Brit Hume Reconsidered

washingtonredskinsPut this in the category of ornery, as in there is no pleasing some people, as in paleo-Calvinists are a demanding lot. But the details on Brit Hume, his remarks about Tiger Woods, and Hume’s own Christian convictions are not as encouraging as they seemed at first.

Many have commented on Hume’s remarks and subsequent defense of saying publicly that Tiger Woods should turn to Christianity, the only source of forgiveness and redemption. Some have used negative reactions to Hume to show the true state of the cultural wars in the U.S. Some have simply noted how welcome the positive mention of Christian in the mainstream media. Others have explored the topics of Christianity’s exclusiveness and the dangers of celebrity Christianity.

Few have gone a step farther to see about Hume’s own faith. Christianity Today conducted an interview with Hume in which the following questions and answers appeared:

Do you attend a church in D.C.?

A lot of the worship I do is in home church and Bible study. There’s a regular journalists’ group that meets. There’s also a group we’re meeting this weekend at our place in Virginia, a group of families that meet for home church. There’s a minister and his wife who lead it, and we like it.

Do you have a pastor or mentor?

I do. Jerry Leachman. He leads men’s Bible study groups all over the Washington area.

I understand that when you moved into part-time work last year, you took time off to focus more on your faith.

That’s true. I said I had the three G’s I wanted to devote myself to: God, granddaughters, and golf. I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m able to see my granddaughters more, I’m spending more time focused on my faith, and when I can, I’m playing golf. All three of those things are still part of the scheme here.

It turns out that Jerry Leachman is the chaplain to the Washington Redskins. It also turns out that Leachman’s wife leads a Bible study for women that Hilary Clinton either attends or used to attend for many years.

Rooting interests and political party loyalty aside, the troubling part of Hume’s faith is its autonomy from the church. If he wanted to devote himself more to God, why not belong to the body of his savior? The answer is likely that such formalities, like not playing football for pay on Sunday, are unimportant to Christianity. What is important is a personal relationship with Jesus and ongoing study of Scripture.

Of course, a personal relationship with Jesus – if that means saving faith – is necessary, and studying the Bible on your own – assuming literacy – is a valuable part of the Christian life. But whatever happened to the church? Is church membership necessary to Christian faith? According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, yes (ordinarily).

The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. (25.2)

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51 thoughts on “Brit Hume Reconsidered

  1. Your comment is a bit snarky and ad hominem. I have to wonder about the purpose of this remark. I’m not sure what the relevance of Brit Hume’s church going habits or personal ecclesiology is to the subject of his public commendation of Christian faith. He never spoke on the doctrine of the church in his Fox News remarks. He didn’t commend his church going habits or even mention them on Fox News. He didn’t say he was a pillar of theological wisdom. He merely recommended that Tiger Woods turn to the Christian faith, the only source of forgiveness and redemption. He only mentioned his home church practice in answer to a direct question in an interview. If he holds to an errant ecclesiology, so what? Does that discredit his testimony for Christ, or undermine the truth of his statements, or show him to be an unfit witness for Christ?

    More fundamentally, I would suggest that your remark is emblematic of a deep problem among some of us confessionally Reformed types: an unhealthy and pathological tendency to be knee-jerk critics, negative to a fault. Why is it not sufficient to say, “Way to go, Brit!” And let it go? The hyper critic in you has to knit pick and resort to a personal attack on Hume’s personal understanding of ecclesiology. This says a lot more about the critic than the one critiqued, about a certain smallness.

    For your information, Brit Hume also attends from time to time a conservative Presbyterian church and is reading Reformed books in an effort to learn more about the Reformed faith. I’ll bet money that as he grows in his knowledge he joins a true church.

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  2. But Duncan, why don’t you write, “way to go Darryl” and then move on?

    All Brit said was that Tiger Woods needs to be forgiven and that he needs Christianity for that forgiveness. His follow-up interview says he doesn’t go to church. The implication is that Brit Hume knows forgiveness without being a member of the church. The Reformed faith knows nothing about forgiveness apart from the church ordinarily.

