Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
I continue to receive a great deal of feedback on my post in which I urge the organizers of T4G to not include CJ Mahaney. Some of the feedback (both positive and negative) has been quite helpful. As you can imagine I have heard from those who are convinced that Mahaney is the worst sort of human being and others who strongly support him believing all the charges to be false. But the actual guilt or innocence of CJ Mahaney was never the point of my post. At no point do I try to render a judgment on CJ Mahaney, Covenant Life Church, or Sovereign Grace Ministries. 
 
Some have expressed great frustration with me suggesting that since they “know” CJ Mahaney is guilty of the charges against him that I should have directly condemned him and the other organizers of T4G. Others have told me that since they “know” CJ is not guilty of the charges made against him that my suggestion that he not speak at T4G is unjust. I want to humbly suggest that both sides are missing the point.
 
My opinion that CJ Mahaney should not have been included in this year’s T4G has nothing to do with whether or not he is actually guilty of the charges that have been made against him. No doubt that will immediately illicit charges of injustice on my part. After all, why should a man suffer because of false and slanderous charges? I understand the outrage. Believe me. As a pastor I know what it feels like to be falsely accused. It is terribly painful. 
 
Others have written to me pointing out that Mahaney has not been found guilty of any crimes in a court of law. But of course for the pastor the standard is much higher than whether or not we’ve been convicted of a crime. As one rather well-known pastor Tweeted today: “Pastors, being ‘above reproach’ isn’t a suggestion, it’s a fundamental requirement.” That is true. And sometimes a certain amount of unfairness has to be tolerated in light of that requirement. 
 
I never once have called for the elders of the church Mahaney pastors to remove him from his position. But headlining a mega-conference is not a right for pastors. Pastors must think of their work in terms of duties and responsibilities not rights. If you don’t like that then whatever you do, do not become a pastor. The operative question for pastors in this sort of situation is not, “Do I have a right to this?” but “Will it cause harm?”  
 
One of the clauses of the Hippocratic Oath is, “I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.” Some have often extrapolated from that clause the well-known: “First, do no harm.” That is not a bad rule of thumb for overseers in the church. And that is at the heart of my admonition to CJ Mahaney and the organizers of T4G: “Do no harm.” 
 
I have always had a great deal of affection for T4G. I have benefited from those biannual gatherings. I am thankful that so many were blessed once again this year. Indeed, I missed being there this year. But I stand by my position in the original post.
 
Posted on Monday, April 11, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
I have received a lot of feedback from my previous post on Together for the Gospel. And, as you can imagine, the feedback has ranged from “thank you” to “how dare you.” That is fine. I don’t mind the pushback (so long as it’s civil). I wrote something for public consumption so public disagreement is not inappropriate at all. 
 
But I do want to follow-up briefly in order to clarify a few points.
 
1. I have no interest in condemning or seeking to vindicate Sovereign Grace Ministries. Others are far more equipped than I to render a reliable evaluation on SGM’s health or lack thereof. 
 
2. I repeat my appreciation for Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Al Mohler. This one got me more than a little criticism. And while I am dismayed by the decision to include C.J. Mahaney in this year’s T4G, I am not able or willing to condemn them. I do not begrudge those hurt at CLC for believing I am being inconsistent on this point. 
 
3. I am not a part of any movement nor will I be drafted into one. 
 
4. I understand why some of the families of victims of the CLC child sexual abuse are joining the public protest in Louisville. I believe they should be heard. 
 
5. I have heard from a family impacted directly by the sexual abuse at CLC. It breaks my heart. I cannot imagine their pain and I hope that anyone who assisted in delaying justice or covering up the abuse will be exposed. 
 
6. Do not condemn a church or denomination for having been infiltrated by a sexual predator. Even the best of churches can be harmed by these monsters. The key is 1) Does the church have responsible and thorough child protection policies? 2) Does the church put those policies into practice? and 3) Is the church committed to civil justice for any victim of abuse? 
 
7. As I wrote in my first post, I do not know if C.J. Mahaney is guilty of the myriad charges made against him. Some have said that alone should have silenced me from calling for his removal from the conference. I humbly disagree. We must remember the profoundly high standard set for overseers. We are to be “above reproach.” We are to be thought well of by outsiders. Obviously, there comes a time when those who proclaim the gospel will be reviled by outsiders. Jesus and the apostles eventually lost the favor they once enjoyed. But it was because of the truth not because of scandals related to child sexual abuse. 
 
