The Problem of Sappy Evangelicals

One of the arresting aspects of marriage is that if a husband tells his wife she should watch her weight the wife gets angry. And then if hubbie tells wifey that she is angry — as if that’s a bad thing — for some reason the wife does not calm down but gets angrier. The reason for such humdrum recounting of marital relations is yet another post over at the Gospel Coalition about angry Calvinists. Justin Taylor, with lots of help from John Piper, speculates on the traits that cause Calvinists to be an angry lot (and not to be missed, make the young Calvinists at TGC look so incredibly nice).

According to Taylor:

Angry Calvinists are not like unicorns, dreamed up in some fantasy. They really do exist. And the stereotype exists for a reason. I remember (with shame) answering a question during college from a girl who was crying about the doctrine of election and what it might mean for a relative and my response was to ask everyone in the room turn to Romans 9. Right text, but it was the wrong time.

This is an odd observation because Taylor never identifies a single angry Calvinist. He has engaged in a form of stereotype that would be politically incorrect if applied on the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. You’d think that the nice Calvinists at TGC would be more sensitive about theological profiling.

You’d also think that if Taylor believes Calvinists are prone to anger then a pastoral response might be to avoid winding them up — as in not mentioning the problem. Does he refer to alcoholic Christians as those “dipsomaniac Protestants”? Does he make a habit of calling attention to questionable character traits in his readers?

As for the diagnosis, he cites Piper who writes (in part):

So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive, or intellectualistic.

Piper doesn’t seem to consider the type of person that can’t handle people who are insensitive, or the kind that has to publicly broadcast that a certain slice of Christians are insensitive. Profiling works both ways. Hence sappy evangelicals.

Which is why it is possible that the problem afflicting the evangelicals at the Gospel Coalition is one of sentimentality. That is, they value feelings more than doctrine. This is what Ken Myers called orthopathy instead of orthodoxy. This does not mean that the folks at TGC ignore doctrine. Obviously, they promote it. But they never let it function in a way that might make leaders, readers, or bloggers uncomfortable — that is, doctrine will never be offensive, especially to the co-allies. But they seem to have no problem patrolling the Christian world for incorrect emotions.

This would apparently explain why the bloggers at TGC have yet to mention the two six hundred pound gorillas in the TGC parlor — C. J. Mahaney and Mark Driscoll. The former has at the very least created a ruckus about the kind of pastoral leadership within SGM circles, which would seem to undermine TGC’s commitment to promoting gospel-centered churches. And then there is Dricoll’s clairvoyance which in sixteenth-century Geneva would have gotten him drowned. I understand that these situations are delicate and that friends want to stand by friends. But to call Calvinists — yet again — angry when TGC has its own image problems is well nigh remarkable unless, that is, you remember the importance of feelings, affections, passions, and hedonism. A co-ally may not be able to spot Mahaney’s or Driscoll’s errors but can FEEL their pain.

Maybe the problem is one of discipline. When I was a boy and got in trouble my dad would take out the belt and give me a wallop or two across my behind. I thought he was angry. I also thought he was mean. Never mind that he always shed a few tears while executing his duties. His tears could not compare to mine since I was the one who really felt pain and he was the one inflicting it.

Could it be that Calvinists look mean to Gospel Co-Allies in the same way that disciplining dads do to wayward children? Maybe. But if you want direction and counsel that prevents you from wandering off the right path, would you rather go to a Presbyterian pastor or leave a message with one of the Gospel Coalition’s celebrities and wait for one of his assistants to respond?

Postscript: Ross Douthat has a post about the reign of niceness among Harvard University undergraduates. He writes: “The pursuite of niceness and the worship of success can complement one another as easily as they can contradict. But the kind of culture that’s created when they combine — friendly and deferential on the surface, boiling with resume-driven competitiveness underneath — isn’t one that a great university should aspire to cultivate.” I wonder if a similar combination could be responsible for the culture of niceness over at TGC.


142 thoughts on “The Problem of Sappy Evangelicals

  1. Dr. Hart:

    Posts like this hurt my feelings!

    I would make two comments on a more serious note:

    First, not all of these posts on these issues are “all about you.”

    Secondly, no one is arguing—suggestions to the contrary—that the alternative is just to be “nice” like the good folks I grew up with in Iowa and then rubbed shoulders with in Minnesota. I’d say that’s a lazy criticism—but I don’t want to stereotype!



  2. But, JT–this stereotype of the “typical” Calvinist who is angry gets kind of old. In a reverse kind of way, it also detracts from some serious discussions if a Calvinist is always going to have some type of “angry” label shoved back at him because this is the way some writers like to caricature Calvinists. Are we always going to have to apologize for the way Servetus was treated?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Justin, But I am a Calvinist.

    And TGC is invariably “nice” except about Calvinists. Has anyone there ever taken Piper on about infant baptism, for instance?


  4. “Calvin was an angry Calvinist!” I literally laughed out loud with that one. Wait, that’s too emotional… better get it back under control here.


  5. Great post Dr. Hart! From a former T4G, TGC, SGM, YRR. I was going to sit down and read a Puritan. Now I think I’ll drink beer, listen to Rage Against the Machine, and read some R. Scott Clark.


  6. Tolerant Pharisees are not very tolerant with those they accuse of being Pharisees about the Pharisees. Some of these more generous folks are not so very liberal with those of us who claim that every one of the five points of Arminianism is false and therefore not part of the gospel.

    These “act more like Christians than you” folks even go so far as to claim that they themselves were effectually called by the Holy Spirit using one or more of those five Arminian points. They seem to think that learning the truth was a second blessing which came about by means of their own diligent study of some good books. That is why they can be so patronizing to the Arminians on their coalition bus.


  7. Not so fast. Herr Hart. Once your fellow Calvinists start talking about the duties of the civil magistrate as nursing father of the church, you will start your own style of whining.


  8. BTW, not saying Clark is an angry Calvinist… I just remember him and Taylor having a few run-ins back in the HB days. (man I miss that blog).


  9. How many folks out there have read Jamie Smith’s letters to “Calvinists”? The letters are filled with the old cliches of “liberalism”. Smith seems fixated on a neo-Kuyperian approach to culture that ends up with a truncated, myopic, arcane, and inordinate rejection of the legal imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

    At best, the doctrines of definite atonement for the elect alone and justification by that atonement are “shelf doctrines” to those who want to make nice with the “better sort of” Arminians. John Piper needs to smooth out and mature. It’s true that not all of us came from Wheaton but when we are surrounded by the lies of Arminianism it’s an unwise diversion to pick a fight with Calvinists.


  10. 4 years at a SGM church. While they did have Owen’s The Death of Death in the bookstore, I NEVER heard anything on particular redemption one time in a public setting. Nada. It may hurt the attendance, ya know?


  11. In Ten Myths About Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition , IVP, 2011, Kenneth Stewart aims to promote conformity to his own notion of tolerance. In the process, he seeks to exclude those he refers to as “thoroughly reformed” (p15) as extremists. Even though they don’t call ourselves TRs, he will label them that and then blame it on their foolish “primitivism”.

    For example, on p93, Stewart concludes that “TULIP cannot be allowed to function as a creed”. This dogmatism about what cannot be permitted follows a caricature of those who use the acronym “tulip”. Stewart accuses those who are less liberal than himself with having a “Procrustean formula” (p84) and being “uncritical”.

    This kind of “throwing stuff at the wall and seeing if it sticks” accusation tends to be self-fulfilling. If you don’t join him in rejecting the idea of “limited atonement” as some kind of standard for being a Calvinist, then you become guilty of defending the acronym in the crude ways he has described.

    I can’t help wondering about the motivation here. If indeed “angry Calvinists”are on the margins, why the concern to teach us that we are not part of the coalition? Why would anybody think we want to be part of the coalition? The motive is to either re-educate us (with the patronizing assumption that we are ignorant of the past) or to put us in our place–on the margins where we already are!

    If those who speak in antithesis about universal and governmental notions of the atonement are simply “strident” (AW Pink, p280) and “contentious” (Nettleton, p87) and “belligerent”, why does Stewart think he needs to “blow the whistle on” us?


  12. Hey Darryl- look at what you have done now. Someone could sit here on the internet and be entertained at this site all day long. Nice day to have the day off from work. I have got to get some other things done now.


  13. I can’t help but wonder why the Edwardsian folks come down so harshly on angry calvinists but ignore the fact that for many people my age (mid twenties), all they know about Calvinists after high school is the puritanical sermons like “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”. But Edwards also wrote on the religious happiness so I guess he gets a pass?


  14. @Richard. If you read my post and the three qualifying paragraphs before the one DGH excerpted, I think you’ll see clearly that I’m certainly not claiming all Calvinists are angry.

