17 October 2014

Some here, some there — October 17, 2014

by Dan Phillips

Howdy amigos and amigas.
  • We'll start out on a happy personal note. Wednesday (September 45, Phillips calendar), just a bit more than an hour after our church had prayed for her, my beautiful daughter Rachael and dashing husband Kermit welcomed my beautiful granddaughter, Zoé Isabelle Allen, into the world. Zoé weighed in at 6 lb 15.8 oz, and was born at home. Here's pictures I have at post-time; will add more if I get more!

  • And here's my beautiful wife and my beautiful granddaughter.
  • Ahh.
  • Now, from the sublime to... well, Mark Driscoll. You'll know by now that he has resigned as pastor. Here is Mark's letter, which I would characterize as defiant, unhumbled, and resentful. He makes sure everyone knows he's still qualified to be pastor and has a clean bill of health; any unspecified "imperfect" aspects have been all taken care of. His accusers are the real problem; nobody but Mark comes off very well, in his telling.
  • Here's the letter from the Mars Hill overseers. They agree with Mark that, though he's got his problems, he's really a great guy.
  • Of many articles I've seen, I think the crispest insight is from Michael Newnhamwho says "In the corporate world, you cut your losses, protect your resume, and move on to the next opportunity." Does that not pretty well capture the Driscoll situation?
  • Now surely the most surreal note comes in a post in, of all places, The Gospel Coalition, written by Trevin Wax. If you hadn't read it, and I summarized his third point for you, you'd say I had to be making it up. So here it is, verbatim. The point is "Character Matters as Much
    as Doctrine," and part of what Trevin says is (bold added):
Every tribe has its blind spots. It’s human nature to assume the best of your friends and worst of your enemies. I have seen this club mentality when well-known evangelicals with good reputations and solid character are dismissed simply because their biblical exegesis differs from ours. And I think some Christian leaders were slow to see the problems with Driscoll because he ”believes the right things.”
If anything, evangelicals gifted with discernment and biblical doctrine of sin and grace should have been the first to expose these problems. I know some of this critique happened behind the scenes, inside and outside Mars Hill. But more could have been done sooner to warn and protect the flock.
  • So...
  • Prompting:
  • And perhaps:
  • And of course:
  • Some commenters asked Trevin to be more specific, but as of this posting, it hasn't happened.
  • I don't know of anyone blocked or blacklisted by the TGC who's been contact by them, or "followed" by them in Twitter (to signal that they're opening up their echo chamber). But those were really nice words Trevin wrote.
  • Not all comments passed moderation. Like Tom Chantry's.
  • Carl Trueman has now weighed in. Some "money-quotes" [bolding added]:
It is interesting that the crisis finally came only when the aesthetics flipped the other way, when Driscoll and his antics became more distasteful than the words of his critics. It is important to notice that it was not the embrace of a Unitarian prosperity teacher and that decision's obvious doctrinal significance [on which see here, among many others by all three of us] which brought things to a head. Rather, it was the numerous allegations of bullying and loutish behaviour which finished him off -- things that are aesthetically displeasing in the current climate. The whistleblowers, however, are still not regarded as vindicated, despite having spoken the truth. I suspect they can -- pardon the pun -- whistle for an apology from the Top Men or for rehabilitation by the mainstream of YRR evangelicalism. For they can even now still be dismissed as smug (an aesthetic word if ever there was one) or simply forgotten because, whatever the truth they spoke, they were nonetheless engaged in the activity at a point in time when the aesthetics of the marketplace made their criticisms easy to characterize as unloving and thus distasteful.
When it comes to an instinct for staying ahead, the Top Men and their camp followers are masters of the taste-driven dynamics of the evangelical stock exchange: winsome and loving when the market's aesthetics demand such, then wise and discerning when tastes change. Like the secret of great comedy, the secret of being a respected leader in the world of Big Eva is really very, very simple: it's all a question of timing.
  • Christmas is coming.
  • I think that if something like this had been attempted when I was a student at Talbot, there would have been a very vigorous response. It reminds me of the classmate who said, back in the 80s, "I'm afraid that one day I'm going to have to explain my degree, like guys who went to Fuller have to do now."
  • More news from the dominant, ever-broadening "fringe." One reads these revelations and accusations about 93yo Charismatic "prophet" Ernest Angley — who admits requesting to view mens' privates — with horror, but not particularly with surprise. See, here's the thing: in a healthy church, one would have watched Angley for about 5 minutes, to be generous, and dismissed him. He would never have been able to earn a living, let alone such a lavish lifestyle, from Christians.
  • Except that Charismaticism gives him cover. And Christians who ought to know better (the "open but clueless" set) give Charismaticism cover. It is just as simple as that.
  • Which BTW is a drum that John MacArthur has banged yet again and again. God bless him for his stand. I have no doubt as to what sort of ministry — enabling, or discerning — will stand better in that Day, in terms of how it dealt with the Charismatic movement.
  • Too cool to miss: a Lego telling of The Hobbit in 72 seconds.
  • Fred Butler hates Christmas, but loves "impact" as a verb.
  • Wait, that's not quite right. The first part isn't, anyway. Fred Butler hates it when people read into Christmas trappings things that were never intended by their originators, even with the highest motives. There.
  • Hm. How do I get my cats to do this?
  • (...or, for that matter, my sons?)
  • Ahhh, contextualizing...
  • Contextual street evangelism. Watch this evangelist reaching out to a Michael Jackson impersonator, contextualized-style:
  • (Actually, that's not it at all. The note says it's a Mormon missionary. Emergo-Morms?)
  • City officials subpoenaing sermons by pastors not even involved in a lawsuit, to see if they criticized city policy allowing sexually perverted individuals into bathrooms of the opposite sex. Sure, you say: in Sweden. But no. San Francisco? Not this story. England, France, Seattle? Nope. Try Texas. Try Houston, TexasNo lie.
  • People think of Texas as conservative, and largely we are. But Austin and Houston teem with liberal, totalitarian, anti-Christian officials fighting their own war with God.
  • Doug Wilson comments on the Houston situation. So does Carl Trueman. (Both men actually know a Houston pastor personally.)
  • David Allen brings a good word about real men, touching on Driscoll and related matters.
  • "How do I know if I'm elect?" Here's a pretty wonderful answer from Joseph Alleine.

