Maybe He Needs MmmeeeeeEEEEEE

Scott Sauls may have spent too much time with Tim Keller, the author of Center Church, because Pastor Sauls seems to think that he is at the center of Presbyterianism. The reason for saying this is that he admits that he needs to hear from those with whom he differs. Here’s his list:

I don’t know where I would be without the influence of others who see certain non-essentials differently than I do. I need the wisdom, reasoning, and apologetics of CS Lewis, though his take on some of the finer points of theology are different than mine. I need the preaching and charisma of Charles Spurgeon, though his view of baptism is different than mine. I need the Kingdom vision of NT Wright and the theology of Jonathan Edwards, though their views on church government are different than mine. I need the passion and prophetic courage of Martin Luther King, Jr., the cultural intelligence of Soong Chan Rah, and the Confessions of Saint Augustine, though their ethnicities are different than mine. I need the reconciliation spirit of Miroslav Volf, though his nationality is different than mine. I need the spiritual thirst and love impulse of Brennan Manning and the prophetic wit of GK Chesterton, though both were Roman Catholics and I am a Protestant. I need the hymns and personal holiness of John and Charles Wesley, though some of our doctrinal distinctives are different. I need the glorious weakness of Joni Eareckson Tada, the spirituality of Marva Dawn, the trusting perseverance of Elisabeth Elliott, the longsuffering of Amy Carmichael, the honesty of Rebekah Lyons, the thankfulness of Anne Voskamp, the theological precision of Kathy Keller, and the integrity of Patti Sauls, though their gender is different than mine.

In the world of hipster Protestantism this is cool but not Snapchattingly trendy. If I were to assemble my own list of those with whom I disagree theologically but who have shaped my thinking in profound ways it would include: Orhan Pamuk, Joel Coen, Tom Stoppard, F. Scott Fitzgerald, H. L. Mencken, Aaron Sorkin, Wendell Berry, Michael Oakeshott, Edward Shils, David Simon, John McWhorter, Andrew Sullivan, Louis Menand, David Hackett Fischer, Henry May, Richard John Neuhaus, Joseph Epstein, and Ethan Coen. See what I did there? I went outside Christian circles with most of that list. Do I get points for being really cool and cosmopolitan?

The thing is, none of those writers really helped me understand the nature of the Christian ministry as Presbyterians understand it. I’ve learned greatly from these figures about being human, which comes in handy for overseeing a congregation or participating in a church assembly. But I don’t look to these people for my life in the church.

But here’s the kicker for Pastor Sauls: what if he learned from those with whom he disagrees about Presbyterianism like Old Schoolers? What might his ministry look like then?

My sense is that because Pastor Sauls via Keller thinks he is in the heart of Presbyterianism or conservative Protestantism or evangelicalism, he already has his Presbyterian bases covered.

And in that case, boy does he need to understand the nature of disagreement.

38 thoughts on “Maybe He Needs MmmeeeeeEEEEEE

  1. Not only does the Bish of Manhattan think Scotty is the greatest thing since bread (sliced), having learned Redeemer’s “best practices”, but he also (very irritatingly) pronounces “Pres” as “press”. Why? Why, Tim? Just press play on the video at the bottom of the page. For the city.


  2. Sauls is one of the few in NAPARC (that I know of) to have embraced Ann Voskamp who wrote this:

    “I am a hunter of beauty and I move slow and I keep the eyes wide, every fiber of every muscle sensing all wonder and this is the thrill of the hunt and I could be an expert on the life full, the beauty meat that lurks in every moment. I hunger to taste life. God.”

    His church also hosted her 2014 Christmas tour. So, yeah, best practices, etc.


  3. The line about Augustine’s ethnicity comes off as pure pandering.

    Hilarious that he’d point out K-Kell’s precision but not Tim.

    Also, if NT Wright’s ecclesiology is all he has an issue with, well. What more do you need to know?