8. Success can be dangerous. Sometimes a conference is just that: a conference. Perhaps it burns brightly for a moment in time and then dies. That is perfectly acceptable. The parachurch is not the church after all. But success often results in great financial gain, multiple staff, publishing, etc. Those things are not wrong in and of themselves. However as a ministry project becomes highly successful it also becomes increasingly difficult to let it go. We must be careful that our project not become so precious to us that we protect it at all costs. 
 
9. I repeat my motive in all of this: The reputation of our Lord, his church, the Doctrines of Grace, complementarianism, and biblical church discipline are taking a beating over this scandal. The damage being done is significant. 
 
Posted on Saturday, April 09, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
In 2006 I was delighted to attend the very first Together for the Gospel conference held at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, KY. Who remembers that large banquet room stuffed to the brim with over 2,000 men? I still think about Ligon Duncan’s excellent address on preaching the Old Testament. At the time I was a Southern Baptist pastor who had come to embrace the Doctrines of Grace as being clearly taught in the Scriptures. Together for the Gospel was like a breath of fresh air not least of all because it reminded me that there were many like-minded SBC pastors. I was not alone. It was exciting to be, however peripherally, part of a wonderful new movement. It was exciting to see the attendance of T4G balloon to around 10,000 by 2012. With only two exceptions that I can recall the messages were edifying and God-glorifying. 
 
The year of that first gathering in 2006 was before everyone and their uncle was “reformed.” It was before the word “Gospel” had become a noun, verb, adjective, and prefix attached to everything from preaching to pastries. It was before the public debacle of Mark Driscoll. And it was before many of us had heard any concerns expressed about Sovereign Grace Ministries. 
 
When I first read the reports of spiritual abuse and cult-like control of members in SGM churches I dismissed them outright as the rantings of malcontents. And, as far as my own personal knowledge goes, that may be the case. After years in ministry I have long since abandoned the notion of “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” I have witnessed too many occasions where the smoke came entirely from the mouths of slanderers. 
 
However, the revelations of sexual abuse of children and the cover up of those crimes within SGM churches forced me to reconsider my opinion of “the critics.” It is not my purpose to rehash what has already entered the public record. Suffice it to say, I have found much of the evidence quite compelling that certain leaders within SGM knew about and sought to cover-up the sexual abuse of children. If you are interested you can read more about the horrific situation HERE, HERE, and HERE
 
And now, as I have suspected for some months, there will be public protests outside the KFC YUM! Center during next week’s T4G conference. There will also be, no doubt a major media presence. After all, is there anything more delicious to the secular media than an evangelical sex scandal? All of this leaves me asking in stunned wonder: “What are they thinking?” How can the organizers of T4G allow CJ Mahaney a place on the platform this year? The scandal is still growing. Lawsuits are in the offing. The accusations, far from being exposed as lies, seem to have taken on greater credibility. 
 
I understand and value loyalty to friends. I understand that false accusations are made. But I also understand that loyalty has its limits. The details that have been revealed about the various SGM scandals show that there is indeed at least some fire behind the smoke. 
 
I appeal therefore to the organizers of T4G to remove C.J. Mahaney not only from the roster of speakers but also from the organization itself. It gives me no pleasure to write that sentence. I do not know C.J. Mahaney. He may be an honorable man who is truly innocent of every one of the many charges that have been made against him. But to whom much is given, much is required. Mahaney is a pastor. He is and has been for years a spiritual overseer in the church of Jesus Christ. And as we know from Scripture an overseer must be above reproach and have a good reputation with those outside the church. 
 
Of course, at this point to remove Mahaney from the T4G platform at this late date would do nothing to satisfy most of the critics. It would almost certainly be seen as “too little, too late.” It may well be seen as nothing more than a cynical ploy to reduce criticism of the conference. But that does not mean that such an action should not be taken. It would require a humble statement asking forgiveness for not acting sooner. It would mean taking in no uncertain terms a posture of solidarity with the victims of the abuse in SGM churches.  
 