    You may consider this small minded. But wouldn’t a large mind be able to appreciate the point of ecclesiology at stake and then improve upon the point? But all you apparently can say is that the post is that it is snarky (which I conceded under the heading of ornery). Way to go Duncan.

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  3. Because your post was not commendable and Brit Hume’s remarks on Fox were.

    You beg the question. There is no “point of ecclesiology” at stake in Hume’s Fox remarks, which are the only remarks that generated discussion. The only “point of ecclesiology” is the one you gratuitously injected without good reason. The world is discussing his remarks and whether they were appropriate. So he has a flawed ecclesiology. So what? It’s not relevant to the public controversy under discussion. If I wrote a review of one of your books, and added (after doing a Google search of you) “but he wears funny bow ties and has an upaid speeding ticket in Wilmington,” that would be small minded and perverse. That’s what you did here. “Way to go. Scored one for the confessionally Reformed.”

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  4. I think both Darryl and Duncan have a point: Darryl is clearly right in identifying the weakness in Hume’s position, it is clear from the interview that his priority is on the home church which meets in his house. Frankyl, that’s not the way forward – so “way to go Darryl!”

    But Darryl, would it not also have been good to affirm the truth of Hume’s public statements about the need for Christ? Surely, inspite of our differences with Hume (and I’m sure there are many more than just ecclesiology) it would not be stretching ourselves too much to commend his conviction (not convictions) about the necessity of Christ? Hume is probably ignorant of much Biblical teaching, so to come out with this is surely commendable. So, “way to go Hume” as well. 😉

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  5. Duncan, you write: “So he has a flawed ecclesiology. So what?” So you think my concerns are beneath respect? Way to go, Duncan.

    For the record, plenty of Christians have been commenting favorably about Hume’s comments. The only point of saying something else is to come at the issue from another direction, a direction that most people consider along with you, “so what.” Excuuuuse meeeee. But as the post tried to point out, you can’t divorce forgiveness from membership in the church. A blog trying to remind Reformed Christians of that truth — a blog devoted, mind you, to Reformed faith and practice — hardly seems a violation of fairness or love.

    So what if there are people who think my post commendable? How do you respond to them? Do you turn ad hominem on them and say, their concerns are unimportant? Wow. That’s very fair and charitable.

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  6. Matt, I like Hume, and applaud his courage and possibly his conviction in saying what he said. I’m not sure what he meant, nor do I think his subsequent explanations have helped. Tiger would find forgiveness in Christ. But does Hume think that Tiger would then be restored to his family and fans? Is Christianity a cure-all? Plus, as Scott Clark pointed out in his podcast, Hume seems to suggest in follow-up comments that a Tiger conversion would be a shot in the arm for Christianity. It might. But it might be a shot for the weak of heart, for those who need celebrities to believe more than simply trusting in Christ come what may.

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  7. You don’t get it. Of course your “concern” about ecclesiology is theologically correct. So what? It didn’t need to be said. What needed to be said was something positive in praise of Hume. That would have been charitable. Would it have hurt that much to have said something positive? I regard your attitude as exemplary of a deeper problem than Hume’s ecclesiology. Why do so many of us confessionally Reformed default to the hyper-critical position from the get-go? It seems that for many of us, we can’t say anything positive about a fellow believer if he/she doesn’t check all our Reformed boxes. We have to be all polemics all the time. Polemics are fine. But there is more to the Reformed faith than polemics, and I don’t think Jesus’ statement that we’ll be known by our love has a footnote — “unless your ministry and blog is devoted to polemics.” It’s wearying. It’s perverse. It’s unattractive. It’s not going to win the Reformed faith a hearing from anyone.

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  8. Duncan, So which is it? Theology matters in favor of Brit (or more in favor of your regard for Hume) but theology doesn’t matter when oldlife brings it up. That seems pretty arbitrary, not to mention polemical. But I’m glad to feel all the love of our Lord coming from Duncan to dgh. Way to go.