    Also, I thought it was fairly obvious that I’m not singling out only the TRs, but prefaced it by talking about my own “evangelical Calvinism” (Horton’s preferred term for YRR types). In every post like this DGH assumes I’m only talking about him and those like him. I’m critiquing my own “camp” as much as anything.

    BTW, Horton is an exemplar of the sort of attitudanal Calvinist I have in mind.

    My post may not have been the most articulate presentation of the matter imaginable, but I think it’s a bit more nuanced than DGH’s boilerplate response. In short, I reject the simplistic binary notion that the only two options are “nice” and “angry.” I think there’s a more biblical way.



  15. JT, not really simplistic, binary, or boilerplate here since those who have a higher regard for the church than the parachurch know that discipline, even if angered, is beneficial. The church, not a coalition, is the biblical way. Why is it you guys never seem to concede that confessionalists are more biblical than evangelicals on this one?


  16. That’s changing the subject, but I’m glad to concede—nay, confess!—that discipline is beneficial, as is righteous anger, and that God’s chosen means of grace is the church. Not sure where I have implied otherwise. I just don’t think that makes Modern Reformation or WHI or Ligonier or WTS or WSCal or Old Life or other parachurch entities unbiblical, though.


  17. The church as a means of grace? Maybe I just don’t understand what you mean by that but I thought the means of grace were word and sacrament. Am I missing something?


  18. Dr. Hart:

    Terrific post!

    I wonder if you could put together a list of warm and fuzzy Calvinists and contrast it with some cold and prickly Arminians. I mean, the notion that Calvinists like me are prone to anger really makes me mad!


  19. @ Richard:

    In the spirit of being kinder and gentler, let us not hoard all the anger over Servetus for ourselves. Let us remember to share the anger with our Roman Catholic friends who, had they nabbed him first, would have killed Servetus just as dead and liked it.


  20. Please tell me that John Piper DID NOT write this:

    >>>>So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive, or intellectualistic.<<<<


  21. DGH,

    I haven’t laughed so hard in a good while — not that your piece was meant to be humorous. The issue is — from this mind — is, it rings of such immense common sense the heart leaps for breezy skies as if an eagle. Calling Driscoll clairvoyant almost caused iced tea to spew from my nostrils.


  22. The timely Trueman:

    “And, while it may salve the surprisingly sensitive aesthetic consciences of some to convince themselves that our critiques are simply in bad taste, nothing more than the routine rants of rabid Reformed rottweilers, this is simply not the case…Rather, we do what we do because we simply refuse to allow to go unchallenged the received mythology concerning the evils of Reformed Orthodoxy; we do what we do because we love the Reformed faith as much as we dislike shoddy historical writing; we do what we do to make our own small contribution to criticism of the bland aesthetic tastes of modern evangelical theology; and, above all, we do what we do because to remain silent at such a time as this would be to abdicate our moral responsibility to the church. In short, we do it because it is right for us to do so. The light may well be dying, but we will rage, rage against it; and be assured, we will never go gentle into that good night.” (Dr. Carl Trueman, ‘Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light’, WTJ 70 [2008]: 18)

    Though the context is historiography, I believe it applies cozily to the issue at hand. Notice the mention of aesthetics; in this present case, emotional aesthetics.

    Rage on!


  23. Just because magazines, radio programs, bookstores, and seminaries are legitimate parachurch organizations, seeking to educate the church’s ministers and laymen, does not mean that all parachurch networks are ok, including church networks, which encroach on the mission, ministry, marks are means of the church (which biblically include not just the local church but assemblies of the church’s officers). A confessional assembly can teach all that Christ commanded as the church is supposed to, a network of churches includes men who can’t possibly agree on much more that a statement of faith carefully engineered to avoid points of disagreement.

    For that reason, and for the insistence on continuing to blog about angry Calvinists, I anticipate that TGC will provide more and more great material for Old Life.

    Its also going to take me a while to get over Dr. Hart calling Driscoll clairvoyant. So hilarious that it took a while to accept I had actually just read that.


  24. Justin, the post was about anger and whether evangelicals regard discipline as anger thanks to a sentimental disposition. It is also why the post brought up Mahaney and Driscoll. TGC’s silence about these guys does suggest that the Coalition avoids taking stands that might make people angry — except Calvinists. I feel special.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I would think that one of the techniques of the false teachers in Galatia would be to focus on Paul’s anger. It simply doesn’t matter if you are talking about a false gospel, there should be no place for the sarcasm of “let the knife slip”. These false teachers had a “catholic spirit”, a both/and approach. They weren’t try to exclude those who would exclude. They didn’t deny anything that sectarians like Paul said, but merely added other things along with it. What need is there for antithesis when you can say that “I believe everything the Arminians believe about the atonement plus also some stuff they don’t believe.”?

    You can have an antithesis but not be improperly angry, IF you are careful to announce beforehand that you still believe the same gospel as the persons on the other side of the antithesis?

    What is the motive for finding other people who are judging so that you can judge them for judging?
    When the liberal Girardians tell us that “we need somebody to scapegoat”, they tend not to think of themselves as inherently ready to scapegoat those who scapegoat .

    Who needs somebody to be wrong who needs somebody to be wrong?


  26. Dr Hart, Don’t you know that the more false doctrine we have, the more that shows God’s grace in saving us despite our false doctrine? (And also that it shows God’s sovereignty when God leaves us in our bad doctrines after we are converted?) Don’t you know that having more clergy in your church who don’t agree with the confessions will only enable you to grow in love toward others?

    Ray Ortlund Jr: “Fellowship outside our cherished circle will force us to look at our cherished beliefs. It will force us to find our answers in Scripture and not confessions. It will help us to get a better sense of proportion. We will discover that some of the beliefs we thought were rock solid rest on more sand than we realized.

    “Yes it will mean living with less theological agreement than we might wish but perhaps that is good for us spiritually. It will teach us forbearance and patience. We will need to work harder at love, but that is good for us. It’s relatively easy to love those we agree with, far harder to love those who see things differently.”


  27. More imperatives from Ortlund Jr: “Whatever divides us emotionally from other Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Christians is a “plus” we’re adding to the gospel. It is the Galatian impulse of self-exaltation. It becomes a club with which we bash other Christians, at least in our thoughts, to punish, to exclude and to force into line with us.

    “What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love

    “My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. “


  28. Paul, re Piper, I’ve heard that psycho-speculation before to explain the supposed illness of the Calvinist disposition. I wonder if those who suggest it understand that the five points of Calvinism were in ecclesiastical response the five points of Arminianism. So by the logic wouldn’t Arminianism be the system that “draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive, or intellectualistic”?

    But maybe it takes seriously subscribing something like the Canons of Dordt as opposed to having a breezy predestinarism and orthopathy to remember something so cursory, which then might help one realize the folly of such superficial psycho-spiritual analysis?


  29. Underdog, yes Trueman has made some good points. But he has also taken swipes at confessionalists from his perch in the parachurch world of confessing evangelicals. Sometimes he loses his balance.