It should never have reached this point. 
 
The decent thing would have been for Mahaney to recuse himself from any more involvement in the leadership of T4G when it was clear that the various scandals of child sexual abuse first surfaced. That he did not, even though he had to know his continued involvement was attracting scandal like flies to a corpse, suggests a tangle of poor motives to which I will add no further speculation. 
 
Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Al Mohler are men whom I hold in high regard and I will not heap scorn upon them as others have done. I have for years and continue to this day to be blessed by their writing and preaching. But I am dismayed. 
 
My appeal to them in part is driven by my deep desire that these men for whom I feel a great deal of gratitude not be tarnished by another man’s scandal. Primarily, however, this appeal is made on the basis of my love for Christ, his church, and the Reformed faith. Like it or not it is our Lord’s reputation that is taking a beating because of this scandal. It is also the Doctrines of Grace which many of us hold dear that are being mocked because of this. Have we already forgotten how Mark Driscoll’s numerous scandals did great damage to complementarianism and Calvinism (though Driscoll was never a Calvinist)? Certainly the reputation of Jesus and his gospel are of far greater worth than our conferences, paychecks, platforms, projects, and alliances.
 
Posted on Wednesday, April 06, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Steven Furtick, pastor of the Southern Baptist Mega-Church Elevation Church is no stranger to controversy. His image features prominently in his church beginning with coloring pages provided to the children. The members of Elevation Church are told to “follow the visionary.” Furtick is also a well-known fan of false teacher T.D. Jakes (Elevation has hosted Bishop Jakes and Furtick has preached at Jakes’ church). Last year Pastor Steven, as he is known around Elevation, got into a bit of hot water when it was revealed that he was building a 16,000 square foot mansion in an exclusive gated enclave. Furtick’s fusion of revivalistic, soft-prosperity, self-help preaching is regularly punctuated by the slap of drums and grind of the Hammond Organ. All of this along with his seemingly constant experimentation with his personal appearance has made Elevation Church one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist stable. 
 
Pastor Steven made a bold statement in a recent sermon entitled “It Works Both Ways.” Specifically, Furtick said, “God broke the law for love.” The point he seemed intent on making is that in order to love us God had to break his own law. It’s just the sort of thing that broadly evangelical Americans love; the sort of statement that portrays me as so irresistible, so awesome, so valuable that God would break his own law just to have me. 
 
Furtick’s claim that “God broke the law for love” is laden with at least 9 serious errors:
1. It declares God to be a sinner.
Let’s keep this simple. Sin is fundamentally lawlessness. It is breaking God’s law. Declaring that God broke the law is to declare that he is a sinner. But so great is God’s hatred for sin (law breaking) that it required the death of his Son for sinners to be saved. So, to say that “God broke the law” in order to be edgy or creative or pithy does not change the fact that the statement is the basest sort of blasphemy. That Pastor Stephen did not intend to blaspheme (and I believe he did not intend it) does not change the fact that his statement is blasphemous. What makes a statement blasphemous is not the intent of the speaker but the content of the words. 
 
2. It diminishes the righteousness of God.
In the most general sense, righteousness means conformity to a given standard. As sovereign creator, God is the author and upholder of the right. That is, God has determined what is right and what is wrong. His standard of righteousness is impeccable in its morality and goodness. And as a righteous God he will not act in a way that is inconsistent with his own righteous standard. This is not because the standard holds sway over God but because that standard of righteousness is a reflection of the moral perfections. God’s law is the expression of his righteousness. Sin, therefore, is a transgression of the law of God. God is without sin. This is fundamental to God’s own nature. Therefore, if God is a sinner, if God transgresses the law then he becomes what his fallen creatures are. A law-breaking God is by definition an unrighteous God. (Gen 18:25; Ex 9:27; 1 Sam 12:7; 2 Chron 12:6; Neh 9:33; Job 37:23; Ps 7:11; 9:4; 11:7; 119:62, 106, 137-138; Hos 14:9; Rom 1:16-17, 33; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 John 2:1; Rev 15:4)
 
