Imagine if the PCA were Big Enough

Then you wouldn’t need the Gospel Coalition.

So why don’t the leaders of neo-neo-evangelicalism acknowledge that a parachurch organization with a public profile generated largely by the world-wide interweb used by celebrity pastors who sometimes go to conferences and meet with ordinary neo-neo-evangelicals is a capitulation to contemporary culture? Where is all the discernment that comes from reading sociology, history, and cultural and art criticism?

What if limiting your ministry to the confines of a communion is counter-cultural? Is being counter-cultural simply a pose or does it also require subtraction — rejecting (at least some aspects of) culture?

Then, these reflections might lose some of their pietistic earnestness (sorry for the redundancy):

“If they are not controlled by Scripture and confessionalism, then of course [evangelicals] are going to fit into the grid of the broader and more secular culture,” Carson said. “By and large, these cultural evangelicals work out their cultural bondage in more conservative ways than their agnostic counterparts, but it is difficult to believe that racism is less evil than sexual promiscuity.”

Exactly. And if pastors let confessions and church polity control their ministry, they might put their own communion, the one in which they vowed to minister God’s word and the holy sacraments, ahead of all other extra-denominational activities. In other words, can you really act like you are being counter cultural when the rest of the culture is turning from denominational Christianity to none (denominational) Christianity?

“I see TGC as occupying the same space that evangelicalism’s founding fathers—like Carl Henry, Harold Ockenga, John Stott, J. I. Packer, and Billy Graham—occupied,” Keller said. They wanted to be evangelicals, not fundamentalists; to engage with non believers and with society, and not just to withdraw, Keller said.

“We don’t want to be pietists, but we don’t want to be captive to the spirit of the age either,” Keller said. “But that is actually a hard place to be. It’s a lot easier to retreat to your fortress or to just go along with the crowd. But TGC, from the very beginning, wanted to avoid going in either direction. We wanted to be prophetic from the center, as Don [Carson] says.”

What would really be counter-cultural would be commitment to word-and-sacrament ministry when the spirit of the age, thanks to Henry, Ockenga et al, is to overlook considerations like baptism, the Lord’s supper, ordination, and the sufficiency of Scripture (which would limit pastors from dabbling in sociology and cultural criticism).

In point of fact, creating a brand though social media, the way the gospel allies do, is about as beholden to the zeitgeist as someone could imagine. When I think of being counter-cultural, I don’t think of the Gospel Coalition. I think of the Amish.

Post-script: notice that evangelicalism didn’t start with Luther, the Puritans, Edwards, or Finney. It began in the 1940s. What I’m saying.

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118 thoughts on “Imagine if the PCA were Big Enough

  1. Wow.

    Keller once again deflects from his own political, cultural, and economic investments by denying that they exist, as though theology is a pure domain into which none of these worldly concerns bleed or have any influence. If only theological criteria were such a concern when Driscoll was sermonizing on the biblical imperative that wives sexually submit to their husbands lest Satan enter the marital bed between them.

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  2. Keller, and the rest of the world lovers in today’s American Church really do, BTW, make that middle a whole lot harder to find than it actually is if the scriptures and reformed history are the actual standard.

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  3. Re: the article link — Keller apparently did see that Driscoll was an inevitable trainwreck. But it’s still fair to ask why he did nothing to stop it.

    One time I was at a big event in Chicago. I had been in the bar having dinner with John Piper and his team at Desiring God. For me, regularly getting to sit with men like this was the equivalent of a die-hard football fan sitting down with the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks—these were my heroes. As I left the bar and walked down stairs I ran into Tim Keller—he’s a much taller man than you might think—and I stopped to introduce myself.

    “Hi, I’m Mike Anderson. I’m the director of the Resurgence (Driscoll’s org).”

    He paused. Looked me in the eye. Took his gigantic hand and hit me hard in the chest with the tip of his finger.

    “Son,” he said “The Resurgence will not be directed.”

    http://mikeyanderson.com/hello-name-mike-im-recovering-true-believer

    And Keller thumped someone in the chest? Wow, masculine aggression. Now do the dancers, Tim.

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  4. After re-reading this Anderson piece I believe I’m putting the most positive spin on Keller’s alleged words, reading into them a criticism of Driscoll. It may be that the thought Driscoll’s movement was aligned with the Spirit and therefore not controllable by man. But I think Keller knew Driscoll was trouble. The “what did Keller know and when did he know it” questions is appropriate to ask.

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  5. Isaiah 40
    3 A voice is calling,
    “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness;
    Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
    4 “Let every valley be lifted up,
    And every mountain and hill be made low;
    And let the rough ground become a plain,
    And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
    5Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
    And all flesh will see it together;
    For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
    6 A voice says, “Call out.”
    Then he answered, “What shall I call out?”
    All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
    7 The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
    Surely the people are grass.
    8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
    But the word of our God stands forever.

    Isaiah 55
    1 “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
    And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
    Come, buy wine and milk
    Without money and without cost.
    2 “Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
    And your wages for what does not satisfy?
    Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
    And delight yourself in abundance.
    3 “Incline your ear and come to Me.
    Listen, that you may live;
    And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    According to the faithful mercies shown to David.
    6 Seek the LORD while He may be found;
    Call upon Him while He is near.
    7 Let the wicked forsake his way
    And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
    And let him return to the LORD,
    And He will have compassion on him,
    And to our God,
    For He will abundantly pardon.
    8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
    9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than your ways
    And My thoughts than your thoughts.
    10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
    And do not return there without watering the earth
    And making it bear and sprout,
    And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
    11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
    It will not return to Me empty,
    Without accomplishing what I desire,
    And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

    You could try to rein in the going out of the word. Good luck.

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  6. cw – “I think it’s fair to ask why he did nothing to stop it.”

    Keller said Driscoll’s actions were “obvious to many,” but did not say he was personally aware of them. Even so, is Keller to be held accountable for Driscoll’s actions, even though Driscoll was not even part of a NAPARC church, much less the PCA? You have repeatedly called out Keller for violating the WCF/WLC and acting as a de facto bishop within the PCA. If Keller is responsible for holding a non-NAPARC man accountable, aren’t you even more responsible for holding Keller accountable, since he is part of your own denomination? Or do you adhere to presbyterian polity only when it suits you and your podcast?

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  7. @ VV:

    The more troubling question is, “If you have an organization whose directive is to proclaim and defend the gospel, what authority do its members have to maintain those boundaries?”

    That question would seem to funnel everything into a church / not-church filter.

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  8. Veeve, the thrust of Darryl’s piece is that the Coaltion looms larger for these guys than do their own denoms. As a PCA churchman there was nothing he could have done. But he is much more than a PCA churchman and as a fellow TGC bigwig he certainly had some power to exercise. Did he?