    BTW, do you think Brit should be a member of a church?

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  9. DGH, what if Hume came back to you with, “My church is the house church I attend. We faithfully have services every Sunday.”?

    Would you consider him outside the visible church, sitting on the doorstep, just inside the foyer, what?

    Kinda like the times of the Judges … everyone does his own thing (loose translation of the Hebrew).

    (P.S. I think an earlier comment got held up in the queue. Too many links triggered the filter, I fear).

    JRC

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  10. Jeff,

    The Reformed confess three marks that reveal the true church. Does Brit’s home church “engage in the pure preaching of the gospel, make use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them and practice church discipline for correcting faults” (Belgic 29)?

    The three marks beats the three G’s (alliterative spirituality should always be a red flag, except when it comes to guilt, grace and gratitude).

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  11. Not to be confused with Matthew Holst above (no insult meant by that), I think DGH’s original point stands. We tend to forget for whatever reason that the Epistles were written to churches or to individuals like Timothy and Titus who served as the Teaching Elder in a church. Brit Hume is right that Tiger should turn to Christ, but so should anyone else. And Tiger turning to Christ at this point and then going to the media could also have the effect of, “Oh look, now he’s a Christian. Let’s have him go and speak at churches and youth events, etc., and tell everyone what Jesus did for him” while ignoring the importance of the oft overlooked local, unimpressive church. A Tiger Woods conversion, as great and miraculous as that would be, won’t lead to a Reformation in America.

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  12. Duncan,

    Your priggishness is entirely too predictable. If it wasn’t so outlandish, it wouldn’t merit any attention at all. Has the urge to vilify Reformed theology so warped your understanding of reality that you actually think you have to rush to defend an international celebrity from an “attack” by blogger? Really?

    Are we to be filled with school-girl giddiness when Brit explains that Christ is the only source of true forgiveness and redemption, but be annoyed when Darryl explains the church’s essential role in communicating that redemption and its benefits to believers?

    Since when is it a matter of charity to assume that all of our Christian brothers are fragile and easily offended? If, as you say, Brit is exploring the Reformed tradition, do you think he would be offended to find it talked about here?

    I offer a half-hearted apology if the tone of this comment is too grating, but I’m really simply exasperated by this type of silliness. Conversations among Christians about matters as important as the role of the church in the life of the believer should be marked by candor, straightforwardness, and boldness, not nervous hyper-sensitivity.

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  13. Followup: The purpose of my question wasn’t to challenge Dr. Hart or to start an argument, but to explore the question of the relatively large number of Americans who have one foot in the visible church.

    Ex.: I know several dispensationals who function as members of their church in every way, but eschew formal membership out of principle.

    Ex.: House churches vary in their possession of the three marks.

    Ex.: Many Americans are formally members of X church but have been attending Y church for some time.

    I was just wondering aloud, that’s all. Mr. Hume (not David!) seems to be in the squishy middle, and I was thinking about WCoF 25.4 and wondering where all this goes.

    JRC

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  14. Jeff,

    Right, I think that is the point of the post and my inquiry of your question: what role ecclesiology plays in all of this, if any. What I am asking of Hume’s home church is the same one that can be asked of any other more formalized congregation of self-professing Christian believers. And it seems like those that downplay something like the three marks tend also to be the same ones who, for whatever reasons, get behind celebrity-based and doctrinally-minimized Christianity. Can any congregation be called a church that lacks the three marks? Do those whose congregation lack the marks really have any authority to speak to those presumed to be outside the church? Does anyone care, including the Duncans of the world (church, whatever)?

    (BTW, what do you make of Norris’ suggestion that Buddhist Asians outpace evangelical Americans in making good families? I’m not much for statisticianism, but here is one set of data that seems to back up the idea that success in the temporal order needs no eternal influence.)