  4. “… love impulse of Brennan Manning” “…the theological precision of Kathy Keller” …Gag. What comes next, his list of Most Favorite shampoos or cream rinses?


  5. I also see that the same Ann Voskamp whose thankfulness Sauls is so very thankful for is herself also quite incredibly thankful for him. It’s mutual puffery. To wit, AV declares “Scott’s book should be in the hands of every single Christian without exception.” Gag me twice.


  6. DGH – Old Schoolers are not on the list of boxes that need ticking to get hipster street cred. They (we) can be dismissed out of hand. It’s a huge exercise in self-satisfied name-dropping to show how inclusive you are. Whatever that means. It even has its own hashtag: #humblebrag

    How inclusive is this?

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.


  7. I would never says there’s some affirmative action involved with his selection. Never.

    Beauty meat? I need to read me some more Voskamp.


  8. To pull all the disparate dysfunctional threads together — how much of a leap is it from the Sauls-Voskamp piety and practice to Tiber-wet papist-pagan syncretism? #graceboots


  9. But we’re the one’s who are predictable and intractable. Somebody dig up articles and a historical sketch on the trajectory of american prot liberalism and superimpose that on the Kellerite’s trajectory and then have a discussion about who’s predictable and who’s heading where and who’s an honest broker. But reformed catholicity, yea ok.


  10. Mrs. Voskamp is welcome to help me clean and skin deer this winter. Heck, if she shoots one I’ll even help her.

    When she can reach into the animal’s carcass hanging by metal hooks and with her bare hands reach into its chest cavity to retrieve a most organic delicacy — the heart — and then cut or pull it from its sanguineous moorings while affirming “beauty meat,” then I’ll grant her some leeway.

    #beautymeat , #graceboots, and back straps for all!


  11. Also, in seamlessly transitioning from doctrinal differences to ethnic, social, and gender differences, he really is saying something more than “denominations are just preferences; Presbys have their strengths and weaknessess.” Rather, it sounds like he is saying that they’re a necessary evil (like being male, middle-class, and white).


  12. His quote reminds me of Brian McLaren.

    Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian. A confession and manifesto from a senior leader in the emerging church movement.

    Is this whole thing B.M. 2.0?  It’s not really Presbyterianism.


  13. Walton, he likes Rush.

    I thought I was aware of pop culture, but I never heard of him. Looks like I have a new artist.


  14. Are you sure you needed the influence of both brothers Coen? Or were you going for a certain number count in your list? You might know which brother has which wife, but do you know the difference in the influence of one brother as “opposed to” that of the other?

    Click to access leeman.pdf

    To be a politically correct member of the faculty at Yale, to be “wide-angled” in the way that “liberals” can approve, Volf cannot afford to believe in God’s legal imputation of guilt or righteousness to individuals. .Volf has a project of cultural engagement which is attempting to do now what neither Adam nor Christ got done.

    Kant and Volf deny that legal transfer can happen. They say that the man Christ Jesus cannot bear another person’s guilt, and that God cannot make Christ to be a sinner by imputation. Possibly Christ can be made to bear the punishment of sins in general. But what will not be tolerated is any idea that the guilt before God of any sinner was already transferred (or not) to Christ.

    Communitarians can always be relied on to pick the same old battle against individualism. To change lives, they think, we need to change the culture, and to do that, we need to water the infants and take up our vocation to be the elite who influence what books can be published or have consequence. Corporate solidarity in sin allows only of “structural solutions” in “the culture”


  15. If you would broaden your influence beyond the “narrow gospel” of Machen, and check out the “more organic” views of other Christians like Nevin and the Eastern Orthodox, then you could translate what the world already thinks into what CS Lewis wrote somewhere and then you could preach this back to the world as the gospel.