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  9. I don’t want them to do anything. I want their adherents to at least consider that their wagons are most profitably hitched to their denoms rather than to the Coalition. And I want the Coalition’s presbyterian council members to consider whether the Coaltion is helping or hindering reform and/or the maintenance of order in their own denoms. The Coaltion is setting norms for doctrine, worship, and cultural engagement. I suppose that’s fine if you agree with them. Some of us don’t.

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  10. cw – can you name a single instance when the TGC has “set the norms for doctrine, worship, and cultural engagement” in any PCA/OPC/EPC church or presbytery? And I don’t see how their handling of Driscoll – not that there was anything to handle really – relates to “hindering reform and/or maintenance of order” in a presbyterian denomination. I just don’t see how the two are linked: Driscoll was not a presbyterian and resigned from TGC two years before the fiasco in Seattle.

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  11. You identified the real issue when you spoke of “limiting your ministry to the confines of a communion.” Many of the Presbyterians connected to TGC simply see their true communion with the body of Christ as a whole. They are loyal to their denominations, but feel a duty to not let their service to Christ be circumscribed entirely by them.

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  12. I think Rob makes a point. In principle this is not necessarily an evil thing. However, when your loyalties become Broad enough, you need to stop pretending you’re Presbyterian, or even stop pretending you’re a calvinist.

    There is no way most of the Westminster divines, or especially the more prominent Puritans would have found a home in the gospel coalition.

    OR, even old Princeton, or the old Southern Presbyterians. I don’t think so.

    Just admit that you are a hip and groovy non-denominational type and stop pretending to be anything like a historically faithful Presbyterian.

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  13. “TGC has “set the norms for doctrine, worship, and cultural engagement” in any PCA/OPC/EPC church or presbytery?”

    @vv I took cw to mean defacto norms not dejure. Is there really any question that our songs, devotional, small group books, and the names of our ministries are more strongly influenced by parachurch organizations like Ligonier and TGC than denominational publications and the westminster standards? I suppose that’s fine as far as it goes insofar as those parachurch orgs are doctrinally sound. But insofar as these unaccountable group posess defacto authority, there is little a denomination can do to counteract their influence when the groups go astray.

    When you are a visionary, the extra scrutiny from curmudgeonly sticks in the mud is certainly frustrating, but we Presbyterians belie ve God has told us hiw to govern the ministry of the gospel. It is through the church. But like the Israelites of yore, a lot of us seem tothink we know better because things are different now.

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  14. @ VV: can you name a single instance when the TGC has “set the norms for doctrine, worship, and cultural engagement” in any PCA/OPC/EPC church or presbytery?

    Here: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/about/foundation-documents/

    Point 1: The Confessional Statement certainly sets norms for doctrine.

    Point 2: The Theological Vision for Ministry certainly sets norms for cultural engagement

    Point 3: The Preamble makes clear that the purpose of TGC and the foundational documents is to provide renewal in churches by promulgating the Confessional Statement and Theological Vision as norms.

    We are a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures. We have become deeply concerned about some movements within traditional evangelicalism that seem to be diminishing the church’s life and leading us away from our historic beliefs and practices. On the one hand, we are troubled by the idolatry of personal consumerism and the politicization of faith; on the other hand, we are distressed by the unchallenged acceptance of theological and moral relativism. These movements have led to the easy abandonment of both biblical truth and the transformed living mandated by our historic faith. We not only hear of these influences, we see their effects. We have committed ourselves to invigorating churches with new hope and compelling joy based on the promises received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

    The weird thing is, I have few major objections (McMark will find one) to the doctrinal statements themselves. But the structure of TGC is to stand outside of churches and declare to those churches norms for doctrine and ministry.

    That’s quite clear!

    I object to that structure. It stands over and outside of the church.

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  15. Those who hold the keys of the kingdom have a ministry not only with the entire body of Christ as a whole but also with the whole world, and if the world is to be taught, it first must be baptised, according to the great commission.

    Leithart—“Here was a novelty that claimed that all the traditional Roman gods were false. In place of the many stories about the gods, Christianity told one story, but said it was the story that encompassed all and everything. By comparison with the Roman deities, the Christian God was “gigantic,” Creator, Lawgiver, Savior, Lord. The church had authoritative leaders and enforceable rules like a city, but Christians were bound by no ties of blood or soil. No wonder pagan Emperors tried to expel it as an alien impurity infecting the body politic.” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leithart/2017/12/world-became-christian/#w4WypF5ozMrS8jDM.99

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  16. by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body and we made to drink of one Spirit.
    there is;
    one body
    one hope
    one faith
    one baptism
    one Spirit
    one Lord
    one God and Father

    there are:
    varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
    varieties of ministries, and the same Lord
    varieties of effects, but the same God
    -to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good and one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

    we are Christ’s body, and individually members of it, and:
    -are being built up until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ;
    -are growing up in all aspects into Christ who is the head, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

    Christ Jesus Himself is the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

    one bride

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  17. @Ali
    That’s all true, but it is incomplete. Who decides when a teacher is qualified to teach? Who decides what the essentials are? Who decides who the false teachers are (none of us is infallible after all, so are we all false teachers? Of course not… who decides and how though?). Are we like the Israelites in the time of the judges, each doing right in our own eyes? Or are we like the Ethiopian in the book of Acts needing a teacher? I believe these questions have clear answers from scripture. The scriptures teachus how the church is to be governed, and a summary of that teaching is contained in the westminster standards – a model pca pastors have vowed to uphold and standards that are at the very least in tension with the parachurch model.

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  18. @ VV: can you name a single instance when the TGC has “set the norms for doctrine, worship, and cultural engagement” in any PCA/OPC/EPC church or presbytery?

    How about the New City Catechism which used in many PCA churches?

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  19. don’t disagree with you (necessarily) sdb.

    “Ecclesiology investigates what the Bible teaches about the church both universal (all believers in Christ) and local (local gatherings of believers in Christ). Ecclesiology is essential for all Christians as it guides us toward a biblical understanding of how Christians relate to one another, to God, and to unbelievers. A firm understanding of ecclesiology benefits us personally as we learn how to help provide healthy church growth and honor God.”

    We definitely are to learn to judge ourselves rightly. We definitely are not to be doing any temple destroying. We definitely are not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God.

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  20. sdb and Jeff – the “de jure” leadership of the church is really what matters, isn’t it? To my knowledge, no presbytery or church has ever molded their theology to conform to TGC’s doctrinal beliefs. It’s not as if a presbytery has held a meeting and said, “TGC believes X, therefore we need to amend our doctrinal beliefs to align with theirs.” I highly doubt that has happened or ever will happen. To the extent that a church allows its members to follow non-vetted parachurch material rather than its own, I place the blame on the session, not on the parachurch ministry.

