel, make no reference to sin, the cross, or the atonement? If it were a one-off we could explain it as a probable oversight; a mental speed bump. But I am concerned that this problem is way beyond anecdote. It seems to be a trend.

 

Posted on Monday, October 23, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

The dreadful condition of the conversation regarding racial reconciliation among evangelicals is a cause for sadness. Within the denomination to which I belong it has become rather toxic. Dissent from the approved narrative is met either with venom or dismissal. For instance I witnessed a black sister in Christ referred to as “ignorant” by a white Teaching Elder because she challenged some of the assumptions of those driving the race conversation in the PCA. As a consequence of this sort of thing many have absented themselves entirely from the conversation. There are some, however, who are still willing to be treated shabbily for suggesting an alternative to that which we are allowed to think and say.
 

Samuel Sey, a brother in Christ who happens to be black wrote a courageous reflection on the state of racial reconciliation among Christians. He concludes his post by writing:

Racial reconciliation happened on the cross when Jesus reconciled Jewish and Gentile sinners to God. Racial reconciliation happened when Jesus made Jews and Gentiles, Black people and White people, and all other racial groups one in himself when he became our representative and identity on the cross. What Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. could not do for Americans, Christ did for the world 2,000 years ago. Jesus has already accomplished racial reconciliation, and it’s even better than we could have ever hoped for. Those of us who trust in him are not merely reconciled to each other, we are also reconciled to God.
 

We should hate injustice, love good, and establish justice. Like William Wilberforce and Francis J. Grimké, we must do whatever is in our capacity to establish justice. However, we must not lose sight of the gospel. Real racial reconciliation isn’t political, it’s theological. We evangelicals are already reconciled to each other in Christ. We just have to remember that and live like it.
 

Our reconciliation to each other will be perfected in Heaven when a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, stand before our Lord Jesus Christ. But until then, we must live in light of our reconciliation to each other in all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Please take time to read the entire piece HERE.