    Volf,p 151, “Both our transformation and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness depend on UNION WITH CHRIST…Because we are one, Christ’s qualities are our qualities…It has become clear that forgiveness is part of something much larger. God doesn’t just forgive sin; he transforms sinners into Christ-like figures and clothes them with Christ’s righteousness. And even these benefits are the effects of something much MORE BASIC —the presence and activity of Christ in human beings. “

    If you would rather feed your self from “secular” intellectuals rather from those who write in First Things, your will never learn that faith is really works, and that the Reformation was a mistake we can no longer afford in this present age ( read more Noll and Hauerwas, and less Pamuk—he’s not even an…American….


  16. In his book, Free of Charge (Zondervan, 2005, p147), Volf writes: “Since Christ is our substitute, after reading ‘one has died for all,’ we’d expect him to continue, ‘therefore none of them needs to die.’ Had he written that, he would have expressed the idea that theologians call EXCLUSIVE SUBSTITUTION. According to this view, Christ’s death makes ours unnecessary. As a third party, he is our substitute, and his death is his alone and no one else’s. But that’s not how the Apostle thought. Christ’s death doesn’t replace our death. It enacts it, he suggested. That’s what
    theologians call INCLUSIVE SUBSTITUTION.

    mark—If Christ’s death replaces people’s death, why does II Corinthians 5 say that all died? My answer is that “all died” is how the text tells us that the death of Christ replaces the death of all. Since the death of Christ comes to count as the death of the elect, once the elect have been joined to that death, this tells us that another death is not necessary

    I’m not sure what “enact” is supposed to mean, and perhaps the word is chosen for its ambiguity, but nobody else but Christ can or will die as punishment for another person’s sins. And if Christ’s death gets counted as the death of the elect, the death of the elect is a death like Christ’s death because it IS Christ’s death.

    It is not some other death. It is one death, counted as the death of all the elect


  17. Here’s a good review of a book defending “replacement” and not simply reprentatation or “participation”

    Gathercole’s introduction begins by asking the question raised by the old spiritual: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” If we answer “yes,” we presuppose that we somehow participated in his death, or that in his death Jesus somehow represents us: “We have died with Christ” (Rom 6:8). If we answer “no,” then we were not there: Christ died alone. “He was there, taking our place in our stead” (p.13). In much biblical scholarship, the former answer is widely assumed: on the cross, Christ represents us, but they think it is a mistake to think that substitution occurs when Jesus dies. While not denying that the Bible can present Christ’s death on the cross as an act of representation, in this slender volume Gathercole sets out to rehabilitate substitution.

    His introduction is devoted to some careful definitions. “I am defining substitutionary atonement . . . as Christ’s death in our place, instead of us. The ‘instead of us’ clarifies the point that ‘in our place’ does not, in substitution at least, mean ‘in our place with us.’ In a substitutionary theory of the death of Jesus, he did something, underwent something, so that we did not and would never have to do so” (p.15). . Along the way he sketches the relationship between substitution and satisfaction, substitution and penalty, substitution and propitiation, and substitution and representation, partly in order to stipulate that in this “essay” his restricted aim is to defend substitution, not representation, satisfaction, propitiation or anything else – not, as becomes evident, because Gathercole has not thought about these things or is unwilling to defend them, but to keep this work sharply focused.


  18. The most conspicuous thing about the Sauls’ quote that I saw was the repetitive structure of the prose. It’s kind of tiring in a I-get-the-point sort of way.

    More than that, it almost invariably is part of Christian social gospel type rhetoric on the right and the left for some reason (perhaps because of the camp-meeting and charismatic-type theology on socially-minded Christianity?) ; MLK especially comes to mind, but again, it is all over the spectrum. The only other place that I can think of seeing it regularly is in political campaign speeches, which may reveal something.


  19. DGH: “… If I were to assemble my own list of those with whom I disagree theologically but who have shaped my thinking in profound ways it would include: Orhan Pamuk, Joel Coen, Tom Stoppard, F. Scott Fitzgerald, H. L. Mencken, Aaron Sorkin, Wendell Berry, Michael Oakeshott, Edward Shils, David Simon, John McWhorter, Andrew Sullivan, Louis Menand, David Hackett Fischer, Henry May, Richard John Neuhaus, Joseph Epstein, and Ethan Coen …”

    Why’d you leave out John Updike? Though I certainly disagree with his theology he has definitely shaped my thinking.