  30. 1. The investigation of all-things-Mahaney continues as a subset of YRR, SGM, and T4G. “Heavy-handed” autocracy for years and years by Mahaney is thematic, among many other factors. I believe Mr. Justin Taylor was wise in an intital post at GC, to wit, that it was hard to know what to do with the Detwiler-revelations. Expectations from Mr. Challies weren’t high and he didn’t disappoint. Expectations from Mohler weren’t high either and he didn’t disappoint. However, expectations are always high for Confessional Churchmen, e.g. Drs. Trueman and Duncan, and they did disappoint.
    2. Not a peep from Dr. Piper, dispensationalist John MacArthur, CT Editor Collin Hansen, or further developments by Rev. Kevin DeYoung, Dr. Trueman, or Rev. Ortlund. However, Dr. Mohler weighed in again recently (his second public statement) with a Washington Post article.
    3. Speaking of “sappy,” that term is quite useful when thinking of some SGM preaching. SGM follows this trajectory: Jesus-freaks, Shepherding Movement, hyper-authoritarianism and even some common cultic control mechanisms, Charismaticism, adoption of TULIP in the 90s, while frequently citing Grudem in support of tongues and prophecy (see Hansen’s YRR, 2008). It’s a morphing movement that is beginning to engage some learning (like the Methodists experienced over the years from backwoods circuit riding with anti-intellectualism yet facing college-developments…they morphed but remained “populistic”). SGM: very experientialistic, even in Mahaney-Harvey-Tomczak books…all of which are exceedingly thin (charitably put) in terms of a bibliography (scholarly research) and quite hefty on stories (in the first person, singular, “I,” “me,” “my.”) The word “pietists” or “pietistic evangelicals” rather than Confessional Churchmen is probably suitable. If one reads the stories of numerous folks, phrases like “it speaks to the heart,” “I could feel” this or that, etc. They still have “prophecy mikes” at Mahaney’s homechurch. The worship is of SGM-origin (they write their own), but some reports indicate there may be a shift.
    4. As to T4G’s silence, Mahaney is still featured at the website and on track for 10-12 Apr 2012. Further, Dr. Dever has within the month spoken twice in the pulpit to CHBC members re: the “false accusations” against Mahaney. Further, when questioned specifically in a church meeting by one member, Dever defended Mahaney. This is coming from a CHBC member who had questions. Mahaney is ensconced at CBHC and his son-in-law, formerly an Elder at Mahaney’s flagship church, Covenant Life, Gaithersburg, MD (bedroom suburb of DC), starts an internship at CHBC for 5 months (with heavy reading of Dever-books and a few others over a 5000-page range). This written and published resignation from Eldership by Mahaney’s son-in-law-soon-to-be-CHBC-intern included allegations that Cov Life Elders had trafficked in “gossip and slander” (one of several trump cards used in SGM cases). At this point, the T4G ship, at this point, under Dever, will continue to support Mahaney.
    5. This scribe will probably write official letters of inquiry to Al, Mark, Ligon, Carl, Kevin, and–well–perhaps Ray Ortlund.
    6. An interesting development. SGM has an annual “Pastors’ Conference” every Nov. After the story broke, it was publicly advertised that “Baldy” (Hansen’s term in YRR), or CJ, would be present and there would be a “public reconciliation” between CJ and the man he coerced from ministry (threatening to publicly reveal damaging information about sexual offenses by the man’s late teen-aged son…which a lawyer strenuously waved off). Co-founder of SGM, Larry Tomczak, the man getting “shanked” by CJ, was to be present this November. But, whala! Washington Post put out an article over the last few weeks. Tomczak held firmly that SGM-tactics and “methodologies” were wrong and hurt a lot of people. Two things: (1) CJ “disappeared” from the Nov 2011 conference. CJ’s non-attendance at his flagship conference is a first. Given that the Detwiler-docs went to “every SGM Pastor” (Hansen says 68 churches in 2008, but other reports say 100 churches) and that this Pastor’s conference would have most, if not all, SGM Pastors there, SGM-strategists probably pulled CJ in light of expected questions. (2) Given Tomczak’s intransigent statement in the Wash Po article, SGM strategists probably figured that Tomczak should be pulled as well–never mind the earlier pronouncements publicly. Telling.
    7. If an organization wants to be public, sell books, CDs, etc., and offer something to the nation, public scrutiny is most warranted. The silences and premature defenses (Mohler, of Mahaney is worth analyzing also. Elders in Israel, as well as Churchmen and Churchwomen, are justified in the research, notwithstanding Dr. Duncan’s unfortunate attempt at a wave-off.


  31. An email was publicly posted Emails can be public documents and can be used in legal proceedings. Time for some certified letters to be mailed. Dr. Trueman did not know enough to provide a declaration of suitability for ministry, allthough he so qualified his statement as to strenuously limit liability. It would have been wiser to not speak at all. Here’s the email that’s now public and archived. It’s dated this morning, 20 Sept 2011.

    “Dear Sir,

    I gather you have accused me of lying about my relationship with C J Mahaney.

    If you have evidence that I have met C J Mahaney more than three times, as stated in my personal statement on the SGM website, please provide it. I have no recollection of having done so but am open to my memory being faulty and to your correction on this. You clearly have access to information which I must have forgotten aand I would be grateful to be reminded of it.

    If you have evidence that I have spoken to C J Mahney at all between January 2007 (the third of my meetings with him, at which meeting I asked him about Spurgeon, as alluded to in my blog) and July 2011 (when I had to interview him in my role on this panel) please provide it. That, of course, represents a period of over four and a half years – a remarkable length of time for those you allege are good friends not to have spoken to each other, considering that we live only about 130 miles apart. Again, my memory may be faulty and, given the confidence with which you write, I assume you can correct me on this.

    If you do so, I will happily and immediately retract my statement on the SGM website and issue a fulsome public apology to all who have been offended..

    If you cannot do so, I suggest you think long and hard before you accuse anyone else of lying lest you find yourself vulnerable to the same charge. In this latter case, please provide me with the name of your pastor and elders as I would also like to refer this matter to them for their consideration.

    Carl R Trueman”


  32. 1. Challies effort on “spiritual abuse” at:

    2. Dr. Kelleman, interviewed by Tim, says the following (it’s eeirly descriptive of Detwiler-documents, numerous reports from other leaders, and the blogs). Here’s Kelleman:

    “•Using our spiritual position to control or dominate another person.
    •Overriding the feelings and opinions of others.
    •Using spiritual authority defensively to bolster the position and “needs” of the leader.
    •Considering oneself above questioning.
    •Labeling the person who questions us as wrong and rebellious, thus subtly shifting the focus and blame. Questions are assumed to come from a wrong spirit, not simply from an honest attempt to have give-and-take dialogue. The worst is assumed of the other; the best is assumed of oneself.
    •Labels can include accusations such as, “You’re rebellious.” “You’re disrespectful.” “I detect a pattern of anger and a critical spirit.” “You are unspiritual and emotionally immature.” Such labels heap condemnation on the recipient, rather than offering wise counsel and constructive feedback.
    • Interpreting our spiritual authority to mean that my thoughts and opinions are supreme.”

    3. SGM polity has been monarchially autocratic without recourse or redress when abuse issues have arisen, including some very serious sexual abuse cases involving law enforcement and pastoral involvement. The above reads eerily reminiscent of SGM practices that aren’t getting press, coverage, or inquiry.


  33. Before this is all said and done, I am betting Dr. Trueman will regret the day he ever waded into this mess with SGM.


  34. ‘Ray Ortlund Jr: “Fellowship outside our cherished circle will force us to look at our cherished beliefs. It will force us to find our answers in Scripture and not confessions. It will help us to get a better sense of proportion. We will discover that some of the beliefs we thought were rock solid rest on more sand than we realized.

    “Yes it will mean living with less theological agreement than we might wish but perhaps that is good for us spiritually. It will teach us forbearance and patience. We will need to work harder at love, but that is good for us. It’s relatively easy to love those we agree with, far harder to love those who see things differently.”’

    Amen. And amen to the rest of Ortlund’s comment. I am with Justin too. Yes, I recognize the danger of being so nice it is wrong to disagree. I don’t think Justin is encouraging this. He is happy to make strongly worded points. But there is all the difference in the world between honestly and openly disagreeing and sarcasm and ridicule in a context of mutual self-congratulation (which abounds above). This directed against not those who are enemies of the cross but brothers and sisters in Christ. Unrestrained mockery of brothers and sisters in Christ is without a vestige of Christian love or grace.


    You could contribute so much if you had a heart for all of God’s people and did not apparently delight in deriding others.


  35. John T – maybe DGH is doing this for the YRR crowd’s spiritual good? Maybe you need to work harder at love, but then again, that’s good for you. You know, it’s relatively easy to love those you agree with, and it’s far harder to love those, like Hart, who see things differently. Just channeling your own quote of Ortlund… I guess you don’t agree with what Ortlund said as much as you think?


  36. DJ to John Thompson: Bingo! This “angry Calvinist” meme by Taylor, Thompson (click on his name to go to his latest post), et al has grown so tiresome it’s becoming comical. Where is that shred of evidence that Calvinists are any “angrier” than any other theological tradition? Reread Taylor’s post. The lack of substance on this point is striking. And then read Thompson’s post. Lots of accusations; again, no substance.

    Underdog: Thanks for reposting the Clark piece. Reminds me of how sorely he is missed in the blogosphere.


  37. Someone is more wrong than someone else in these debates – Darryl’s main point was addressed to Justin about 30 posts ago. While everyone continue to bicker about this I came this excellent lecture by a philosphy teacher at Calvin College- it has some connection to what we all are talking about:

    I thought it was “spot on” as everyone is saying these days.


  38. From what I understand, I do not think confessionalists would disagree with much (or any) of what this guy was saying. It is not just doctrine that confessionalists harp on. It is getting the doctrine, liturgy and worship into our desires until they become second nature to us. It is developing the habits of liturgy through the discipline of the church and contrasting these habits in what we find in the “world” and the liturgy that the culture produces. The world usually transforms the church more than the church transforms the culture. That is why our emphasis should be on the work of the church.


  39. Great statement:

    “That is, they value feelings more than doctrine,… Obviously, they promote it (doctrine). But they never let it function in a way that might make leaders, readers, or bloggers uncomfortable — that is, doctrine will never be offensive,… But they seem to have no problem patrolling the Christian world for incorrect emotions.”