    Jeff, I disagree with your view of TGC’s mission. They explicitly say they TGC exists to serve and enhance the church, not the other way around. I do not agree that they are dictating “norms” to the churches. I don’t see that as TGC’s stated purpose, and I don’t see any Reformed churches rushing to adopt TGC’s confessional statement as their own.

    Ali and sdb – I agree with sdb here. The final arbiters of doctrinal purity are the church courts. I agree that TGC, or any other parachurch ministry, has no authority to bind consciences and establish doctrine, ordain pastors, etc – all the things sdb listed. And Ali, just so you know, John MacArthur is wary of parachurch organizations, even though he leads one himself. Go figure.

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  21. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: And Ali, just so you know, John MacArthur is wary of parachurch organizations, even though he leads one himself. Go figure.

    gty says * “Our current level of ministry would have seemed impossible in 1969. In human terms, it was”

    btw, John Mac Arthur would have us all be ‘wary’ and re Vae victis (@masonmandy says: about holding accountable above… MacArthur seems to have always spoken openly and clearly about what he sees as errors and false teaching/teachers warning the sheep.

    *gty about:
    On July 20, 1969, the world held its breath and watched as Michael Collins, Edwin Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong brought a 230,000-mile trip through space to a dramatic climax. In a blizzard of blowing white dust, they had come to rest on the surface of the moon.

    The impact of Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap” has been felt by every generation since. NASA brought science into the living room, demonstrating that with teamwork and God-given ingenuity, what seemed improbable or impossible was actually within reach.

    That’s why it seems appropriate that 1969—a year of important launches, improbable missions, and unpredictable outcomes—was the year Grace to You began.

    The launch of Grace to You came with little fanfare. Just a few months before Apollo 11 landed, John MacArthur arrived at a small church on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Spawning a media ministry that would stretch to every corner of the globe was out of the question—the young pastor’s priority was simply to teach God’s Word.

    But one man in the congregation immediately saw an opportunity and acted. Realizing some members were too ill to attend services, that church member began recording John’s lessons. That first tape contained a message titled “How to Play Church” and was the first resource produced by what would become Grace to You.

    In the early years, the fledgling ministry captured John’s lessons on large reel-to-reel recorders and all the labor was carried out by part-time volunteers. By 1973, cassettes were circulating throughout the church and beyond. To meet the demand, one of the volunteers, Rick Draa, was hired full time.

    In 1977, seemingly by accident, a few Grace to You tapes found their way on the air in Baltimore, Maryland, and “Grace to You” radio was born. Christian radio was blossoming into a powerful, personal conduit for feeding people’s hunger for God’s Word and we were riding the crest of the wave. For some, our half-hour of teaching was a supplement to their strong local church. For others, it was a lifeline.

    Radio not only allowed us daily access to millions of people, but it fueled demand for other resources. As John began writing, Grace to You became the launch pad for developing, editing, and distributing his books and study guides.
    As our audio and print resources broadened, so did our need for space and staff. Thanks to a loyal family of customers and supporters, Grace to You became an independent, self-funded, nonprofit company in the early 1980s and subsequently bought its own building. Our staff would soon encompass an amazing variety of fields, including recording engineers, technicians, writers, editors, graphic artists, secretaries, accounting personnel, and our customer service team. We also continued to rely on a volunteer staff, as we do today.

    The rest is history. God eventually allowed our resources to go beyond U.S. borders—we began planting offices throughout the English-speaking world. Today you’ll find us in Canada, India, and Europe.

    Not only have we been able to cross geographical borders, but we’ve traversed several technological frontiers. Gone are reel-to-reel tapes and razor-blade editing—since the late 1990s our broadcast has been recorded, edited, and delivered to radio stations using computer technology. This website and our Bible and Sermon apps offer an endless supply articles, videos, and study materials. We offer all of John’s messages in MP3 format, as well “Grace to You” via podcast.

    Our current level of ministry would have seemed impossible in 1969. In human terms, it was. What we’ve seen happen in over forty years of ministry is no monument to John MacArthur, our staff, or our ingenuity, but to God’s faithfulness to bless His Word. It is God who has brought about what we could not. By His power, we’re ready to tackle the many impossibilities that await us in the future. After all, if we can send a man to the moon . . .

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  22. @vv Not so sure. The second great awakening revivalists didn’t change the standards… they ignored them in order to “not restrain the spirit”. Modernists in the late 19th century followed a similar script. The standards de jure didn’t change, but the de facto standards slipped. If you don’t require the elders to really believe the standards and (just as importantly) that the standards matter, you run the risk of gaining the critical mass to undermine orthodoxy. When your elders create parallel standards (e.g., new city catechism), that excise doctrines you’ve sworn to uphold (e.g., teaching on baptism), you send the message to your congregants and other elders that we don’t need to be so vigilant about our standards. If the cool kids decide some doctrine isn’t essential, then we can safely deemphasize it. Thus the de facto status of our standards open the door to changes de jure. This isn’t to say the standards are inerrant. They are fallible, but there is a process by which we decide to make a change. Letting commitments to parachurch organizations trump fidelity to the denomination in which you have vowed to submit and serve is not that process.

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  23. I’m as OSP as the next guy, but does anyone find it ironic that a blog post/website – which is not denominationally affiliated – is critiquing another blog post/website for not being denominationally affiliated?

    The “brand” of old life is just as guilty of brand building as TGC. I guess te OPC isn’t big enough either…

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  24. sdb – I get your point and I understand your concerns. My point is that TGC isn’t to blame for church courts abdicating their responsibility. If a PCA minister says something contrary to the standards as part of TGC, then his session should hold him accountable. Likewise, the session should not foist the role of teaching right doctrine on TGC. As an aside, I don’t agree with your criticism of the New City Catechism regarding baptism – the focus is simply different from the WSC/WLC.

    Daniel – exactly. There is plenty of chest-thumping about pure presbyterianism on here by multiple commenters, which all seems to dissipate when it comes to their own personal practice.

    Ali – thanks for the cut and paste job on GTY’s history, but what’s your point?

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  25. @vv & Daniel
    I don’t see oldlife doing the work of the church – developing alt confessions, requiring fidelity to an extra-ecclesial set of standards, or declaring who is in or out of approved ministries (extra-judicial discipline). This is very different from old life, anxious bench, and other religiously oriented blogs.

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  26. VV, maybe TGC isn’t to blame for church courts not doing their job but if a parachurch org is allegedly there to serve and enhance the church, and I have to spend time upbraiding(church courts) TE’s for there lack of fealty, well, it brings into question the whole serving and enhancing part of what they’re doing. We’ve all got better things to do then spend our time corralling the entrepreneurial spirit of celebrity pastors.

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  27. VV, if you’re going to allege “seems to dissipate when it comes to their own personal practice” please remind everyone of your position that neither the standards nor the law of God prohibit extra-marital sex. It might help others judge your analytical/exegetical abilities. If I am remembering this incorrectly please clear it up for me.