  20. Can you say Stanley Fish—less worldview and philosophy, more sticking to our jobs—aesthetic wonderment does not have to end in a “moral” or in “application” or even “civic engagement”. (Selling guns for Christ to Israel and her enemies)

    Stanley Fish—“We can still say that some things are true and others false and believe it….”

    “A philosophical position is not a recipe for living.”

    Impatient with the rhetoric of character building, citizenship, or cultural leadership, Stanley Fish declares that the justification (for literature and history) is “the pleasure they give to those who enjoy them.”


  21. Leithart translating Hauerwas, so that theonomy sounds more sectarian but still Constantinian.
    And Gregory Clark is the hero here–at least that’s what I think.

    “According to Gregory Clark, the notion of “worldview” came into prominence within post-Kantian philosophy, and was stimulated largely by the fact of religious and cultural pluralism: “Worldview thinking provides a metaperspective or a formal position that can mediate between competing ‘ways of seeing.'”

    It is hardly news that people do not all think about life or respond to its challenges in the same way. Pluralism in that sense is simply a fact, and always has been. Worldview thinking, however, attempts to establish a “metaperspective,” a perspective that transcends, frames, tests, and regulates every particular worldview. The problem is with a “theory of worldviews.”

    Leithart—Actually, there are at least four problems. First, such a theory suggests that the worldview thinker is capable of finding some place to stand outside all particular worldviews from which to view them. How else can he know that his worldview is a species of the same genus as his neighbor’s worldview? “Worldview” in this sense functions much as the term “religion” does in modern usage: “Religion” describes a generic category of human activity and experience that stands above and apart from all particular religions. But if “everyone has a worldview,” then the worldview thinker also has a specific worldview and is merely assessing other systems of thought from within his own particular system of thought. His claim to be able to survey all worldviews, encompass them in a theory, and compare them to each other is a ruse. He is doing nothing more than trying to enclose all other worldviews in his own.

    Leithart–: Worldview thinkers recognize that all particular worldviews have their own histories, but often fail to recognize that the concept of “worldview” itself has a history and is itself an historically contingent way of organizing the complexity of culture (just as the modern concept of “religion” is historically specific, and would not be recognizable to Augustine or Aquinas). From this angle, worldview thinking is not nearly relativist or historicist enough.

    Second, ideas are formed within the context of and in response to practices, institutions, and artifacts that are always already there. No one forms ideas in an empty landscape. There is an aporia here, a chicken-and-egg relationship…Christians have good reason to distrust any approach to life and history that assumes the primacy of ideas. (mcmark—yada yada–being a disciple means not precise faiths, but works (practices) to attain heaven)

    Leithart— “worldview” is inherently Cartesian. Implicit in the very word “worldview” is the picture of an individual positioned so as to survey the entirety of creation (and perhaps the Creator as well) in a single gaze. That is precisely the position of the detached Cartesian ego, separated from the world and other humans, floating, as philosophers say, in “midair.”

    Christians, however, should not yearn for this panoptic vision, or to kick against the pricks of human limitations….In this sense, the Christian position seems closer to Heidegger than to Descartes, for our existence is always a limited and located “being-there” and a “being-in-the-world,” rather than a “being-nowhere” or a “being-above-the-world.”

    Finally, Worldview thinking thus has an inherent bias toward what Heidegger called “onto-theology.” (which) refers to a style of theology subordinated to and constrained by philosophical commitments from outside theology. Heidegger had nothing but scorn for a god who can be controlled by philosophy: We “can neither pray nor sacrifice to this god. Before the causa sui, man can neither fall to his knees in awe nor can he play music and dance before this god.” The Christian God, the Creator and Redeemer, the God of exodus and resurrection, is precisely the God who enters the scene wherever and whenever He pleases, the God who interrupts, the God who surprises, the God who is constrained by nothing, certainly nothing so feeble as human ideas….