    Perhaps this is why so many movements from the neo-Calvinists promote more how the world FEELS about Jesus and His church rather than what they KNOW about Him.


  40. John T., “Unrestrained mockery of brothers and sisters in Christ is without a vestige of Christian love or grace?” Be careful, you’re not showing forebearance or patience.


  41. DJ, if truth be told, I’m simply interested in honesty. To call yourself a Calvinist and basically disregard 90 percent of what Calvin said is odd, don’t you think? Why John T. has any truck with people who follow a mere man I’ll never know.


  42. UT,

    Here are a couple examples, though you can also find some posts at Ref 21 that take issue with those devoted to a jure divino Presbyterianism, though maybe his ordination in the OPC is causing him to rethink this:

    BTW, as I understand it, CRT also uses this book as an example of a historical fallacy in his book on the subject. That would be easier to take if he also used Peter Lillback to illustrate one of his other points about historical fallacies.


  43. There are so many flavors of Calvinists that to try to stereotype them at all is bound to fail. My experience with the most ardent of confessionalists, on the other hand, is that they tend, not so much to harshness or anger, as to a rigidity that does not cope well with sacred mystery.


  44. “DJ, if truth be told, I’m simply interested in honesty. To call yourself a Calvinist and basically disregard 90 percent of what Calvin said is odd, don’t you think?”

    I do. And men like you and Clark made me wiggle and squirm until I finally conceded to such things.


  45. This pewsitter and PCA exile is afraid to ask what “sacred mystery” is. In light of all things “contemplative” going on in evangelical churches these days, perhaps I don’t want to know!


  46. To make another intuitive assertion, the doctrines of justification (the gospel) and sanctification (what the gospel produces) need to be taught carefully and accurately and this is somehow different than just accumulating information. God does something to us during justification (imputes our sins to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to us) and the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of God’s action, which we call sanctification. And the Church, with its role of preaching the Law and the Gospel and administering the sacraments, is where this divine drama works itself out in the life of the Church. So, there are critical issues which need to be defended about justification, sanctification, the sacraments and the church which is going to cause problems. It seems to me that confessionalists are just trying to bring clarity and clearer definition to these critical issues. If we cannot bring agreement then we join churches where we agree. But critical and non-critical issues have to be determined.


  47. Don, you say rigidity, I say clarity. Out of curiosity, Nicea deals with some sacred mysteries, does it not. Has that not been a tad rigid for some who call themselves Christian?


  48. Don, I think you’re thinking of the Reformed logicians for whom faith tends to be the sum of its logical parts (but watch out for the aggressive ones with anger management issues). Reformed confessionalists are quite at ease with paradox, tension and mystery, which drives the logicians batty. The Reformed evangelicals confuse grace with politeness yet have a hard time seeing the sanctimonious planks in their own eyes. Talk about tension.


  49. Darryl, Yes, the Nicene creed does deal with sacred mysteries (e.g., Jesus Christ begotten, not made, being of one substance, and the incarnation). It is when our discussion turns to the intersection or interaction of heaven and earth (e.g., the efficacy of the sacraments, union with Christ, history and revelation) that the demand for clarity often seems to lead us to separate when we need not.

    Augustine in his “Confessions” says “it is inexact language to speak of three times — past, present and future” because, for him, they are identical in the eternal mind of God. Once we acknowledge this, it is fair to say, though it may be awfully fuzzy and unclear, that the eschaton informs, participates, and in a sense, causes the past and present.

    So, when we talk about justification, as an example, Christ is the One who is justified, and it is His justification that informs, participates, and in a sense, causes the justification of all of the elect. If this is true, to talk about justification and union with Christ as separate things does not at all clarify anything (witness the “Where’s Waldo Wednesday” of 9/7). To insist that it does, often leads to the infighting that divides.

    Similarly, since we know that all things shall be put under Christ, that God may be all in all, it is certain that Christ and God are the telos for all of creation. Thus it makes no sense, at least to me, to separate the secular from the sacred, as though they do not or should not inform one another and that God, as telos, is not putting them both under Christ. Ultimately, the only thing that can, should and will be separated from creation is the evil which will be destroyed in the eschaton.

    I suggest that when we are able to accept the lack of clarity involved in sacred mysteries such as these, we may find ourselves fighting a little less and growing up into Him a little more.


  50. There is a consideration here–as yet undiscussed–that illustrates beautifully Dr. Hart’s point in all this. Regarding his gaffe earlier in life with the college girl at Bible study, Mr. Taylor writes of his turning to Romans 9, “Right text, but it was the wrong time.”

    I thoroughly disagree. That chapter itself begins with these very words: “I speak the truth in Christ–I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit–I have GREAT SORROW and UNCEASING ANGUISH in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were CURSED and CUT OFF from Christ for the sake of my BROTHERS, those of MY OWN RACE, the people of Israel” (emphasis added). Paul clearly manifests here a gut-wrenching sorrow for the lost, especially for those who are closest to him.

    I challenge anyone who agrees with Mr. Taylor to find a more appropriate emotional response to the doctrine of election vis a vis the lost. And yet, despite this, Paul goes on in the rest of the chapter to acknowledge the hard truth: he clearly admits that most of his people are indeed not children of the promise.

    Mr. Taylor’s understanding of Romans 9 suffers from the same deficiency as his understanding of the emotional adjustment of some Calvinists: they’re caricatures. And caricatures by definition (both literally and metaphorically) emphasize certain things at the expense of others. Perhaps what should be said about Calvinists (angry or not) is the same thing that we observe in Paul: that we refuse to allow our emotions to trump the truths of God and his Word. If the latter must break our hearts with respect to the former, so be it. The payoff is worth the pain.


  51. This business of characterizing Calvinists as angry (not sufficiently attuned to how people feel) as generally an earned label reminded me of a quote from the book on Machen, Defending the Faith (a plug for DGH)…

    Narrowmindedness, he [Machen] explained, did not consist of an individual’s devotion to or rejection of certain ideas. Instead, a narrow person rejected another’s convictions “without first endeavoring to understand them.” (p. 113)

    Given the prevailing cultural ethos of “esteem-building,” appearances of insensitivity equate a moral deficiency. It is all too easy to adopt as true the Calvinist stereotype and logically assign hard-hearted motives. Rather than stepping back a bit to grasp what could actually be motivating a Calvinist to focus on doctrine, the modern Evangelical knows the reason… a lack of love… Who, then, is lacking in empathy?

    Three books I would recommend to Calvinist critics: Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism, What is Faith, and Hart’s Defending the Faith. Why? Because of the core message those books drive home… which was the core message of Paul and the other N.T. writers:

    If faith was primarily the intellectual comprehension of a message about Christ, the church’s task was to make that message clear. Machen cited Christ’s instructions to his followers — “Ye shall be my witnesses” — as a correct summary of the church’s purpose. Christianity did not consist of religions experience that transcended doctrine nor was it an inward feeling of which doctrine was a manifestation. Rather, Christianity was fundamentally theological. (Defending The Faith, p. 111)

    I’m hoping to get extra credit for quoting DGH twice in one comment…


  52. Dr. Hart,

    Thanks for the info on Dr. Trueman.

    By the way, would it be imposing if I requested for the content of Dr. Clark’s article in the NTJ entitled, “Of Nice and Men”?

    He asked me to remove the Heidelblog quote on my latest blog post.

    Thank you.



  53. Certainly there are different ways to analyze what’s behind the call for saccharine sensibilities and glib relationships. Perhaps it’s due to a low view of doctrine. Perhaps it’s a disbelief that biblical discipline is efficacious. Perhaps it’s related somewhat more distantly by a low view of the church since a biblical church actually believing it holds the keys is stigmatized much like the alleged cranky Calvinists.

    Or perhaps these all interfere with that mountain top feeling that is alleged to be our calling as Christians. Some of us looked for that kind of thing when we first became earnest about Christianity. I did. So I hung around those claiming to always be high for God, who seemingly had his profound presence with them 24*7. How disappointing to see them on days other than Sundays! Or to see them omit the basic stuff of honoring commitments, taking vows seriously, submitting to lawful authority, and being three dimensional human beings.

    I eventually decided that the 24*7 smilies were either frauds or people that just tend to have that kind of personality. Now, it’s fine to have that kind of personality as long as you don’t mandate your personality-type. But it has to be terribly stressful for those who are trying to convince everyone – including themselves – that they are simply stepping from one mountain peak to the next with no valleys in between. They’re high upkeep, so they need entertainment on Sundays, loose affiliations, and they need to suppress whatever disturbs their mountaintop mindset. Dissenters? They’re spirit-quenchers, so let’s stigmatize them.


  54. 1. A charm-offensive by GC at: That’s a question?