3. It diminishes the justice of God.
God’s justice and righteousness are closely related. In fact the basic words for righteousness and justice come from the same word group in Hebrew. That God is just means that he never does the wrong thing. God has established his own moral code within the universe. Among other things, that means that it is always wrong to break the law of God. So, when God exercises mercy it is never the result of his doing what is unjust. That is God never breaks the law in order to love any of his human creatures. Insisting that in order to love his people God had to break his own law is to pit his mercy against his justice. This is to introduce confusion and conflict within the very mind of God. (Exodus 9:27; Ezra 9:15; Neh 9:8; Job 4:17; 35:2; Ps 5:8; 31:1; 33:5; 40:10; 45:4; 69:27; 71:2, 19; 89:16; 111:3; 143:1; Prov 2:9; 15:9; Isa 46:13; 51:6; 53:11; 54:17; 59:16-17; Jer 23:5; Dan 9:7; Hos 2:19)
 
4. It diminishes the goodness of God.
The goodness of God is a theme that runs throughout all of Scripture beginning with creation and extending to the new creation. God’s goodness is multifaceted in that his goodness extends both to his character and all of his works. Obviously, that God is good means that all he does is good. Breaking God’s law is never good in any sense. Indeed God’s law is a reflection of his goodness. The Bible repeatedly confesses the goodness of God’s law. So to break the law of God is, by definition to do what is wrong. (Gen 1:31; Ex 33:19; 34:6; 1 Chron 16:34; 2 Chron 5:13; 7:3; Ps 25:8; 31:19; 33:5; 52:1; 100:5; Matt 7:11; Rom 2:4; 3:12; 11:22; Tit 3:4ff; James 1:17)
 
5. It diminishes the sovereignty of God.
To say that God had to break his law in order to save sinners inevitably leads to the conclusion that God had not made the best plans. It suggests that God’s plans for his people’s salvation had not anticipated the depth of human sin; that God had to break his own law in order to fix what humanity had done. (Acts 4:24; Eph 1:11; Rom 9; 1 Tim 6:15; Rev 6:10)
 
6. It diminishes the goodness of God’s law.
The Scriptures never assert that the law is the means by which sinners are justified before God. However, the Scriptures are equally univocal that the law of God is good and a means by which God’s people may glorify Him. While believers are justified by grace alone, they are also being sanctified. That is, God is graciously conforming them to his own righteous standard. If God is a law-breaker then he undermines one of the very purposes for which he has saved his people. 
(Ex 13:9; Deut 33:10; Josh 1:7-8; Ezra 7:10; Neh 9:29; Psalm 40:8; 94:12; 119:18, 29, 39, 44, 55, 66, 68, 77, 92, 97; Matt 5:17; Rom 7:12, 14, 16, 22; 8:4)
 
7. It undermines Jesus’ relationship with the law. 
Furtick’s statement reveals that he does not understand Jesus’ relationship with the law of God. Jesus loved the law of God. He was not the undoing of the law but the law’s fulfillment. Jesus met all of the demands of God’s law. 
(Matt 5:17-18; 7:12; 22:40; Lk 2:39; 10:26; 16:17; 24:44)
 
8. It suggests that God is in conflict with himself.
Furtick makes enemies out of God’s complementary qualities of justice and mercy. He portrays a God who had to choose either to be just or merciful. And, true to the demands of human sentimentality God chose mercy. Of course this empties the cross of its power. For on the cross God’s perfect justice and mercy meet, not to do battle, but to make sinners just. The justification of sinners cannot be accomplished by a God who abandons his justice to indulge mercy or vice versa.  
 
9. It undermines Christ’s work on the cross.
The cross is the ultimate vindication of the righteousness of God. It is the place where grace and justice meet. To say that God broke the law in order to love is undermine the most essential elements of Christ’s cross work.
 
Doctrines at the heart of the cross all assume the fulfillment of God’s law, the vindication of his righteousness:
Atonement
Imputation 
Propitiation
Substitution
Satisfaction 
To make Christ’s work on the cross a mere expression of love would leave sinners in their sin for it would ignore their fundamental problem. A good God cannot overlook man’s sin. He cannot be indifferent toward the lawbreaker. And this is why the cross was the perfect union of God’s justice and love. As Paul tells us in Romans 3, the cross was the vindication of the righteousness of God. No attribute of God can be abstracted from his holiness. That includes his love. So, God’s love would be corrupted and something less than divine were it the product of law-breaking. The cross is the cosmic and eternal testimony that on the cross God’s law was upheld even as he poured out his love. 
 