  22. If I am Luther, do I need Erasmus?

    If I am Augustine, do I need Pelagius?

    If I am a small but stable and faithful to scriptures, the confessions (Westminster) plus others for emphasis, the Solas/best practices based on the model of the early and class reformers PCA Reformed-Confessional Church, do I really need the Gospel Reformation Network’s Affirmations and Denials or the $16,000-an-initial-pop Pietist/Mystical/Revivalist/Small-Group solution known as Embers To a Flame?

    Comic Relief: If I am the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, do I really need Southern Cal?

    Economic Relief: If I am the USA, do I really need China?

    Political Relief: Unlimited juxtapositioning……….

    Epicurian Relief: If I am Alaskan Amber (beer) and Pan-Seared Tuna, do I really need Lemonade and Catfish?

    Foot Relief: If I am Dr. Scholls…………


  23. if i am only a nose, but have no mouth or feet or hands, i am not yet a true church

    but if i have hands with which to administer the water, then i can give everybody the covenant sign, and already be a true church and after that teach the noses the gospel–who can really know if any of them really believes the gospel, so what’s the point of asking parents to make a profession?

    if you want breadth, don’t waste your time insisting on “preciseness” in the doctrine of justification, because the experience of knowing Christ does not depend on the noses understanding narrow 5 point stuff–there are way more points than that, and one of those points is that there is no salvation for the noses outside being handed the presence of the person (not doctrine) by a man who has at least one course in Hebrew


  24. “If I am a small but stable and faithful to scriptures, the confessions (Westminster) plus others for emphasis, the Solas/best practices based on the model of the early and class reformers PCA Reformed-Confessional Church, do I really need the Gospel Reformation Network’s Affirmations and Denials or the $16,000-an-initial-pop Pietist/Mystical/Revivalist/Small-Group solution known as Embers To a Flame?”

    I was talking about this at staff meeting today, at lunch, Semper. If I have Word and Sacrament, catechesis, and liturgy, do I need Alan Hirsch or Center Church?

    According to my Seminary I do. ‘Eeeeeeey 😀


  25. Dear SJG,

    It’s refreshing to hear from people like you, and I couldn’t agree more. And I used to do all of the things listed above (as a Piestist, Revivalist, Mystic, and Small Group clone) during my time in charismata.
    What’s sad;is the assertion that being Reformed-Confessional seems to be out of step with the latest and greatest, and boring, or lazy, etc. Not to me! I long to go to God’s house with other saints and be ministered to by Word and Sacrament, liturgy, and solid doctrine/learning the confessions, etc. Somehow, it does seem that the more I learn about Christ’s work, Sanctification just seems to follow as a natural desire. Thanks again – I wholeheartedly agree.


  26. “Comic Relief: If I am the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, do I really need Southern Cal?”
    Maybe, maybe not, but would it kill Stanford to win out and help our SOS???


  27. Hey, DG! I’ve been here before, in defense of Keller. And have learned quite a bit from you. I still appreciate Keller but Sauls is no Keller. I am 100% against the Sauls trajectory and appreciate this post and bringing his faults to light. Agree completely with the other commenter on Sauls as Brian Maclaren 2.0. Kind of sickening to me actually as a Presbyterian.


  28. I don’t think Keller did Sauls any favors and should have corrected him more often than he did. I know that Sauls had to apologize and retract several times for going against the BOCO and for confessing things that were in direct conflict with the WCF.

    The fact that Keller will be blamed for Scott “Brian McLaren” Sauls is unfortunate in my opinion.

    What’s worse is that so many in the PCA are embracing Sauls and the PCA in Atlanta seems to be propping him up as a new leader. This is disturbing and grievous to me.



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