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  15. I’ve seen the study before, and I have no way to evaluate it without the raw numbers. I’ve *read*, but not *verified*, that if you split evangelicals into “attends church twice per month or more” and “attends church once per month or less”, a large discrepancy appears.

    I have trust Barna in reading this that he’s controlled for various factors, etc.

    But here’s the nagging issue: If we suppose that all of the evangelicals in fact are saved, and that none of the Buddhists are in fact saved, we have to ask: what difference did the Holy Spirit actually make in their lives?

    In other words, passages like Matt 7.15-23 or James 2 or Romans 6 – 8 mean something, right? So what do they mean, if they *don’t* mean that Christians will show a measurable difference in their lives?

    Zrim: Can any congregation be called a church that lacks the three marks?

    Yes, exactly. I could venture an opinion, but I asked in order to learn.

    Zrim: Do those whose congregation lack the marks really have any authority to speak to those presumed to be outside the church?

    Very interesting question. I have discomfort with Christian musicians for this reason (possibly exempting folk like Michael Card who are actually under a governing authority) because they disseminate teaching to a broad audience without being accountable to a church for their teachings.

    But then again … those not in a congregation with the marks probably don’t care much about proper governing authorities in the first place. “It’s a free country!”

    That’s one reason that I tend to draw parallels between our time and the time of the Judges.

    JRC

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  16. Some of it depends on what you mean by house. I know of congregations in the OPC that meet in a house. Does that make them “house church”?

    But if the minister is ordained and the church is providing Hume with ecclesial oversight, then I say fine with Old School reservations.

    My point in the post was to question the notion that Christianity exists independently of the church, whatever its shape or size. I was also writing to those who seem to take delight when Christianity scores in the public realm. Usually that scoring backfires.

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  17. Can a congregation be called a church if it merely has the three marks or must it also be correct doctrinally on those marks to be called a church? I’m also curious about that little qualifier thrown in at the end, ordinarily. Does that term have boundaries or do we just leave it to mystery?

    For example, should LCMS Lutherans ordinarily be considered not to be saved because of their defective doctrines on the sacraments?

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  18. Darryl,

    Thanks for exploring some aspects of this story that would be neglected elsewhere. It is the case, isn’t it, as we see over and again, that ecclesiology is one of the great failings in our current theological scene. Mr. Hume, unsurprisingly, seems to have deficiencies in this regard.

    Might it not be more helpful, and accurate, however, to see his problem as just that–a deficiency in ecclesiology and not an absence of any whatsoever? As you will recall, Charles Hodge, in his articles on the “Idea of the Church,” “Theories of the Church,” and “Visibility of the Church”(reprinted as chapters 1-3 in Church Polity) sets forth an ecclesiology that is arguably deficient at points as well, privileging the invisible church perhaps to the detriment of the visible and failing to show how the marks of the church necessarily qualify the attributes and do so in the visible church.

    I am not, as you would know, suggesting that Hume’s apparently anemic conception of the church is as vigorous as Hodge’s. I only seek to point out that Hodge’s conception is arguably weak at points (though I believe that Nevin, whom you know well, overshoots the mark in response). All this is to say that I am not sure that given what Hume describes, tepid as it is, renders him, in his conception, outside of the visible church.

    There is a history of downplaying the visible church among us and when he is arguing against ritualism, particularly, Hodge appears to do this. The genius of Hodge’s arguments in these articles is that the church is at heart an organism and in its essence invisible, correct points rightly contextualized. But such points can easily be mistaken by many and have been. I would prefer from your description then of Hume’s beliefs to see him as having an insufficient doctrine of the church rather than not having one at all.

    So what’s my point? I would be less critical of Hume on this score as this is a known, glaring weakness, even among many Presbyterians. Let’s hope that he comes to a better ecclesiology through the study that one of your correspondents says he is doing. What would I regard as us being able to learn from him? Pointing another to Christ, even though not done quite as it ought to be done. My sin has been, on various occasions, failing to do so at all.