Now, if any of this seems serious to my brothers and sisters in the North Carolina Convention of Southern Baptists then perhaps they can press for a meeting with Pastor Steven. Certainly they do not want to be associated with such serious error. Certainly. 
 
Posted on Monday, March 07, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
Pastor Stanley, 
 
Last week I posted a response to your now infamous sermon where you said some rather shocking things about people who attend small churches. You offered an apology on Twitter acknowledging that you found your words offensive. That was appreciated. Believe me when I say that I have said many things I wish I could take back. I know what it is to be corrected by church members and elders for saying incorrect or unkind things. I don’t know if there are men at Northpoint to whom you are accountable. I hope for your sake and the sake of your church that there are. It is a dangerous thing for a pastor to not have men to whom he must give account. 
 
My question to you Andy is do you truly believe what you said about small churches and the people who attend them? Your statement on Twitter gave no indication that you believe the substance of what you said was wrong. What I mean is that while you agreed your words were offensive I still don’t know if you now believe something fundamentally different about small churches and the people who choose to attend them. So, do you now disavow the philosophy behind the words you spoke? 
 
If you are at least open to the possibility that your remarks were wrong in substance and not just in style then I ask you to consider the following recommendations: 
 
1. Take down the offending sermon from the church’s website. If you truly believe your words were offensive as your tweet indicated then I assume you do not want that message continuing to represent your church. 
 
2. Make a statement to your church confessing that your statements about small churches and those who attend them were wrong.
 
3. Write an article expressing how you now see the great value of small churches, how millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout Christian history and around the world have been wise and godly in their choice to be part of a small church; that mega-churches like Northpoint represent a blip on the calendar of church history and a fraction of a fraction of Christians. You could include a word of thanks for those untold thousands of pastors who labor faithfully in small churches whose names will never be emblazoned on a book cover nor grace a conference banner; men who love Christ and his precious people. 
 
4. Take the time to read the following excellent books:
The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges
God Has Spoken by J.I. Packer
 
5. Locate a smaller church which has a strong commitment to the gospel and the ministry of God’s Word and inquire if the pastor would allow you to “shadow” him for several weeks of ministry: hospital visits, sermon prep, worship service planning, elder meetings, etc. Explain to him that your goal is simply to learn some things about faithful pastoral ministry. 
 
I know that some of these suggestions may seem condescending on first reading. That is not the intention. These recommendations come from my desire to see you better able to bless the people of Northpoint. So, to that end, I would love for you to reconsider your understanding of the church, pastoral leadership, preaching, and the authority of Scripture. 
 
Posted on Friday, March 04, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
By now many of you have seen the clip of Andy Stanley criticizing small churches and the people who choose to attend them. Specifically Pastor Stanley said:
When I hear adults say, ‘I don’t like a big church. I like about 200. I wanna be able to know everybody.’ I say you are so stinkin’ selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anybody else’s kids. If you don’t go to a church large enough, where you can have enough middle-schoolers and high-schoolers so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big ol’ church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people, and grow up and love the local church. Instead, what you do…you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church, and then they go off to college, and you pray there’ll be a church in their college town that they connect with, and guess what: all those churches are big, the kind of church you don’t like. Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.
No doubt seeing the quick and negative reaction across social media, Stanley took to Twitter to offer an apology.
 
I am glad Pastor Stanley apologized. That is a good start. There is not a pastor alive who does not regret something he has said. However, this is far from the first time Andy has made similar remarks about the superiority of mega-churches. I don’t begrudge him his opinion. I grew up in a mega-church. I am grateful for so many of my experiences there. But I also know what it is like to attend and serve on staff at a small church; something Andy does not know anything about. And I can say categorically that Andy Stanley is wrong. 
 
