Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

But now I'm in the OPC.   I had no idea that, of everything I have ever said or written, it would be my pronunciation of marijuana that would catapult me to celebrity fame.   What can I say?  Well, actually, I'll let Huey Lewis and the News say it for me.
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Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Big changes were implemented in the Underground Bunker this week when the Puppetmastershe.jpg announced the appointment of a new Executive Producer, presumably in a desperate attempt to impose some kind of order.   For personal reasons, she will be known to the world simply as She Who Must Be Obeyed.   She is of good OPC stock, and I am of course impressed by the appropriate 1Cor. 11 head covering; but I do wonder why the standard issue denim burka has apparently been abandoned for something rather more exotic.  Still, as Nunchucks now has a key ally in SWMBO, life in the Bunker for Todd and myself is changing dramatically, and not for the better, I hasten to add.

As to the podcast, we all know that the church is being faced with a rapidly changing social context which raises a variety of new challenges.  Thus, this week the Puppetmaster flew the team out on location to Colorado in order to address the matter of marijuana.  In states where it is legal, what should the church's attitude be? Should we discipline members who partake?  Take no stand? Offer pious advice?  That is the question before us this week in the latest Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit.

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Posted on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Dale Coulter has a fine piece on the Old and New Calvinism over at First Thoughts.   By making the connection (which others have done) between current parties and the Old School/New School debates of the nineteenth century, he offers some useful and historically informed conceptual clarity to those new Calvinists who struggle with the fact that many of us are more ambivalent (ambivalent, not dismissive) towards the movement than they would like. 

As he says, Old Schoolers do not have the numbers to make an impact.  But that is part of the division too.  We are not concerned about building mass movements; rather, we are concerned about impact at a local and then a denominational level.  This is not because we care nothing for the body of Christ as a whole but because we are aware of the church's limited resources, and of the fact that most people in the churches where we worship have no deep interest in such movements.  They are too busy being Christians in their daily lives.molesworth_reasonably_small.jpg They work hard for the local church; they witness to their neighbours; they support the denomination with their tithes; they pray for the denomination and her missionaries in particular and for the extension of the kingdom in general; and they trust others do the same for their respective churches.  And that's about it.  More than enough to keep us all busy, as they say.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Dr. Fred Zaspel, Warfield aficionado and baptist pastor, has launched a new website, Books at a Glance.  The idea is to provide short, thoughtful reviews on a large number of theological books.  One of the great delights about living at the present time is the wealth of great Christian writing, old and new, which is available.  Yet the problem is knowing which books are worth reading in depth and which can be skimmed.   This is where good book reviews can be very helpful and that is the philosophy underlying this venture.   Highly recommended.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Kudos to the Christian leaders who have so rightly discerned that recent events at World Vision are far more damaging to the evangelical church than the loony visions, thuggery, cult-like leadership techniques, and all-round high crimes and misdemeanours of church leaders who actually have real influence on real people in our churches.  Indeed, these Valiant for Truth non-haters might be interested to know that there is precedent for this move by World Vision among Christian parachurches.   Two years ago in the United Kingdom, the Rev. Digby St.John Crimond, of the Re:Alignment (formerly St. Olaf the Sublime, Cricklewood) introduced a change in policy for his own parachurch group, Myopic Globe, when he opened the ranks of its employees to atheists for the first time.  Here is an excerpt from the article written on the controversy in the March 2012 issue of the UK Christian monthly, Outraged! Magazine:

Asked by our reporter about the decision, St.John Crimond asserts that the "very narrow policy change" should be viewed by others as "symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity." He even hopes it will inspire unity elsewhere among Christians.

St.John Crimond took pains to emphasize what Myopic Globe is not communicating by the policy change. "It's easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there," he said. "This is not an endorsement of atheism. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of theism, which we affirm and support."

St.John Crimond said Myopic Globe board has faced a new question in recent years: "What do we do about a chap who applies for a job at Myopic Globe who holds atheist beliefs which are perfectly legal and even espoused by leading bishops within certain denominations? Do we deny them employment?

"Under our old conduct policy, that would have been a violation," said St.John Crimond. "The new policy will not exclude someone from employment if they have legally rejected the existence of God."  

St.John Crimond said the new policy reflects Myopic Globe's parachurch and multi-denominational nature."Denominations disagree on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc.," he said. "So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches and denominational bodies on matters of doctrine that go beyond the Apostles' Creed and our statement of faith. We unite around our [Trinitarian beliefs], and we have always deferred to the local church on these other matters.  We are simply no longer insisting on the first three words of the Creed. Three little words, people.  Three. Little. Words.  That's all."

The reason the prohibition existed on atheists in the first place? "It's kind of a historical issue," said St.John Crimond. "Atheism has only been a huge issue in the church in the last century or so. There used to be much more unity among churches on this issue, and that's changed."

And the change has been painful to watch. "It's been heartbreaking to watch this issue rip through the church," he said. "It's tearing churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart. Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue. We've got to focus on our mission. We are determined to find unity in our diversity."

St.John Crimond was adamant the change will not impact Myopic Globe's identity or work in the field. "Myopic Globe is committed to our Christian identity. We are absolutely resolute about every employee being followers of Jesus Christ. We are not wavering on that," he said.