    2. Mr. Justin Taylor reposts the same at:

    3. Odd to me. These YRR-types are late 90s to early 2000s? And not Confessional either? Odd that they speak at all. Or, from my view, non-liturgical? Speaking of “anger,” how, pray tell, did we get to anti-non-Confessionalism, as well as anti-liturgical worship, without a “whole lot of abusive” language from revivalists? They shouldn’t be surprised when someone tells them, “Sorry, but no more.”

    4. Michael Mann, they strike me as revivalists and enthusiasts at base, with a predestinarian streak, as if that was full-orbed Calvinism. And what’s with Mahaney, a Baptacostalist, on the board of the Alliance of (non) Confessing Evangelicals? Or, speaking at Ligoner?


  55. I always get a kick out of reading your posts MM- I am not sure why but even when you are making serious points I’m chuckling inside. Sometimes I just can’t stop laughing.


  56. Michael, Here here. If I had a nickel for all of the pietistic, sugary, always-perfect-looking Christian I’d be able to vacation in Aruba each summer instead of slugging it out here in RI. While a Pastor, I had an elder once who always had some spiritual talk pouring out of him. Made me feel downright unspiritual and unclean – and I was the Pastor! Pulling heaven down to earth is fun, after all! We could learn a lesson or two from our Lutheran brethren in this regard.


  57. Dr. Hart,

    Thank you for posting those links of Dr. Trueman’s review of Seeking a Better Country & his response to your response.
    These posts make me better understand his recent comments on Christ the Center, calling folks petty & curmudgeons that believe that Baptists and Evangelicals who call themselves reformed are usurping our identity and language.


  58. Don, when you put sacred and secular together, do you conclude that wi-fi is a sign of the coming of Christ and the advance of his kingdom? Or might it be possible to say that redemption cannot be located in such earthly endeavors? Surely you make some kind of separation. Otherwise, how is internet surfing different from a sacrament?


  59. Scott, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I had a pastoral care internship in the local Christian mental health and drug rehab institution. I had a fellow seminarian who loved to tell the old, old story of his BC days as an addict and how he realized that Jesus is better than beer, etc. and so on. The first day at our orientation something sparked the play button again and my mind drifted to something slightly more interesting when the psychiatrist finally interrupted his waxing and said something to the effect of, “I’m glad for your reform, Guido, but even saved people are still created human beings with real problems who need real help. I would strongly caution against counseling our folks with false hopes.” It struck me how much more spiritual the shrink’s words were compared to Guido’s, who later had a mild heart attack on the ropes course and had to drop out of the program. True story. So, yes, bring on the Lutherans. And the Reformed shrinks.


  60. “they strike me as revivalists and enthusiasts at base, with a predestinarian streak, as if that was full-orbed Calvinism.”
    I agree those are the actual proportions, Viking. Enthusiast tendencies are not easily eradicated.

    “Guido’s, who later had a mild heart attack on the ropes course and had to drop out of the program. True story.”
    Zrim, that’s a very dramatic testimonial. You should use it at junior high youth camps to get Old School conversions.


  61. Darryl, I’m not the one who put them together. When we worship God, we do so with our whole bodies, and all of God’s creation is dedicated to the worship of Him and our redemption, not only the water of baptism and the bread and wine of communion, but every thing that goes into making that bread and wine, and sustaining our bodies. Therefore, we bring our very best to the altar, so that when we go out, we are trained by worship to see our earthly endeavors in light of the heavenly reality of worship. Of course I agree that there is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside of the Church, but if we pretend that we can separate (versus distinguish) the secular from the sacred, we will lose our ability to bring our best to the altar, and become barbarians that will destroy the sacred. We know that this will not ultimately happen, but witness that once the culture goes, the church is not far behind it, and vice versa. It is only in the temporal kingdom of God that we distinguish between the secualr and the sacred — it will not be so in the eternal kingdom when all the earth will be sacred because heaven and earth will no longer be separated and God will dwell with man.


  62. Don, and if we don’t distinguish we have missionaries taking western civilization to natives as the true religion. And if we baptize culture, are we any different from the pagans who had their city deities?


  63. MM, but the testimonial I really like was when working with the troubled (and locked up) youth during the height of the WWJD bracelet craze. One of the female inmates who refused to speak wore one. I hated playing along but was willing to hold my nose in order to get something from her, so I lamely asked what gave with it. She said it stood for “Wedge Wood Juvenile Delinquent.” She and the shrink were my favorites.


  64. Ah, yes, from the mouth of JD’s…
    I remember a few expressions from troubled youth. Sometimes they could really pierce through the rehabilitative silliness that had to undergo. Said one: “Aren’t you going to ask me how I FEEEEL?”


  65. Darryl, Remember that I was the one who mentioned the book “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe in in a previous post to support my point that you cannot separate culture and religion. When we go to the natives, we neded to appreciate that they have not evolved culturally as the western civilization, so we must meet them where they are. Christian education and growth does not take place in a cultural vacuum, but rather interacts with the culture. The Christian must understand and influence the culture to adopt or refrain from certain cultural practices that do/do not uphold Christian virtue (i.e., the fruit of the Spirit). Here is an excerpt of a review of the book, “Things Fall Apart” to support my point.

    One of Chinua Achebe’s many achievements in his acclaimed first novel, Things Fall Apart, is his relentlessly unsentimental rendering of Nigerian tribal life before and after the coming of colonialism. First published in 1958, just two years before Nigeria declared independence from Great Britain, the book eschews the obvious temptation of depicting pre-colonial life as a kind of Eden. Instead, Achebe sketches a world in which violence, war, and suffering exist, but are balanced by a strong sense of tradition, ritual, and social coherence. His Ibo protagonist, Okonkwo, is a self-made man. The son of a charming ne’er-do-well, he has worked all his life to overcome his father’s weakness and has arrived, finally, at great prosperity and even greater reputation among his fellows in the village of Umuofia. Okonkwo is a champion wrestler, a prosperous farmer, husband to three wives and father to several children. He is also a man who exhibits flaws well-known in Greek tragedy:
    Okonkwo ruled his household with a heavy hand. His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children. Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo’s fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.
    And yet Achebe manages to make this cruel man deeply sympathetic. He is fond of his eldest daughter, and also of Ikemefuna, a young boy sent from another village as compensation for the wrongful death of a young woman from Umuofia. He even begins to feel pride in his eldest son, in whom he has too often seen his own father. Unfortunately, a series of tragic events tests the mettle of this strong man, and it is his fear of weakness that ultimately undoes him.
    Achebe does not introduce the theme of colonialism until the last 50 pages or so. By then, Okonkwo has lost everything and been driven into exile. And yet, within the traditions of his culture, he still has hope of redemption. The arrival of missionaries in Umuofia, however, followed by representatives of the colonial government, completely disrupts Ibo culture, and in the chasm between old ways and new, Okonkwo is lost forever. Deceptively simple in its prose, Things Fall Apart packs a powerful punch as Achebe holds up the ruin of one proud man to stand for the destruction of an entire culture. –Alix Wilber


  66. Don, please explain what you understand adiaphora to mean. It strikes me that what we call distinguishing between sacred and secular is the process of figuring out what is indifferent to faith and practice.


  67. Dr. Hart ended the post with, “I wonder if a similar combination could be responsible for the culture of niceness over at TGC.”

    I would offer a common observation that where those, whether Christian or Secular, (to whom looking sanctified in the former case or looking “good” in the latter case), unwittingly hold their image/behavior as their highest premium, then we will often see a duplicitous niceness develop.

    IMO, it’s an old game in Christian circles and cultivating the ability to tell someone off so sweetly that they don’t realize they have been told-off is held as the pinnacle of success in those circles. Ordinary folk usually catch on to this game and recognize the lack of honest forthright speech and the suffocating faux niceness. Bill Clinton seems like a good example of this common frenemy scenario:

    I would hazard to guess that the “angry” Calvinists haven’t been deceived by this unsavory game and offer this apt quote about the source often found behind the machinations of sanctimonious/duplicitous behavior:

    “I am not much of a Paul Tillich fan. But this state of affairs confirms Tillich’s insight that hubris is a structural element of original sin. Thus hubris should be added to Article Two of the Augsburg Confession as a constituent part of Original Sin alongside man’s inability to believe and trust in God and concupiscence. On this point I agree with Tillich. Hubris is an innate human condition that foolishly presumes to trump God.” Uwe Siemon-Netto

    IMO, the cultural pattern of sacrificing truth at the altar of niceness permeates too many Christian groups. It rarely produces what people think it will and the wrongheadedness of it is clear in that our secular culture is now drowning in the consequences of decades of favoring doing what is nice rather than doing what is good. Perhaps it would be good remember and heed the Eastern Orthodox liturgy, where the Deacon sings out, “Wisdom! Let us attend!”