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  28. cw, an implicit point is that TKNY transcends even TGC. He’s bigger than that. Redeemer city to city. Where has he been part of the team and showed allegiance to an institution other than those closest to him — Redeemer?

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  29. vv, have you ever heard of catechisms? What parachurch organization translates a pastor’s catechism into 10 — wait for it, strategic — languages? Why not translate Heidelberg? Copyright still in force?

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  30. @vv The problem is that we haven’t intentionally reckoned with the place of parachurch organizations. I don’t understand why the problem is sessions not holding elders on TGC on accountable instead of holding the elders accountable. Embrace the power of “and”! Of course the more fundamental question is whether the activities are problematic. That is the question here, and one that I hope people more important than me take up and address directly.

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  31. VV, and as if this were easy to do. They’ve got guys like you defending their flanks. Sessions rolling their eyes as they contemplate taking on the celebrity TE ginning all this money and turning out huuuuge numbers. And I roll in questioning dancing at offertory and dumbing down sin and making illicit ties to identity theology. Yea, they’ll be thrilled and eager to hear from me. Better the celebrity pastor consider the ways in which he may offend the consciences of his congregation and act circumspectly.

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  32. b, sd, the funny thing is. The PCA will outlive TGC and RedeemerNYC — the brand. That’s the nature of institutions. Associations built on celebrity last only as long as the lives of their celebrities. The nature of mortality should teach — get this — ministers of the Word (who you think would know this) that if you are a celebrity you build an institution committed to certain truths with boards, procedures, reports. But if you won’t submit to the norms of an institution (PCA or TGC), if you are bigger than that, then what confidence should we have in your “institution”?

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  33. vv, “I do not agree that they are dictating “norms” to the churches. I don’t see that as TGC’s stated purpose”

    And yet when you look at church life in NYC all you can see is Keller’s influence. Apologists do this. They deny papal infallibility is all that onerous and then when they need to show Protestantism’s errors, they point to papal infallibility.

    VV, you do the same with influence. Deny it when it’s harmful, laud it when it suits your argument.

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  34. Daniel, been there, done that:

    And yet, not everyone conducts work that duplicates that of a denominational agency or committee. In the case of a church historian, for instance, a denominational committee may publish books that cover institutional or theological history but they don’t produce books on the arts and sciences. In which case, an academic historian needs to find other publishing outlets for non-denominational writing. At the same time, writers and authors constantly face the temptation to create their own media company. Think Rush Limbaugh. Then imagine Rush having to cooperate and even submit to the guidance of the Republican Party. Not gonna happen. But when Rush wants to achieve a higher profile, does he work with his own website and editorial services or does he seek a trade press that knows the ropes of getting books into bookstores and handles distribution and invoices?

    The OPC is not Christendom. It only does somethings that involve my efforts. It doesn’t for instance oversee the Hillsdale Public Library, on whose board I serve. So I look for outlets for the things I do outside the OPC.

    But I don’t set up a publication that tries to duplicate New Horizons, nor has Old Life sponsored a catechism.

    You do the math.

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  35. Wow, *poof*, comment ‘splosion.

    VV, I know that you’re a tough sell. But let me ask some questions. You say,

    Jeff, I disagree with your view of TGC’s mission. They explicitly say they TGC exists to serve and enhance the church, not the other way around. I do not agree that they are dictating “norms” to the churches. I don’t see that as TGC’s stated purpose, and I don’t see any Reformed churches rushing to adopt TGC’s confessional statement as their own.

    (1) Do you agree that confessional statements define norms?

    (2) Why does “existing to serve and enhance the church” rule out the possibility of seeking to shape the norms of that church?

    Recall that no less than Pope Greg V declared the papal office to be servus servorum Dei — apparently, servants can wield authority.

    (3) I wrote, The Preamble makes clear that the purpose of TGC and the foundational documents is to provide renewal in churches by promulgating the Confessional Statement and Theological Vision as norms.

    You modified this to read “they are dictating norms”, which wasn’t my intent.

    Can you agree that promulgation is a broader category than dictating, and that one may do the former without the latter?

    (4) You don’t see Reformed churches rushing to adopt TGC’s confessional statement — how hard have you looked?

    (5) What do you make of Dave S’s observation that New City Catechism is in fact adopted by many PCA churches?

    (6) Let us accept as sincere the statement that We have become deeply concerned about some movements within traditional evangelicalism that seem to be diminishing the church’s life and leading us away from our historic beliefs and practices…

    Is it possible to promulgate norms in such a way as to unintentionally undermine the church’s life — for example, by pitting congregation against elders, or elders against elders?

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  36. D. G. Hart says: Ali, one spirit and all: so in 1520 you side with the Pope?

    The great thing about being just a bible quoter is you can just say – take up your issue with the Lord.

    Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: Ali – thanks for the cut and paste job on GTY’s history, but what’s your point?

    You’re welcome.The point was, if you read it, the belief the Lord led and enabled all their steps.

    And speaking of, to one’s own master he stands or falls; if a work is fleshly and not of the Spirit, it will burn up, otherwise, it will remain. That would include these efforts you’re discussing and it would include your rejection of these.

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  37. sdb says The scriptures teach us how the church is to be governed, and a summary of that teaching is contained in the westminster standards – a model pca pastors have vowed to uphold

    ps. the westminster confession, as good as it may be, is not the be all and end all

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  38. Billy Graham will always be the Protestant pope. The only way to avoid Billy is to deny that you are “protestant”.

    Billy Graham glanced across the platform and acknowledged his special guests, Bill and Hillary Clinton. “ They’re a great couple,” Graham told the crowd. He then recalled a remark he’d once made about the Clintons when they were in the White House. “I felt when he left the Presidency he should be an evangelist, because he has all the gifts—and he’d leave his wife to run the country.” At this, Hillary turned to her husband and slapped him a high five.
    Bill Clinton joined Graham at the pulpit, and, taking his hand, he said, “What an honor it is to be here as a person of faith with a man I love and whom I have followed. He is about the only person I know who I’ve never seen fail to live his faith.”

    As large portraits of George and Martha Washington looked on, Nixon strode to the podium, welcomed the assembled to “this first worship at the White House” and invited up his “long-time personal friend.” Graham graciously returned the compliment, using the president’s inaugural address as the basis for his remarks

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/protestprotest/2017/12/new-yorker-now-carries-water-new-evangelicalism/

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  39. @Ali

    D. G. Hart says: Ali, one spirit and all: so in 1520 you side with the Pope?
    The great thing about being just a bible quoter is you can just say – take up your issue with the Lord.

    The Bible says, “Judas went and hanged himself.” Jesus says, “Go and do like wise.” Of course one might point out that this is a misapplication of scripture as I have taken these bits of scripture out of context. How do we properly exegete scripture? We have teachers approved by elders for the task.

    Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: Ali – thanks for the cut and paste job on GTY’s history, but what’s your point?
    You’re welcome.The point was, if you read it, the belief the Lord led and enabled all their steps.

    And speaking of, to one’s own master he stands or falls; if a work is fleshly and not of the Spirit, it will burn up, otherwise, it will remain. That would include these efforts you’re discussing and it would include your rejection of these.

    That’s fine for one to believe that. The Mormons and Muslims believe the same. Both have lasted much longer than GTY. Burning up in the eschaton is not useful for discerning helpful and unhelpful movements in the church today. MacArthur’s dispensationalism is wrong, young earth creationism is wrong, ecclesiology is at odds with the NT, and his understanding of the sacraments is deficient. He should submit himself to a plurality of elders.

    ps. the westminster confession, as good as it may be, is not the be all and end all

    Exactly. The standards are [not] inerrant. They are fallible, but there is a process by which we decide to make a change. Letting commitments to parachurch organizations trump fidelity to the denomination in which you have vowed to submit and serve is not that process. When an elder in the PCA pledges fidelity to the system of doctrine summarized in the standards, he also vows to let the session know if he changes his mind or has doubts. Simply deemphasizing doctrines one won’t stand behind is not a good precedent to set. If the WCF is wrong, then you should say so and make your case. If you can’t convince the men in the church, you should reconsider and if you can’t get on board, step down.

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  40. Wow! A lot has happened in this thread in the past 20 or so hours.

    DGH – no one is denying Keller has influence. When did I ever say otherwise? But influence is not bad – Calvin was tremendously influential in the development of Reformed doctrine and the advancement of the Reformed church. Would you consider him a de facto Protestant pope as you have accused Keller of being? I don’t understand your point with the TGC link on Driscoll. Old Life is great, but you promulgate certain doctrinal positions and have at least some measure of influence. Is OL a direct ministry of the OPC?

    Sean – I assume you are an elder in some NAPARC church. What “better things” do you have to do than ensure the doctrinal and ministerial purity of your TEs? If doing so is such a burden on your time, maybe you shouldn’t be an elder. And if you don’t address what you see as egregious violation of Confessional standards by a NAPARC TE simply because you don’t expect the courts to agree with you, then you are either spineless or insincere. I don’t intend to be offensive, but it’s hard to see any other way to describe your lack of effort in holding TEs accountable.

    cw – when you can show me where Scripture explicitly condemns all extramarital sex while explicitly allowing concubinage and blessing men with concubines, then you can question my analytical and exegetical skills.

    Dave – has any PCA church adopted the New City Catechism as part of its constitution? Has any presbytery required affirmation of it for ordination? Has any church/presbytery suggested replacing the WLC/WSC with the NCC?

    Jeff – I’ll respond in a separate post.

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  41. Jeff –

    1. Confessional statements define norms only insomuch as a group accepts them as norms. In other words, TGC’s confessional statement defines norms for TGC, but not for any denomination.

    2. Sure, it seems part of TGC’s stated purpose is to help non-Reformed churches align themselves better with Reformed orthodoxy. That said, I don’t see TGC declaring themselves to be the final judge of doctrinal purity for any church or denomination.

    3. Fair enough re: promulgating vs dictating. But I don’t think TGC’s goal is to promulgate norms with the expectation that any denomination will adopt them.

    4. I’m not omnipresent in Reformed churches, but I have never heard of a Reformed church adopting TGC’s confessional statement as their own. Do you know of any instances when this has occurred?

    5. New City Catechism has been extremely useful for my kids – not so much for me. It is aimed, in my opinion, at those with little or no knowledge of Reformed beliefs or even cursory theological training. In other words, it is aimed primarily at new believers. So in that sense I think it is great for PCA churches to use it to enhance knowledge of Reformed beliefs. But as I responded to Dave in a previous post, to my knowledge no PCA church has replaced the WLC/WSC with the NCC, nor have they adopted the NCC as a constitutional document. So it remains a helpful educational device rather than a core theological treatise.

    6. Sure, it’s possible, but certainly not the intent to pit elders vs. congregations. This seems like a very unlikely hypothetical, but even if it did occur, the resulting clarification of doctrinal standards as a result of the conflict would probably be beneficial for everyone.

    As I’ve said before, there is plenty I don’t like about TGC, mainly the heavy Baptist influence and the virtue signaling on a variety of social issues. However, I don’t object to TGC’s existence or stated purpose. It has produced some very good articles and blogs, and the plenary lectures at the conferences are generally excellent (I’ve never attended, but have listened online). It’s a valuable, though imperfect, resource for the Reformed community. Though it does not “belong” to any denomination, all of its leaders do. Isn’t that enough accountability?

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  42. sdb says We have teachers approved by elders for the task.

    I agree Jesus said –
    -And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,…
    -And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
    -And though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.

    sdb says: @Ali When an elder in the PCA pledges fidelity to the system of doctrine summarized in the standards, he also vows to let the session know if he changes his mind or has doubts. Simply deemphasizing doctrines one won’t stand behind is not a good precedent to set. If you can’t convince the men in the church, you should reconsider and if you can’t get on board, step down.

    sdb, where were your comments and complaints when Tullian Tchividjian , for example, was changing the words to that beautiful 1896 hymn I Surrender All, saying what is the big deal about sanctification, boasting about his rebellion and ‘brokenness’, etc

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  43. @Ali
    I don’t know what you are talking about. We have sung the remake of “I surrender all”. Not my cup of tea, but I don’t recall anything particularly objectionable. I certainly don’t recall any one boasting about rebellion. Perhaps you heard a different version of the song? I have heard that there was a tragic problem with his marriage, both confessed to adultery, and they have faced discipline from their session. I hope they have been restored, but I haven’t heard… Not sure why I would or why you think I need to comment.

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  44. cw – you are right about Alistair Begg – I missed that one. Still, it’s not fair to say he is “accountable to no one.” His church has an elder board and their constitution makes it clear that they are to ensure the doctrinal purity of their teachers and elders. So he does have accountability, albeit only at the local church level.

    And Mark Driscoll resigned from the council in 2012 – of course they removed him from the list of council members! I’m not sure why you would expect otherwise.

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  45. sdb says: We have sung the remake of “I surrender all”.

    Zac Hicks, former worship director at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church: I’ve come to believe evangelicals should just eliminate the word ‘surrender’ from their worship vocabulary

    Jesus: James 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

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  46. VV, yep, not an elder. Which goes to my point. Getting a session to rein in an aberrant TE doesn’t have a high success rate, particularly in the PCA. See every single FV loss at the session and presbytery level. The PCA won’t buck it’s Wilsonites much less the money and population churning redeemerites. Us pew slobs just get to wait it out in the pews and hope the movement fades. Awesome.

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  47. @sdb, wrt “He (ie, John MacArthur) should submit himself to a plurality of elders.”