  • Doug Wilson seems to argue, not for the first time, that believing in justification by faith should prevent us from being too critical of Roman Catholics and others who claim to be Christian despite many and grave doctrinal and practical errors. After all, are they justified by faith, or by correctness and precision?
  • Doug expresses admiration for a somewhat similar "magnificent" post by Mark Jones at, of all places, Reformation21. Jones, who has recently been defending the practice of "baptizing" people who have no faith at all, makes a more nuanced case than Wilson.
  • What of it, then? For one thing, it seems to rest on a definition of faith that tears it from the realm of truth and doctrine. It seems to me to reverse what believers have argued since Schleiermacher, that saving faith must have content, and not just any content. For another, it makes Paul's attitude towards the Galatian errorists incomprehensible (I don't find Wilson's dismissal persuasive). For yet another, it leaves me wondering how we can criticize Zane Hodges and the rest of what chapter 10 of TWTG calls "gutless gracers." And isn't that an odd turn of events, when the nuanced and deep thinking of some Reformed brother leads them to stand pretty darned close to dispensational antinomians who are rejected by dispensationalists who affirm the Biblical Gospel of God's sovereign grace?
  • I asked that question over at Doug's place, btw; no answer. He wrote more about it yesterday in an attempt to explain, but didn't allude to or answer my question.
As usual, check in later. This post usually grows through the day.

Dan Phillips's signature


Tom Chantry said...

Jones’ article on justification was truly one of the most stunning admissions yet from a Framian ‘Presbyterian.’

To understand the article, you must see not so much his view of baptism, which is standard for the less-informed ranks of Presbyterianism, as his ongoing debate over the interaction of law and gospel with more traditional (confessional) Reformed types - particularly R. Scott Clark. Jones’ definition of “antinomianism” has raised questions as to whether those who hold a Reformed doctrine of justification can escape the label. Clark has responded that antinomianism means the rejection of the Christian’s obligation to live morally according to divine law, but that this obligation is no part of justification, which cannot in any sense rest on our own works.

And now, rather than affirm that of course this is what justification means and that of course when he rails against antinomianism he’s talking about something else, Jones has instead replied: “Justification by faith alone through grace alone? I guess. If you like that sort of thing. Whatever.”

Wilson is of course rubbing his hands with glee, because perhaps if Presbyterians stop caring about the doctrine of justification, they’ll stop perceiving him as a Federal-Visionist heretic.

So how does folly like this make its way into the respectable forum at Ref21? And from the keyboard of a PCA minister? I mean, they’re supposed to have confessional standards which define things like justification as, “an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone,” and faith as “a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.” How did it get so complicated?

Forgive me for galloping into the comment thread on my hobby horse, but this is what you get when you admire the epistemological system of a thinker whose entire system is based upon the deconstruction of words and their meaning, you get to say things like “I believe in the Westminster Standards” and at the same time add, “’justification’ and ‘faith’ are a lot more complex than you think they are.”