  68. Don, when you invoked Achebe before it confused me, and it still does. But this makes me wonder:

    Yes, the Nicene creed does deal with sacred mysteries (e.g., Jesus Christ begotten, not made, being of one substance, and the incarnation). It is when our discussion turns to the intersection or interaction of heaven and earth (e.g., the efficacy of the sacraments, union with Christ, history and revelation) that the demand for clarity often seems to lead us to separate when we need not…I suggest that when we are able to accept the lack of clarity involved in sacred mysteries such as these, we may find ourselves fighting a little less and growing up into Him a little more.

    What I wonder about is whether you have a category for the visible and militant church or whether you only have one for the invisible and triumphant church. If you do have the former then I wonder why the apparent allergy against clarity and fighting, since to be militant is to fight. Does it help to consider that a better sense of militancy is to fight wisely instead of brutally (think pre-emptive shock and awe)? It seems to me that wise fighting is as opposed to brutal fighting as it is to kumbaya.

    But I also wonder what you think separating “when we need not” might look like. The larger balance of disagreements down through church history have involved the categories of the Christological, the soteriological, the sacramental, the doxological and the ecclesiastical. You seem to be suggesting that there is something within those categories not worth separating over. What would they be? I also wonder if you have considered the fact that those who are most dogmatic and jealous for their particulars tend to experience the most catholicity.


  69. Darryl, I’m certain our definitions of adiaphora are the same. But there is no impenetrable fire wall between the sacred and secular — nor should there be. The decline or improvement of the secular will contribute directly to the decline or improvement of the sacred (and vice versa) eroding/upholding the solemnity of our sacred public assemblies and the virtues that our culture holds sacred. I agree that Christianity’s significance is in the creeds, ministry, and rituals of the church; but that is also the means to fulfill the second greatest commandment.


  70. Don, a distinction is not an impenetrable wall. But a meal at Denny’s is not the Lord’s Supper. And worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper is independent of the pleasure or wholesomeness of a Grand Slam. This seems so basic, I don’t know why you’re fighting it. And I’ll add to it. The Christian church was better before Constantine’s conversion than after, which may mean that opposition or tension between the sacred and the secular is a boon to the church. Meanwhile, when the culture is on a continuum with the church, as in your conception, bad happens. So I’m still waiting for some kind of qualification of your continuity that prevents you from Constantinianism or the Social Gospel.


  71. DGH: The Christian church was better before Constantine’s conversion than after, which may mean that opposition or tension between the sacred and the secular is a boon to the church.

    Amen to that. Why is this so hard to grasp?


  72. Not sure how to read your response Yeazel, but I figure the story on the Achebe is about as univocal as an inkblot, i.e., not. I think it’s a butterfly, how about you?

    If Don sees that story as strong proof of anything, it’s because of what he brings to the story, not because of what’s in the story.

    If anyone doesn’t recall Rorshach inkblots from Psychology 101:


  73. I was not referring to you Mann- it just seems to me that Don has been taking the moral high ground approach for awhile now. And I feeeeeeeeel patronized even though I really have not been part of the dialog with him. That might be kind of Wedge Wood Juvenile Delinquent of me and something Jesus would not do. I also might be misinterpreting the whole scenario.


  74. My brother uses that tactic on me all the time so I am highly sensitive to it. That is probably why he continues to use it. That probably says more about me than him- to paraphrase Carl Trueman- gag!!


  75. Zrim, Let me connect a few dots in my thinking for you. My understanding (I would argue the biblical and historical, but DGH will probably disagree) for the visible/invisible church are equivalent to the temporal/eternal church or kingdom respectively. I am fine with the temporal as characterized by “militant” and its attendant theology of the cross. But, Luther’s theology of the cross also includes the works of God done through man. This is the subset I’m dealing with. Those works are expressed throughout history by theologians like Luther who quite rightly observed and restored the truth of justification by faith which had become eclipsed by Catholic doctrine.

    Are theologians the only ones through whom God performs his good works? If you answer “no”, and I certainly hope you do, what do the good works done by God through man pertain to or look like? This is where, I argue, that you need to acknowledge that the eschaton informs, participates in, and in a sense, causes the past and present. If you argue that the eschaton only informs the past and present by the analogy that the church is like Noah’s ark (as Jed argued in a previous post) on its way to a brighter and glorious eternal kingdom, you are essentially arguing that we have no idea what that eternal kingdom looks like and so we only maintain the ark until it gets us to the shore of that kingdom, whereupon it will certainly be destroyed by the rocks as it launches us into that eternal and unknown kingdom. This perspective leads to the conclusion that the role of the church and the good works of God done through man are fundamentally oriented to preserving and sustaining the knowledge of God in the hearts and minds of His people.

    If, on the other hand, you argue, as I do, that the eschaton informs the past and present, not only for the church (i.e., preserving and sustaining the knowledge of God in the hearts and minds of His people), but for all of creation, the role of the church and the good works of God done through man are done for and in the context of all of creation. This is where Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” comes in. Assuming this perspective, the good works of God done through man cannot be done and called good (unless purely supernaturally) unless they recognize their interaction with and are inaugurated within the creation/cultural context in which they are done. Achebe is pointing out the failure of the missionaries to do just that. Likewise, in our own country, we must understand the time we live in, unless of course you simply want to take the Gnostic position described above.


  76. Darryl, I guess God did not consult with you about what was better for the Christian Church when Constantine was converted. 🙂 FWIW, I agree with “Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom” by Peter Leithart.


  77. Don, for this appeal to eschatology to work plausibly, you need to apply to Israel and what was coming with Christ and the church. Did the Israelites have any idea what was coming? Was what they doing were doing for the world or for the people of God? Your approach seems to assume much more continuity and knowledge of what’s coming than I think we have reason to believe or that a comparison with the eschatological moment of Christ’s first coming will bear.


  78. Don, thanks for the effort. But it almost seems like you are responding to another set of issues that while interesting are also not immediately related to the point of the post, which seems to be about the nature of the church militant. And I’m really responding to your apparent suggestion in previous comments that the visible church should behave more triumphantly than militantly, specifically: “I suggest that when we are able to accept the lack of clarity involved in sacred mysteries such as these, we may find ourselves fighting a little less and growing up into Him a little more.” Like I said before, confessionalists are pretty at ease with sacred mysteries and yet are usually dinged for being “pugnacious” for wanting to maintain the sharp edges of orthodoxy, which by the way has the dual effect of not only minimizing the big tent but also maximizing catholicity on the reservation.


  79. Zrim, Your welcome. For the record though, I never accused you of being pugnacious. I said you (plural) are rigid. Would you be better with strongly opinionated? That said, I will make sure I have my boxing gloves ready if I engage a rigid confessionalist on the subject of sacramental efficacy. If interested, here is a link to a pdf on the patristics’ perspective.

    I have not read the entire article, but it seems to start out well.


  80. Ok, Don, so you want to contend for a sacramental worldview. I can see how a Reformed notion of church militancy doesn’t stick. But as long as we’re there, have you contemplated the idea that if everything is grace then nothing is?


  81. Zrim, I’m not sure what you mean by that label, so I don’t think I should contend for it. However, I hope to put your mind at rest by affirming Van Til.


  82. George and Viking,

    I was looking for a word to describe what happens when a person or group begins with an already hybrid mixture of different Christian theologies and then adds Calvinism to make a new hybrid.

    So… I offered “Pentevalecalvinistic (pronounced sorta like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious)”

    George offered “Methobapticostal’ but that leaves out the addition of Calvinism.

    Viking offered “Methodobaptacostaholism” and again that leaves out the Calvinism though is sounds like a serious disease!

    How about Methobapticostalcalvinistic (still pronounced sorta like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious).

    Whatcha thank? What is the best descriptive of what’s going on in TGC? I can’t call it Calvinism since it doesn’t really seem to fit anything I recognize as Calvinism.


  83. Thanks Lily, a thoughtful emendation.

    On another note, is there a serious Confessional Churchman at GC or T4G?

    It would appear that a certain prerequisite is required, to wit: a “certain, but necessary” level of enthusiasm.


  84. Re: “On another note, is there a serious Confessional Churchman at GC or T4G?”

    Focusing on the word “Churchman,” I would have a hard time saying yes. I’m not ecumenical and am fond of the phrase, “good fences make good neighbors.” I think of a Churchman as one who loves his denomination’s confessions and seeks to protect and preserve orthodoxy in the denomination and works within that framework. Good fences helps us all (each denomination) know where we begin and end and where our neighbor (other denominations) begin and end. It seems to me that fences foster a healthy respect, peace between the denominations, and the ability to work together in appropriate areas.