    Memo: in fact, John MacArthur does so submit himself – nice he meets your requirements, sdb! You will quickly/easily find this about MacArthur’s church. “Leadership at Grace. Biblically, the focal point of all church leadership is the elder. An elder is one of a plurality of biblically qualified men who jointly shepherd and oversee a local body of believers.”

    For those of us non-denom eeee-guys, why presby’s see such virtue in layers and layers of presby hierarchy beyond the local church’s elder board, remains a bit of a mystery. As a practical matter, given the popularity of these threads, those layers of hierarchy, while perhaps noble in intent, are ineffectual anyway.

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  48. Vv, you continue to miss the point: Begg is not the only non-denom (there are several, maybe up to 15-20%) and he is accountable to no one outside his church. And how to judge the order of a non-denom? I can go read the PCA BCO. I have no idea what the non-denoms do. Probably make it up as the go. See Mars Hill.

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  49. @ VV:

    Thanks.

    I would like to add some info that might shift your opinion.

    (1) VV: In other words, TGC’s confessional statement defines norms for TGC, but not for any denomination.

    Yes. But also, TGC maintains a list of churches that, in its opinion, hold to those norms and are recommended as “gospel-preaching churches.” http://churches.thegospelcoalition.org/

    For what it’s worth, very few of the churches in our Presbytery (if any?) are listed. A few OPC churches are listed.

    Think about that for a moment. How are online church directories used? To steer newcomers towards churches to worship in and belong to. What is this organization, whose leadership includes PCA notables, doing? Steering newcomers away from PCA churches and towards churches in other denominations.

    Think further about the implication of not being listed. It suggests that, for whatever reason, TGC has deemed the unlisted church as not gospel-preaching.

    In other words, TGC has set itself up as a vetting organization. In this way, it can promulgate standards without dictating them.

    (2) I have never heard of a Reformed church adopting TGC’s confessional statement as their own. Do you know of any instances when this has occurred?

    Network member churches must do so by requirement. I can’t post more than one link here, so google for How to Join Gospel Coalition Arizona.

    (3) But I don’t think TGC’s goal is to promulgate norms with the expectation that any denomination will adopt them.

    And yet, we have entities like the Neo House-Church Network who adopt TGC’s confessional statements as their organizing documents. So either this was an unexpected development, or else it was an expected development.

    (4) JRC: Is it possible to promulgate norms in such a way as to unintentionally undermine the church’s life — for example, by pitting congregation against elders, or elders against elders?

    VV: This seems like a very unlikely hypothetical, but even if it did occur, the resulting clarification of doctrinal standards as a result of the conflict would probably be beneficial for everyone.

    Not hypothetical at all. I have seen it happen, and it was not beneficial.

    Put yourself in the shoes of a congregation member who is hearing a steady dose of anti-antinomianism from TGC, and who is also hearing non-antinomian, grace-oriented teaching from the pulpit. There is a significant opportunity for confusion, leading to dissension. And frankly, the star power of TGC carries a lot of weight in the resulting discussions.

    Bottom line: To the extent that TGC promotes itself as (1) a trustworthy proclaimer of the genuine gospel, that (2) sets itself against doctrinal deviations of concern within churches, then it will necessarily bring itself into conflict with churches that disagree with them at some point.

    I would suggest that you don’t see this because you haven’t seen yet the tension between TGC and the Westminster Standards.

    Here are the two points of tension:

    (1) Westminster holds it to be a great sin to fail to baptize your children. TGC holds it to be an acceptable difference of opinion.

    (2) Westminster teaches that sanctification is a work of God’s grace, and that the means of grace are word, sacrament, and prayer. Within that framework, we are exhorted to strive and obey. TGC goes further than this, insisting that our striving and obedience are the means by which God causes us to grow in sanctification.

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  50. Petros, I would say, first, they’re biblical in their polity. Two, they’re people who are afflicted with sin. Three, the polity is purposefully set up to be ponderous(comparatively) and slow to hear a charge and methodical in how it proceeds up the disciplinary ladder. I don’t have any problems with the polity. I do have problems with folks who hide behind technicalities(lawyerly and not pastoral) in the polity or others who naturally(human nature) are too easily impressed and influenced by celebrity(see Keller addressing GA).

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  51. VV, do you see how deep your bromance is? You only see Keller’s influence as positive. Never negative.

    As I said, no one confuses Old Life for the OPC. But people have confused the TGC for PCA:

    vv, exactly my arse. No one confuses a blog for the OPC. But TGC celebrities have been called on many times to ‘splain the TGC vis a vis the PCA.

    You’re about 8 years behind the conversation. Are you in that Redeemer bubble?

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  52. Analogy: Presbys are tightrope walkers WITH NETS. You can still get hurt if you fall into the net. The net can fail utterly and you could die. Indies are tightrope walkers WITHOUT NETS. You fall and it’s guaranteed to go badly for you.

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  53. @Letmesplainsean, CW advocates for the value of the PCA BCO. I looked. It’s 399 pages! Does anyone really, as a practical matter, read that stuff, other than lawyers?

    Critique of non-denom (Begg) polity is hollow, when presby’s can’t corral their own TKNY.

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  54. Petros, people really do read and utilize it, some do it in a manner that is abusive(can’t legislate out sin) but at least there’s a purposeful route that can be pursued and discipline does happen and repentance and restoration and even excommunication. It’s rarely fun or pretty but it takes place in a comparatively orderly manner. As with most things legal and bureaucratic there are other opportunities that can and should be pursued before having to knuckledown and go through it-sin is a real b……….

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  55. @CW and @DGH, wrt to your presby “nets”. You acknowledge that your nets are ineffectual vs TGC and TKNY. Yet, you like your nets, your 399 pages of BCO’s, and bureaucracies. Can you point to specific examples where your nets can be shown to have valiantly caught and saved some tightrope walkers in the past year?

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  56. The 399 pages include lots of stuff that is applicable only at the presbytery and GA level. The relevant portions for local church members probably number about 1/3 of that. Examples? Sure — a presbytery was cited for 2nd commandment violations last summer, every local discipline case is informed/dictated by the BCO, presbyteries follow its strictures in examining and licensing candidates, the administration of the Lord’s Supper and the fencing of the table is outlined in the BCO and 90% of churches follow that. It influences nearly everything that is done in the churches. And did you know that presbyteries must approve the compensation packages of ministers? A church cannot starve a pastor. Did you know that no one can preach at a PCA church regularly without presbytery approval? Sheep are protected — very imperfectly — but they are protected. Every day.

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  57. @Letmesplainsean, well, non-denoms also have a purposeful route for things to take place in an orderly manner. It’s called following Biblical and common sense principles of communicating, listening, learning, and resolving theological/interpersonal issues in a godly manner. Galatians 5:22,23. But, don’t let me dissuade CW or you from cuddling up to those 399 pages….