"This is also not about compromising the authority of Scripture," said St.John Crimond. "People can say, 'Scripture is very clear on this issue,' and my answer is, 'Well ask all the theologians and denominations that disagree with that statement.' The church is divided on this issue. And we are not the local church. We are an operational organization uniting Christians around a common mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ."Molesworth in Corner.jpg

Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

As one of the all-powerful MoS Triumvirs, it falls to me to place the last tempting product of the week.  It comes from the IPC catwalk.  What every uber-cool pastor-about-town and his wife are wearing in the more hipster oriented parts of London.  Oh, and don't forget to use your Paypal account when purchasing.
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Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Logos Software have just released a 24 volume set of the works of Peter Taylor Forsyth.  I number him, along with John Henry Newman, among my guilty theological pleasures: I profoundly disagree with many things he believed but find him a brilliant writer, a stimulating thinker, and often spot on in his critique of the church and society.  Indeed, for all of his higher critical views of scripture, his Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind remains the best book I have ever read on the sheer power of the pulpit.

"It is, perhaps, an overbold beginning, but I will venture to say that with its preaching Christianity stands or falls."

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Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

This story came to my attention this morning.  A person on trial for a series of killings is using a unique defense: s/he has had a sex change, is now a woman and so, as Donna, cannot be held responsible for crimes that s/he committed when s/he was Douglas.

Words fail me somewhat, but I wonder if this brings us to the limits of the madness of a world where we are whoever we think ourselves to be and where an operation is enough to justify changing birth certificates.  Let's hope the defense fails (which surely it must, though I tend to agree with Mr. Bumble on the nature of the law as a whole). And if it does, let us hope that the implications of that legal precedent start to feed back into the system and inject just a little bit of sanity into judicial proceedings and then into cultural thinking.   That might be hoping for too much, but stranger things have happened.

Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Dave Moore, whose interview with William F. Buckley Jnr is well worth a look, has a characteristically trenchant but winsome article about omerta over at Two Cities.

A taster: "I have been around many leaders.  Some I've worked with, some I've interviewed, and some are friends.  All are human, yet the ones willing to speak tough truths, especially within their own organizations or companies, is sadly too small."

Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

In the second post in Ref21's brief series which Todd started yesterday with 'What Is Not Happening,' I want to focus on the last qualification for eldership, 1Tim. 3:7, 'Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders....'

At first glance, that is an odd qualification for Paul to include in the list.  Often, Christians are not well thought of by those outside.  I am fortunate to have two jobs which shelter me to a large extent from the rough and tumble of  life in the secular world.  Many in Cornerstone's congregation work in secular environments where there are many pressures on Christians precisely because Christians are not liked or respected in the wider world.  Yet that is often because of the offence of the cross.  The message of the cross is that we are all sinners and in need of a savior.  That is an offensive message.

Clearly, Paul is not requiring Christians to abandon the offence of the cross in order to qualify for office.  What he is saying is, to use the old English idiom, that elders should be decent people.  Their neighbours, work colleagues, and non-Christian friends should know them as people of integrity, who embody the Christian virtues in which they profess to believe.  

The reason should be obvious: the church's leaders are the public face of the church.  When a Christian falls, say, into adultery, it is a bad enough scandal.  But when a leader falls, the impact is so much greater because the general public regard leaders as the moral barometer of the church as a whole.   A further implication of this is that the manner in which a church handles the sin of its leaders will be seen by the wider world as indicative of the church's own commitment to her stated moral standards.

Returning to recent events, it is surely a good thing to see some movement towards repentance on behalf of Mark Driscoll.   As Todd indicated yesterday, when a brother sins and repentantly asks for forgiveness, we must not withhold that forgiveness.  Yet in every case, we must not only trust but also verify by looking for fruits in conformity with repentance.  That is what makes the language of 'hey hater' and the claim that the moral onus is suddenly all on the critics so inappropriate.

The world, however, takes a different line.  It does not trust and then verify.  It verifies and then, after a period of time, if at all, it trusts.  And that is not something we can simply dismiss as the way of the world and as of no relevance to us.  When Paul speaks about 'of good reputation with those outside,' he demands that the church take the logic and the opinion of the world seriously when we are dealing with leaders and when we are not talking about the offence of the cross but rather the offensiveness of some Christians' behavior.

This has twofold relevance in the current climate.  First, what has become the standard New Calvinist approach to the critics (either ignore them as irritating upstarts or point to them as the real problem -- but never, ever, treat their concerns as worthy of serious respect) fools nobody but those who want to be fooled.  It certainly does not fool the outside world as it looks on.  And as the various Mars Hill scandals have made their way into the secular media, we can assume that the favoured strategy of 'Now, see here, you little whipper-snapper...' will be seen for what it is: a deflective move to avoid  addressing the root problems.

Second, we need to remember that overseers are held to a higher standard because they are the public face of the church.   That is why behavior such as we have witnessed actually disqualifies from office, no question.  Now, there are some sins, such as adultery, which I would argue disqualify from office permanently.  For some other serious public sins, it can be for a period of time.  As restoration to office requires restoration of reputation inside and outside the church, such a time cannot be specified precisely in advance.  It requires the fallen leader working at some other calling while being pastored under the Word by wise and godly men until such time as he has grown to maturity in the faith.  Then he may again be qualified to be considered once more for office.  As Todd pointed out yesterday, disciplining fallen overseers is not hateful but the best thing that can be done for them.

The moral onus is on the church.  It is on the church to make sure that its leaders are of goodmolesworth_reasonably_small.jpg