    Re: “It would appear that a certain prerequisite is required, to wit: a “certain, but necessary” level of enthusiasm.”

    I think you are right (enthusiasm is not a positive term in Lutheran-speak). They certainly are not united by a specific confessional doctrine. Thus, Driscoll can adopt and promote spooky spirituals – there appears to be no accountability whether to a confession or appointed leadership. IMO, it appears to be a free-for-all and that does not bode well for the laity. As far as I can tell, they have no fences and respect no fences. I would be quite frustrated if they were trying to syncretize Lutheranism into the mix and calling themselves Neo-Lutherans or other such drivel. I may be all wet, but they look like a bunch of non-denominationalists with lots of secular culture creep in their midst to me. A Christian celebrity ghetto?


  85. Lily, yes, “Churchman” is an old English word from Anglican days, or, better years, when fidelity to the old “forms,” that old Prayer Book, duties, and responsibilities was ordered up. It’s not used much nowadays, but, for this scribe, it remains. I think, for example, of the old Protestant newspaper in continuous publication in England called “The English Churchman.” It goes back to the 18th century and still is a commendable paper. It is unquestionably “old Anglican” although they pub articles from other evangelicals without losing a beat as old school Anglican. I’m planning to resubscribe (19 lbs plus p & h). A solid breed of editors led by the Rev. Mr. Peter Ratcliffe.

    As for T4G, it’s a Dever-affair after his own heart, 9 Marks, now said to include the fugitive-SGMer and avowed Baptacostalist, Mahaney, who “put skids marks on the pavement” as he dashed off from SGM to Capitol Hill Baptist. Legitimate questions are at bar re: Dever’s grant of refuge to the Baptacostalist Mahaney.

    As for GC, still reviewing it, but it appears to be “Baptyerian” like Ligoner Ministries and Alliance of (Non)-Confessing Evangelicals. The PCA elements, e.g. Ligon Duncan, a chief apologist, need to rewrite their Confession to excuse and permit the non-covenantal Baptacostalist elements. New schoolish? A little honour and integrity is in order. Good Churchmanship.

    As for “enthusiasm” as a pre-requisite, still remember John Piper “hemming and hawing” in an answer to a question about “why” a certain Reformed Professor was not invited to the stage. The upshot was that he was “dry.” That was code for “not enthusiastic” or without a Piper-approved level of “passion.” Rather snarky for us low-key types. Rather “hostile” to cite John’s earlier “haterade” comment. For John, ya gotta have some “heat” for the hedonism and the estabishment of public legitimacy. No wonder there is no room for good, quiet, believing, orderly, and biblical liturgy. My, my, not hyper-enough for the arm-waving Piper and his folks. I suspect Mohler has the same undiagnosed and untreated disease of enthusiasm. Mohler sure preached and preaches that way when at Tenth Presbyterian for the PCRT. (He’s hard to listen to.) They’re descendants of revivalists and the enthusiasts, the whole lot of them. I’ll start taking John or Al seriously when he says, “Ya know, folks, my heats and tub-thumping passion ain’t the centre of worship. Rather than yak for 60 minutes, we’ll cut my enthusiastic and passionate preaching to 20 minutes and we’ll read the Old Testament, New Testament and sing Psalms for the balance of the hour, say, 40 minutes.” I don’t pay their enthusiasms much mind, although GC and T4G do.


  86. I still like the word “Sappy” in the title. (Try listening to SGM mp3-sermons as premier exhibits. Caveat emptor.)


  87. Viking, thanks for the update on their world. It sounds like a morass of syncretism and culture creep.

    Do you suppose that living in our relativistic culture where truth claims are despised and the traditional use of language has been redefined, that the TGC and/or T4G types have unwittingly concluded that since religion has been chased out from the truth business in the public square and are floundering for answers, they turned towards Calvinism for answers/stability? And in not understanding the dangers of syncretism, they unwittingly set up shop in the neighborhood of emotions and then, again unwittingly, opened the door to different flavors of enthusiasm, mysticism, gnosticism, and other such ilk to flourish in their midst? I am surprised that any solid Churchman type would not understand such dangers with new converts…


  88. Leithart believes that infant baptism will save the world. “In the end it all comes down to infant baptism.” P341.

    When we ask how Constantine and infant baptism will save the world, Leithart instructs us to stop being so impatient. Infant baptism has happened, and it will change the world.

    Make no mistake: Leithart is still a theonomist, and the ritualism of James Jordan has not changed his dogmatic agenda that “the Old Testament is normative for politics”. (p131). And he is quick to defend the good old “middle ages”. The Jews were merely not allowed to proselytize, and besides, Augustine (and his successor Leithart) are pro-Jewish because they think the OT is normative for politics. And he’s also equal opportunity in persecution of rival faiths, against all kinds of sectarian proselytizing, except of course his own proselytizing for his one universal church.

    Leithart very much opposes the “John Locke” Protestantism in which denominations “hold opinions that divide them from the general public”. We are reminded that theonomy is not about a combination of church and state but about having one church which can stand up to the state. If you won’t support killing heretics, then you are left with “invisible churches”.


  89. Lily,

    I have a few questions for you but it probably is not appropriate to put them on this site. It is about some problems those who are not Lutheran have with Lutheran theology. I need some resources you might have to help me answer some of these problems. I am not sure how to contact you and I do not want to bring these questions up here.


  90. Hey John, here’s a good Lutheran quotation for us all:

    Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology, p191–“The point of the synergistic controversy concerns whether the human being cooperates in any way in his salvation. If faith, as for Luther, is in forgetting the self completely, then such a question simply never becomes a topic of interest…. For the fact that Melanchthon differentiated law and gospel decisively and continually during his whole lifetime places central emphasis on the fact that one must of necessity differentiate the action of God from the action of human beings.

    The human being is one who cannot bring about the sanctification of his own existence….cannot probe the depths of his own heart, cannot forgive himself for his own sins, and cannot free himself from fear of the future. This does not happen by means of the law but by means of the gospel alone, through which God’s Spirit creates faith and turns the heart around ‘from the outside in’.


  91. Lily, Mahaney gave a bizarre sermon at Dever’s church on Sunday on “Jude.” 25 Sept 2011.

    Multiple self-references (no surprises there). Never mind that the sermon had no connection to “Jude.” The sermon is 65 mins. On the fourth listen. Took notes on listen #2. By #3, serious questions arose.

    A bevy of important questions are piling up at:

    The Rev. Dr. Dever has defended Mahaney, but all other T4G voices are (wisely, IMO), silent. (Challies got egg on his tie at breakfast.) Yes, CJ got a tad “sappy” on 25 Sept. I seriously think a psych-eval is in order, to wit, historionic and/or narcissistic disturbances across the clinical spectrum. Not being mean and not being populistic, but inquiring about substantial, professional and scholarly clinical diagnoses. Dever doesn’t have those credentials nor do I. However, there are enough indications to suggest disturbances. Not talking about incidences, but an “historic pattern.”

    “Sappy” is a great word in the title.

    Also, this past Sunday, apparently the flagship church under Mahaney for 27 years, Covenant Life, Gaithersburg, MD (from which Mahaney has fled), went “charismatic.” The senior pastor, Mr. Joshua Harris, dropped to his knees and wept. Inquirers are asking, a return to charismania?


  92. Hi Dr. Hart,

    I tried to comment twice with only one link, but it still seems to have put my comment in moderation purgatory. How many indulgences should I offer you in order to be set free? 😉


  93. I tried commenting again with the link. For whatever reason, the system doesn’t seem to like my link and won’t let me post it?


  94. Thanks Doc – appreciate your help. Last try to post this comment with the help of the tiny url machine. After all this hoopla, it may not be worth reading! ;P

    Hi Viking,

    Good grief… Mahaney sure made a HUGE production of Jude 22 being an extra neglected passage on a topic that he thinks soooo few ever address: “Doubt.” And then… his introduction about his tormented experience with debilitating doubt and fear. Couldn’t make it past the first few minutes of his so-called sermon (can’t help wondering if his story is true, exaggerated, or an actor emoting?). Irregardless of it’s veracity, surely, it would be better for him to be in private counseling rather than spewing this kind on junk on a congregation and to point people to good resources like this one to help them understand and shun speakers like CJ:

    Re: Credentials.
    Credentials seem to disqualify the Charismatic types from leadership. They appear to prefer a personal word from the Holy Spirit that tells them they are called and anointed by the Holy Spirit and natch, accompanying signs and wonders is the pinnacle in proof. In a nutshell, IMO, they mostly prefer emotional manipulation over the clear preaching of Word of God because trusting God to accomplish his will in the proclamation of his Word doesn’t fit their theology and/or their need for immediate visible results. Luther’s theology of the cross vs. theology of glory could do wonders to help people find their way out of this nonsense.