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  58. Jeff – quickly responding to your points:

    1. I don’t know the process they used to develop the church directory. It could be that OPC churches are smaller, and given the lack of OPC representation within TGC it could be an oversight – I doubt it was intentional exclusion from the directory.

    2. The member churches must agree with the confessional statement, but not adopt it as their constitutional document the way the PCA and OPC adhere to the Westminster Standards. TGC’s confession is broader and more general than the WCF/WLC.

    3. I don’t think this is true. At least not according to their website.

    4. I defer to your personal experience in this matter, but I have never seen dissension between a session and congregation as a result of TGC writings.

    I do see tension between TGC and the WCF – that’s why I said in my earlier post I do not like the heavy Baptist influence in TGC. That said, the purpose of TGC isn’t to be an exclusively orthodox Reformed entity. Their goal is to focus on the Gospel (obviously) and core Protestant theology. Since they are not a denomination and have never claimed to be one, they are far more ecumenical than the NAPARC. I don’t have a problem with this, but it does lead to theology I disagree with and certain tendencies I don’t like. FWIW, I would personally prefer a more Catholic influence than Baptist, but I doubt it will ever go that route. But really, I’m not sure Catholics would have any significant disputes with what’s in TGC’s Confessional Statement, other than nuances with regard to justification. They make take issue with what’s left out, but not what’s there.

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  59. Sean – the PCA did publish an official report – adopted by the GA – condemning FV theology. But no doubt the FVers have had more success than they should have in the PCA, and the Pacific Northwest Presbytery in particular handled Leithart’s case poorly. Does that mean we should abandon all attempts at discipline of TEs who are out of line? If you object to Keller and the TGC that strongly, there is a formal process that you, a “pew slob,” can use to air your complaints with the Metro NY Presbytery. I won’t hold my breath waiting for you to actually take action, which only proves Petros’ point about the impotency of the presbyterian system if not utilized properly.

    cw – I agree that non-denominational churches are dangerous and not based on Scriptural principles. I’m not making the case for non-denom churches at all. In fact, you bring up a fair point: maybe the TGC should only have council members who belong to a denomination. Still, it’s not like they have zero accountability for their teaching – the elder board of their church should be performing that role.

    DGH – I think you’re the only one who confuses the PCA with TGC.

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  60. Peter, as soon as you acknowledge your white privilege (winged or not).

    BTW, have you ever considered that the nets keep out problems as much as the catch them? Meanwhile, your eeee v world is so indiscriminate that Jim Bakker was an evangelical in good standing.

    How do you like eeee world now?

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  61. vv, again more denial. The links included showed that Keller and Carson both had to answer questions about how TGC was different (or not) from a denomination.

    You need help.

    Since you think extramarital sex is okay, how about extra-Kelleritical crushes?

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  62. VV, the point with FV was that the cases were lost at the local level(session-presbytery). EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. We’re all thankful for GA’s action-proof of how the polity still works even if clunky and painful(contra you and Pete). But, I’m free to leave Keller(now retired and taking to life as an urban engineer) to the alleged oversight of his session and presbytery and even sycophants like you and still bemoan his public opinions as a public figure in pseudo churchly religious coalitions and be correct in my observations and have him not give two sh*^$S about it.

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  63. @dgh, so sad your wonderful nets did nothing to prevent Tullian, or your prodigal-presby TKNY.

    Trying to pin Bakker on the TGC? If you contact a licensed historian, they can help you re-think that.

    Happen to have any data, or opinion, on what % of the OPC, or PCA, voted for the Trumpster? I’d guess it’s mighty close to EIGHTY ONE PERCENT, if not higher.

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  64. Peter, so you missed the point that the nets work to keep out the Jim Bakkers.

    Licensed historians? Here’s two on Jim Bakker’s EVANGELICAL empire.

    Only serious Presbyterians know that evangelicalism is a construction. Without evangelicalism, you’d probably be just some independent Baptist.

    I’m sure lots of OP’s voted for Trump. But when you’re not a “movement” that attracts lonely Protestants like you, no one really cares how you voted if you’re not evangelical.

    Try being non-evangelical. You might like it.

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  65. Pete, you just proved DG’s point again. Tullian had Evangelical Royal Family Teflon that protected him until he went WAY off the reservation. He was not “just another presbyter”, he was special. He used to blog at TGC, too. And he followed media celebrity culture warrior D. James Kennedy who (like Tullian) had a show on TBN. Maybe it’s not TGC that the PCA can’t survive…maybe it’s Florida.

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  66. i.e. – “An evangelical is someone who likes Billy Graham.”

    Tim considers himself to be a Billy Graham evangelical: “In the nineteen-forties and fifties, Billy Graham and others promoted the word to describe themselves and the religious space they were seeking to create between the cultural withdrawal espoused by the fundamentalist movement, on the one hand, and mainline Protestantism’s departures from historic Christian doctrine, on the other. ” — https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/can-evangelicalism-survive-donald-trump-and-roy-moore

    https://quotefancy.com/quote/776287/Billy-Graham-Tim-Keller-s-ministry-in-New-York-City-is-leading-a-generation-of-seekers

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  67. @cw, funny, I’m 100% personally with you in being in favor of modesty, restraint, and in seeing more danger than benefit to the cult of celebrity. But, methinks your assessment of the root cause is misguided. When you say “The point is that presbyterianism and celebrity don’t really mix”, the reality is that Tullian and TKNY are great examples that celebrity mixes in just as well in presby-land as in evangelicalism. That’s the point.

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  68. @Ali

    sdb says: We have sung the remake of “I surrender all”.
    Zac Hicks, former worship director at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church: I’ve come to believe evangelicals should just eliminate the word ‘surrender’ from their worship vocabulary

    Jesus: James 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

    OK? I honestly have no idea what your point is, what the connection is between Zac Hicks and TT, Coral Ridge, or the discussion here. Sorry, but you are going to have to connect the dots for me.

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  69. @sdb, wrt “He (ie, John MacArthur) should submit himself to a plurality of elders.”

    Memo: in fact, John MacArthur does so submit himself – nice he meets your requirements, sdb! You will quickly/easily find this about MacArthur’s church. “Leadership at Grace. Biblically, the focal point of all church leadership is the elder. An elder is one of a plurality of biblically qualified men who jointly shepherd and oversee a local body of believers.”

    Thanks for correcting me. I had misremembered his comment in his study bible. He rejects denominational oversight, “We teach the autonomy of the local church, free from any external authority or control, with the right of self-government and freedom from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations…”

    For those of us non-denom eeee-guys, why presby’s see such virtue in layers and layers of presby hierarchy beyond the local church’s elder board, remains a bit of a mystery. As a practical matter, given the popularity of these threads, those layers of hierarchy, while perhaps noble in intent, are ineffectual anyway.