    Thanks again for your labors.

    Alan

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  19. “Do those whose congregation lack the marks really have any authority to speak to those presumed to be outside the church?”
    Very interesting question. I have discomfort with Christian musicians for this reason (possibly exempting folk like Michael Card who are actually under a governing authority) because they disseminate teaching to a broad audience without being accountable to a church for their teachings.

    I’m not sure that one’s footprint is as much the issue as one’s authority or ordination. Celebrity has a way of getting the discussion going, but rarely does the discussion come round to this concern. And, when it does, it seems celebrity—whether it sings or pontificates—gets a pass because cultural power seems to be confused with ecclesial authority (to wit, Duncan).

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  20. Thanks, Alan. You make several good points and I am more than willing to ding Hodge on his ecclesiology — I think I did at one theology conference at Wheaton. But my post was actually more for Reformed folks and to beware of what they endorse when looking for kind words in the media. I doubt Mr. Hume is reading here. If he is, I encourage him to find a pastor other than one who leads Bible studies for sabbath desecrators.

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  21. Dear friends igasx and dgh,

    Don’t you realize that it is ya’ll that are doctrinally defective on the sacraments? Sigh… I will need to continue to pray for your poor deluded souls. 😀

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  22. Darryl,

    I meant to say, and it just struck me that I didn’t, that all that I said in my previous post is conditioned on Mr. Hume’s having a credible profession of faith. Given his doctrine of the church, however, it is likely that such is unknown. As you would rightly be quick to point out, that’s one of the big problems with such an ecclesiology. While I took slight issue with your treatment of Hume, arguing for a bit of leniency on what is pandemic these days, you were, on the other hand, quite charitable in either assuming, or simply not raising the point, that his profession of faith would be credible upon examination. Of course, whether he has a credible profession of faith matters for him and not for his correctly saying that we need Christ

    Thanks again for permitting this amendment.

    Alan

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  23. Darryl,

    We crossed posts. Thanks for what you say in reply, especially about sabbath desecrators. That is not something with which Hodge or any of the OS men of the 19th century would have had a moment’s sympathy. How we need to recapture a right use of that sacred day and the holy oracles and ordinances that nourish us therein!

    Alan

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  24. Igasx, no more than Baptists.

    I would think a little less so than the Baptist since they are are closest neighbor. (See how neighborly I am, Lily?) 🙂

    OTOH, if the ball is foul it doesn’t matter how far off the baseline it is it’s still a foul ball.

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  25. Can a congregation be called a church if it merely has the three marks or must it also be correct doctrinally on those marks to be called a church? I’m also curious about that little qualifier thrown in at the end, ordinarily. Does that term have boundaries or do we just leave it to mystery?

    For example, should LCMS Lutherans ordinarily be considered not to be saved because of their defective doctrines on the sacraments?

    igasx,

    Instead of questions surrounding true/false churches, my point has more to do with the questions of ecclesial authority versus cultural power. I’m not at all sure the modern era thinks there is much difference. Those with musical talent or a TV personality seem to be grand-fathered into ordination routinely. (Godfrey once quipped that “music has become the new sacrament.” Maybe that explains so many lyrical pastors?)

    But Lily might be comforted to know that older Presbyterians regularly advise Lutheran churches when truer ones are less visible. I wonder if the favor is returned?

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  26. Igasx,

    I did not mean for my last comment as a threat, but in hindsight, it does look like one. I meant to acknowledge where the conversation was going and assumed you knew the subject was going into dangerous territory.