  95. Lily:

    1. Yes, Mahaney’s sermon at Mark Dever’s church, 25 Sept 2011, was an exercise in non-exegesis or contextual. socio-historical thinking. I’ve listened to the 65-min sermon 3 times. Took notes the second time. The third time? Bizarre, eery, if not forboding sense, that a clinical psychologist or forensic psychiatrist would help, speciifically, Narcissistic Personality Disturbances. Am wondering about responses from the Katabaptists or Anabaptists at Capitol Hill Baptist? Are they exegetically challenged? Jude is about false teachers, not doubt. The high school graduate, CJ, enthuses well but misses the mark and never fails to be “self referential.”

    2. GC. T4G. Challies, and the “‘pro-Mahaney” Duncan–Alliance of Non-Confessing Evangelicals– continues to be silent. Duncan has egg on his tie. Poor on Lig’s front for “my old friend.” So does the unfortunate Challies. Credibly, Mr. Justin Taylor begged off initially and has remained quiet. But, will this besieged enthusiast, Mahaney, speak at Mark’s T4G on 10-12 Apr 2012? We’ll see, but insiders have questions.

    3. We have reports of “sapping out” by CJ’s protege last Sunday at Covenant Life, Gaithersburg, MC. Poor Harris, ditched by the fugitive CJ, knelt and wept. I will not elaborate. There is more to be said, but my sense. “Grow up, son, take a stand.
    I can’t envision a “Commander on the Bridge,” e.g. aircraft carrier (I served on two of them), dropping to his knees on a bridge, weeping and whining. Old school here.



  96. DP”v”V – I notice you asked some questions of Purswell, dean of the “Pastors College” and former asst to Grudem @ TEDS. I played a round of gold with him 2 yrs ago (I was rising up the pyramid and this was strategic on my pastors part) and was quizzing Mr. Purswell on 2K. I mentioned the WHI and he got a snarl on his face and said, “that’s because their all Lutheran!”. I mentioned that only one of them was Lutheran but I don’t think it mattered.


  97. DJ, what’s Mr. Purswell’s background? That’s new to me, that is, his serving with Grudem at TEDS. SGM gets curiouser and curiouser, as the story unfolds.

    Are you a former SGM Pastor? Pastors College too? Did you get “shanked,” a verb that appears often in the reports, by SGM? If uncomfortable discussing, understand.

    Also, CJ’s third son-in-law. Steve Whitacre, is moving onwards (outside?) Fairfax SGM, VA possibly to seminary. Bradshaw and Chesemore, CJ’s two other sons-in-laws are apparently getting some seminary training. Like CJ, these three sons-in-laws, have or had no seminary training. That’s three sons-in-laws moving onwards this summer after CJ bolted over to Dever’s church.


  98. Vivking – didn’t get “Shanked” (referring to pastors loosing their jobs at the hands of Steve Shank)… I got “Harted”! as in DGH pressing T4G and TGC issues hard this spring and making me become very uncomfortable with evangelicalism. That made me start reconsidering covenant theology once again and I finally became convinced. Never became a pastor but I was close to becoming an intern (prerequisite in some SGM churches before going to PC). I had just finished a class on being called to ministry right before I told them I was leaving to find an old school Reformed church. Listening to the WHI and reading Old Life for years has ruined my evangelical faith 😉

    I was always bothered with a number of things – none of the pastors seemed to really know anything about more indepth theological issues. Of course I understood since they never went to seminary. But I wondered if I could be a competent pastor myself since I had not been to seminary and a lot of small things bother me till I eventually have to dig and find out where I stand on things. If you become a pastor, have 2 kids a wife and are 36, it’s a little too late to give these types of things the time it needs to wrestle and come to conclusions when your in the position of a pastor. I thought that’s not a good things. Also, a pastor got “de-gifted” and it really, really bothered me. You can read more of my story here:

    Regarding Purswell, he is the only true “scholar” type within the SGM upper echelon (currently pursing PhD and Catholic University in Wash DC I believe). He was recruited by CJ in the late 90’s. I *think* I remember hearing that Piper was after him too but CJ won out.


  99. And BTW, the church I ended up pursuing membership in is pastored by a former student of Dr. Hart’s and has an elder and a deacon that are frequent commenters here at OldLife. Small world, huh?


  100. “Jeff is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from The Catholic University of America. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois (M.Div., 1998), where he taught Greek as a teaching fellow in the New Testament department and worked as a teaching assistant in systematic theology for Wayne Grudem. Jeff’s pre-ministry experience combines a degree in Economics and English Literature with a decade in the corporate banking world.”


  101. Thanks DJ.

    Old “baldy” (Hansen’s term for Mahaney) preached at Dever’s small outfit, Capitol Hill, on 25 Sept. The old pietiest, Mahaney, preached a verbatim sermon on 2 Oct 2011 at Cornerstone Church, Knoxville, TN:

    It’s a “verbatim” rehash. I listened to Mahaney six times from Mark’s church. Whala! The seventh time from Knoxville. Samo, samo.

    Old Mahaney is drawing $250K/annum, exclusive of royalities and honorariums.

    Never mind that “Jude” was the text. Jude was dispatched as old Mahaney lifted off into some other realm. This guy is quite an actor and enthusiast.

    I’ve been trying to be honourable and maintain some elemental–even humanitarian– respect. That has disappeared and hovers around 1-2%.

    The poor fellas at ACE, GC, and T4G who ain’t doin’ the homework.


  102. DJ, ya can’t make this stuff up. This is an early 21-st century example of American mountebankery. First rate stuff.


  103. Viking,

    I found the introduction to Mahaney’s “sermon” even more disturbing than Mahaney. According to the intro – Ray Ortland, Kevin DeYoung, and Carl Trueman were on an independent panel that evaluated the charges against Mahaney and found him “qualified to be a minister of the gospel” in August. Cornerstone Church said they have also evaluated him and found him fit to preach and thought his sermon on doubt would be edifying for the congregation. Apparently, Cornerstone didn’t have the wisdom to disqualify themselves as judges since they had conflicts of interest (in that their long personal friendship with Mahaney would color their judgment). And SGM has released Mahaney to preach again (should it surprise us that enthusiasts approve of enthusiasts?). So…. Mahaney has the stamp and seal of approval of leaders from both inside and outside the SGM, and the laity both inside and outside of SGM have absolutely nothing to worry about. Case closed.

    I can’t help but wonder if the independent panel bothered to interview those who have been harmed by Mahaney’s or SGM’s methods and/or teachings? Have they considered the historical problems with promoting itinerant preachers like Mahaney and the new denominations they found, and the problems with the enthusiasts, their new denominations, and the so-called awakenings in American history? Sigh… have we learned nothing from history? There are good reasons why enthusiasts were preached against by the Reformers. Apparently, the American penchant for ahistorical evaluations and the American aversion to reformational limits and boundaries is alive and well in Reformed circles.


  104. P.S. I would add that it’s not rocket science to recognize how often emotional manipulation, deceits, secrecy, spooky spirituals, and domination of laity (eg: spiritual abuse) walks hand-in-hand with the enthusiasts both historically and currently. Another sigh…


  105. DJ and Lily:

    My lawfully sarcastic list of recommended pubs…ok…rarely done here…but pub’d over at my blog.

    The sarcasm embodies the spirit of the research, thus far. Upleasant odours wafting nationwide from Gaithersburg, MD.

    I just finished the sixth read “with detailed notes.” The SGM wikileaks, 600 pages, are at: for novices. Watch the timelines closely.

    Poor Lig, A-of NonC-Evangelicals, and “my good friend.”

    Poor Carl got rolled, unfortunately, an erstwhile careful scholar.

    My patience is wearing thin with Mahaney and his enablers.


  106. Ooooo, Viking, you are wicked! 😉

    Loved the proposed titles and can only hope these articles are printed sooner than later. Patience? I dunno. There is a fork in the road and there is a choice to be made. Some already need to retrace their steps and C.S. Lewis’ words seem apt here:

    We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

    Kyrie eleison.


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  108. Dear Mr. Veitch,

    I just happened upon this thread and your above comments in the course of investigating a recent concern. In the email from Carl that you post above, among other things worthy of comment, he challenges you to provide evidence that he spoke with CJ between 2007 and 2011. There seems to be evidence of such in the form of an interview of him that CJ conducted in 2010; it has since been scrubbed from Sovereign Grace’s website, but dated evidence of it can still be found. I was wondering if you were aware of this information, and if so, if you were able to share it with Carl? I would have contacted you privately, but I was not sure how to locate an email address for you. Any further light you might be able to shed on this would be greatly appreciated. I can also be contacted at Thank you!


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