    Ineffectual? Imperfect for sure, but ineffectual? That’s like concluding that chemo is just as bad as homeopathic medicine because you know a guy who took chemo and died anyway. No one claims that presbyterian oversight cures all problems – all churches are a mixture and will remain so until the end. But there is better and worse. Denominations that cease to hold the line on orthodoxy because doctrine is divisive drifted and continued to do so. Independent organizations have a horrible track record of surviving their charismatic leader – the path of non-denoms like Calvary Chapel are the rule not the exception. There are very few orthodox parachurch/independent organizations more than a 100yrs old, however, thousands were started in the 19th century. There’s a lesson here. The democratization of religion (which is perhaps inevitable in our culture – Hatch is really good on this) has not been helpful for maintaining sound doctrine. As much as I admire Begg’s preaching, I doubt very much that his congregation will survive as a sound church as long as the OPC has.

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  70. cw l’unificateur says: 9th commandment violation.

    speaking of…..

    Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.

    TGC Foundation Documents (excerpts)
    We DESIRE to advance along the King’s highway, always aiming to provide gospel advocacy, encouragement, and education so that current- and next-generation church leaders are better equipped to fuel their ministries with principles and practices that glorify the Savior and do good to those for whom he shed his life’s blood.

    We WANT to generate a unified effort among all peoples—an effort that is zealous to honor Christ and multiply his disciples, joining in a true coalition for Jesus. Such a biblically grounded and united mission is the only enduring future for the church. This reality COMPELS us to stand with others who are stirred by the conviction that the mercy of God in Jesus Christ is our only hope of eternal salvation.

    We DESIRE to champion this gospel with clarity, compassion, courage, and joy—gladly linking hearts with fellow believers across denominational, ethnic, and class lines.

    Our DESIRE is to serve the church we love by inviting all our brothers and sisters to join us in an effort to renew the contemporary church in the ancient gospel of Christ so that we truly speak and live for him in a way that clearly communicates to our age.

    As pastors, we intend to do this in our churches through the ordinary means of his grace: prayer, the ministry of the Word, baptism and the Lord’s Supper and the fellowship of the saints.

    We YEARN to work with all who, in addition to embracing the confession and vision set out here, seek the lordship of Christ over the whole of life with unabashed hope in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform individuals, communities, and cultures.

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  71. cont. TGC Foundation Documents (excerpts)

    God’s New People

    We believe that God’s new covenant people have already come to the heavenly Jerusalem; they are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies.

    This universal church is manifest in local churches of which Christ is the only Head; thus each “local church” is, in fact, the church, the household of God, the assembly of the living God, and the pillar and foundation of the truth.

    The church is the body of Christ, the apple of his eye, graven on his hands, and he has pledged himself to her forever.

    The church is distinguished by her gospel message, her sacred ordinances, her discipline, her great mission, and, above all, by her love for God, and by her members’ love for one another and for the world.

    Crucially, this gospel we cherish has both personal and corporate dimensions, neither of which may properly be overlooked. Christ Jesus is our peace: he has not only brought about peace with God, but also peace between alienated peoples. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

    The church serves as a sign of God’s future new world when its members live for the service of one another and their neighbors, rather than for self-focus. The church is the corporate dwelling place of God’s Spirit, and the continuing witness to God in the world.

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  72. My partial bad wrt BG. “He was RAISED in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.” Bet you guys are heartbroken that you let him get away from your tribe!

    And, he did marry a presby. You guys ok with intermarriage?

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  73. Peter, watch out for the boomerang. If Graham was so infected with Presbyterianism, why would you allow him to define evangelicalism? You know, Presbyterians represent all that is evil in Protestantism and all.

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  74. No worries about boomerangs, DGH. We’re happy to have BG (and, TKNY for that matter) be part of our big tent eeeee-world. Presby-ism neither represents all that is evil in the eeee-world, nor does it represent the eeee-world’s salvation. Presby-ism is way more of a mixed bag, which good historians understand.

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  75. Would it help if you knew if you were only talking about the visible true church?

    Scott Clark—-Mr. Murray assumed his doubts about the visible/invisible distinction in the doctrine of the church. This is a significant assumption in light of the traditional Reformed view that attributed Paul’s greetings to the “saints” to the judgment of charity, i.e. the notion that in speaking to the visible church we regard people according to their profession of faith and speak to them as such. It’s far from clear that Murray’s account of Romans 6 does not create as many difficulties as it ostensibly resolves.

    Richard Gaffin—John Murray referred to definitive sanctification.” This is the crucial soteriological truth that in the inception of the application of redemption, at the moment sinners are united to Christ by faith, they are delivered from sin’s enslaving power, from bondage to sin as master. ….Despite the exegesis of some Reformed commentators, this death to sin is almost certainly NOT to the guilt that sin incurs and justification. In view RATHER, is a definitive deliverance from sin’s over-mastering power to being enslaved instead to God and righteousness. That Spirit-worked deliverance, NOT justification, grounds and provides the dynamic for the believer’s beginning to “walk in newness of life” (6:4)… with little question the latter view is Calvin’s in his Romans commentary.”

    https://heidelblog.net/2009/08/what-is-definitive-sanctification-and-is-it-reformed/

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  76. DGH, and here we all thought you were 2K, and yet you pine for TKNY to mete out justice? Memo: the civil magistrate duly convicted Mr. Bakker of his crimes and he served out his sentences.

    Meanwhile, presby-ism remains inept at corralling the rogue presby TKNY. You really must enjoy stepping on that particular rake!

    Exactly what would you have wished that TKNY would “take care of” wrt Graham? Your stmt there is odd on many levels, but certainly typical.

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  77. Mencken—“My aversion to conversion extends to other people: I always distrust and dislike a man who has changed his basic notions. When a reader writes in to say that some writing of mine has shown him the light and cured him of former errors I feel disgust for him, and never have anything to do with him if I can help it. I dislike more or less all Calvinists, but I dislike ex-Calvinists very much more.

    The Coalition of visible gospel churches known as the PCA also sorts things out by indirection. Re-invention of one’s own biography always involves a certain selection about what to leave out about what you were before you got started in the covenant community to which you now belong. The Bible is certainly silent about the question if any of those people John the Baptist watered had been circumcised. Those who have once been circumcised need no re-circumcision. Water is a different kind of visible but nevertheless just as permanent and unchanging as circumcision….

    https://theworldsruined.blogspot.com/2016/05/walther-to-fonville-to-miller.html

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  78. Peter, as I’ve said – as did the Reformers — Presbyterianism isn’t perfect. It let in Keller. It did not let in Bakker. And oh by the way, when Keller was signing on to be an evangelical, evangelicalism was populated by Graham who was willing to do business with presidents and by Bakker. Keller was not honest in the New Yorker about the state of evangelicalism when he signed up.

    And you are enabling a fibber. Good for you.

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