Andy grew up at Atlanta’s mega First Baptist Church where his dad served as pastor. Later Andy became FBC's youth director until a falling out between father and son. Andy left FBC Atlanta to launch the insta-mega-Northpoint Community Church which now has multiple locations across the metro Atlanta area. It is massive. But Andy does not know what it is like to take his family to a smaller church where everything is not awesome; where the band is not kickin; where there is no full-time director of stage props. In other words Andy has missed out on the church experience of the vast majority of Christians throughout the ages and around the world. Indeed he condemns their choice in such a church as “stinkin selfish.” I cannot help but wonder about the faithful pastors who labor with no fanfare for the sake of Christ and his people under the massive shadow of Northpoint. Their celebrity pastor neighbor called the men and women who attend their churches "stinkin' selfish" for not doing the easier thing by following the masses to Northpoint. 
 
The irony which seems lost on Andy is that the charge of selfishness may easily be leveled against those who attend Northpoint. After all it is easy to attend a mega-church. The seats are generally more comfortable. They have a coffee shop. Attendees don’t have to be bothered by annoying kids. The lights and videos are mezmerizing. You can be anonymous which means you can avoid any responsibility. You can consume all the various goods and services without needing to contribute anything by way of service. See how that works? 
 
Andy said that having your children in a smaller church means that “you care nothing about the next generation.” But judging by the sorts of preaching and worship going on in many (not all!) mega-churches the same charge can be leveled against them. Indeed the failed seeker-friendly church consumer movement has left a generation of unbelievers in its wake. 
 
Too often the awesomely felt-needs preaching, doctrine-belittling, worship-taining religious big tent churches which Andy praises have taught untold thousands (millions?) to expect the church to meet their every consumer demand. Many (not all!) of them are leaving a burnt over zone much like the manipulative revivalism of the 18th and 19th centuries did in the Northeast United States.
 
Andy’s rude comments were simply the fruit of his woefully unbiblical doctrine of the church. Many may remember Andy’s rather infamous charge at a conference hosted at Northpoint where he said that “preaching through books of the Bible is lazy…it’s cheating.” Or the article in Leadership some years ago where he said that if he changed his doctrine the people of his church would not notice but if he changed the music style they would be instantly upset. How can that reality produce anything other than grief in the heart of a pastor? Or how about the rather horrifying interview where Andy said that we must do away with the idea that pastors are shepherds? Some of this may be chalked up to Andy’s deficient doctrine of Scripture. But whatever the case, Andy proves that it is possible to build a massive church with very little input from God’s Word. 
 
I pastor a church that fits into the large category but we are by no means a mega-church (no matter what Carl Trueman says). Anyway, there are a lot of things I am immensely grateful for about the church I serve that can be true about any church no matter what the size. Here are few:
1. The leadership is “we” not “me.”
Contrary to what Andy teaches relentlessly to pastors, leadership is not about the top guy. If he understood what the Bible says or took it seriously he would know that churches are not led like secular corporations. The Bible actually does say quite a bit about how the church is to be led. Churches are to be led by a plurality of elders accountable to God and the congregation. It is less efficient and gloriously so. It also keeps the pastor from thinking of himself as the CEO.
 
2. Those who lead worship are rather ordinary. 
When we think “worship leaders” we don’t think merely of a guitar player or singer. We think of everyone from the song leader to the preacher to the musicians and those who lead in prayer and administer the sacraments. Simply put, we have no rock stars and we love it that way.
 
3. We love to feed God’s people God’s Word. 
We can’t get past Jesus’ words to Peter – “Do you love me?...Feed my sheep.” Yes Andy there is something about the shepherd metaphor that is timeless in understanding what pastors do. There is nothing else quite like a shepherd because there is nothing else quite like the church. 
 
4. We love for families to worship together.
There are times when we do gather in groups reflective of stage in life. For instance we have ministries to children and youth and university students complete with age appropriate Sunday School. That arrangement makes a lot of sense to us. But we want families to worship together. We desire our children to be in the gathered worship of God’s people just as Jesus welcomed them so eagerly. We believe they learn profoundly important lessons as they watch, listen, and generally observe all that happens in our Lord’s Day services where the Lord himself promises to be present through the ordinary means of grace. We believe that habitually segregating people by age and interests does a disservice to the body of Christ. 
 
I don’t mean to be uncharitable but a Twitter “oops” is not sufficient for such hubris and pastoral malpractice. Perhaps Andy would consider going back to the drawing board and rethinking his whole idea of what the church is. Hey, a guy can dream. 
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.