    If you are not aware of the dangers: Lutherans take the sacraments extremely seriously and it’s never a good idea to ever compare them to the Baptists’ ordinances with Lutherans. It is a solemn area of difference between our two traditions and one that shows how seriously Lutherans take their ecclesiology [it is why we practice close communion and it separates us from ever sharing pulpit and altar fellowship with Reformed churches]. It’s a good idea to tread lightly with Lutherans on this subject since we tend to lack a sense of humor on this subject. We can be nastier than DGH (amateur!) about ecclesiology. 🙂

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  27. Hi Zrim,

    I missed your comment before I posted. I find it interesting that ya’ll would recommend our churches since it would require catechism prior to receiving communion in a confessional Lutheran church. I do not know what a Lutheran pastor would recommend if one of his parishioners moved to an area where there weren’t any good Lutheran churches. That would probably vary from pastor to pastor. LCMS members are not supposed to receive the Lord’s Supper when visiting non-LCMS churches and would be subject to correction if we did. It’s that serious of a doctrine with confessional Lutherans and the WELS churches do not receive LCMS members at the table because they broke off pulpit and table fellowship with the LCMS in the ’60s. Confessional Lutherans are a persnickety lot.

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  28. No threat taken, Lily. I know conservative Lutherans take the sacrament seriously and I was NOT comparing Lutherans to Baptists. My question was to what is the boundary for the Reformed position. So, do conservative Lutherans consider those in the Reformed faith not in a true Church and if so would it be considered extraordinary for a Reformed believer to be saved?

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  29. Igasx,

    I am glad you didn’t misunderstand, though I did. I originally thought you were joking around about whether LCMS Lutherans were saved or not because of the doctrinal differences. The confessional Lutherans (like the Reformed) believe they are the true church that preaches the gospel purely and administers the sacraments rightly and have the true confessions. We do not emphasize discipline even though we do practice it if needed. Lutherans believe there are saved people in non-Lutheran churches and we do not try to figure out who the saved are whether inside or outside our church. We leave the hidden things to God.

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  30. JJ, Stuart Robinson’s, Church of God; An Essential Element of the Gospel (1858), recently reprinted by the OP’s Christian Ed. Committee, is a good place to start. Even better, he was Vossian before Vos.

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  31. Darryt et al.

    This is way too confusing having two Matt Holsts in the world!

    I think the subsequent emails, especialy your’s and Alan Strange’s are helpful. I think there would be many differences between us and Hume, no doubt, but a touch of leniency would not go amiss either. I think HUme’s blurred “fix all” approach may be a result of attempting to sound too acceptable – certainly it is not how I would have put it – or it could be that he is truly ignorant of the issues raised here. Who knows?

    He did, however, attempt to present something of the exclusiveness of Christ – and for that I am thankful. I also accept your points regarding the superficiality of Hume’s statements. But let us affirm truth, giving thanks for it, even when it is not presented in the fulness of Biblical revelation.

    Blessings
    Matt

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  32. dgh asks, “But does Hume think that Tiger would then be restored to his family and fans? Is Christianity a cure-all? ”

    That’s exactly what he thought – a cure all. And a good way to be restored, not to Life, but to his fans.
    Parse what he said (then & later) and you begin to get a picture of a seeker (a good thing) or maybe a new Christian (also a good thing). What you don’t get is a picture of a mature & humble professor of the Faith (the best thing). Brit Hume belongs in the pews, not the pulpit.

    Furthermore, Bible studies, in and around town do not constitute a church – no elders, sacraments, preaching of the Word, and obviously, no discipline.
    But that’s just me talkin’.
    Kris

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  33. great article, stumbled upon your site whilst searching for something completely different, it’s amazing how you are able to get caught up in reading when some thing truly captures your focus, i have a feeling this is going to be getting alot of press coverage over the upcoming few months, ought to be interesting to watch unfold.

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  34. Go to any blog or site that has persons of the Reformed faith commenting and you will learn all you need to know of their theology. They are consistently arrogant in their self- congratulatory intellectualism, always critical, always “right” in their merciless condescending opinions. And we should listen to a doctrinal viewpoint espoused by these people?

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  35. IDK, Beth, IMO Simon ‘Roof Vacuuming” Shannon said it all:

    “great article…it’s amazing..this is going to be getting alot of press coverage over the upcoming few months.”

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