Is that what’s happening here? Mark Jones wrote a somewhat uneven review of Frame’s Systematic Theology, recognizing that Frame is anything but a systematic thinker. However, of his epistemological system, Jones wrote: “There are some notable high points in the book, especially his treatments of God's Word and epistemology.” And of course, Wilson endorsed Frame’s book - together with a number of other Federal-Visionists.

Michael Coughlin said...

After all, are they justified by faith, or by correctness and precision?

We are justified by a precise and correct faith.

I've started typing so many sentences, but I don't even know what to say. This is SO BASIC, isn't it?

I wish someone would write a book detailing the practical implications of faith so that we could see the difference between real and false faith.

DJP said...

Yeah, that'd be great, Michael.

So like this book might start with how God created man, then how man fell, and how extensive the damage of the Fall was? Then paint God's eternal plan of redemption, it's formation and execution, in the process laying out both a soteriology and a Christology? Then go into depth about how man "buys in," how he becomes a beneficiary of this plan? What regeneration is, and what faith and repentance mean, exactly? Talk about what justification means? Then show how all this radically transforms the person and his entire worldview, thus setting up to understand the lifestyle and behavior ("works") that flow from this transformation? And in that process, talk about the place of obedience, the work of the Holy Spirit, the obstacle of the flesh, and maybe even clear away some false teachings that trip people up? And write it in such away that it both contains a lot of material, but really just about anyone could read it and understand it?

Yeah, that'd be great if someone wrote something like that. It could be useful, you'd think. It'd show up in all these discussions that are going on about law and grace, and all that. That'd be great.

Frank Turk said...

Thank God there are no videos in this post which I will rediscover in 3 weeks and then be accused on not reading this post to find them.

DJP said...

...so far...

Michael Coughlin said...

I found a couple books
Not sure about this one, but the title and description were attractive.
This one has an upside down guy so I actually thought it was a physics book, but the title sounds Bibley.

DJP said...


Rachel said...

Isn't it somewhat ironic that Wilson wants to include himself in those who believe in "justification by faith" as opposed to the RCC view of justification? Or maybe his own non-orthodox views of justification mean he is more sympathetic to the RCC?

J♥Yce Burrows said...

Congratulations, Grandma and Grandpap(mom, dad, families both sides)!!! Pictures are precious ~ just love the beauty of Grandma and granddaughter.

Texas. sermons. government. They know not what they ask to read...unto accountability. Go. for. it. Still? Many are online anyway ~ what's that they grumble behind closed doors, too convicting ~ backpedaling? That's right ~ that amendment and those that think it still applies.

Stephen Talas said...

Is this why some of the biggest defectors to Rome have come from the Presbyterian camp?

JG said...

Many congratulations on the new little lovely! I gear grandparents get the better end of the deal :)

Frank Turk said...

Stephen --

Let's be careful, since the most fruitful mission field for the Mormons is the SBC.

Anonymous said...

So...who wrote Driscoll's resignation and the board's letter? They are so obviously a remix of each other...

Haven't read the whole post yet, but that letter from the board is just too echo-ey of Mark's letter that I had to say it out loud.

Robert said...

Liked Fred's piece on the new Christmas movie, but it was good in a saddening way. Trying to redefine history that has occurred outside the Bible isn't any better than redefining history that is in the Bible. It just leads people astray.

The whole paedobaptism deal just sounds like people trying to justify their position without dealing with the black and white content and context of Scripture. I have the same issues with Covenant Theology and Amillenialism, and they all seem to stream together. Not that all people who believe one believe the other two, but that seems to be the norm.

The whole mess with the mayor here is something we should expect to happen...and not just here. And as I have alluded to in the past, it is just a matter of time before Texas becomes the new California. The oil/energy industry and conservative economic policies will only serve as a mask for the social policies that are bound to come.

Also, just wanted to say that I am in hearty agreement that there needs to be some recognition and attempt at apologies, forgiveness, and reconciliation with the whole Driscoll mess. It runs deeper than just Driscoll, though...they bring up this language of tribes instead of speaking of holiness and being ambassadors of Christ. That is really what the issue is. May we all repent when we do a poor job of representing Christ and walking according to His Word. In reality, we should be thankful that God gives us people to call us to repentance and point out our blind spots so that we may not continue in sin. I need those people in my life. Those with a large platform need that even more and need those people to have their first allegiance to God so that they do not bring dishonor to His Name.

Terry Rayburn said...

Having been a long-time theological opponent of Doug Wilson (and continuing to be so until he renounces the Federal Visionism that he slyly pretends to differ with when the occasion warrants, while still embracing it -- sheesh)...

I would abet his theoretical confidence that some Roman Catholics, for example, are saved, but without sacrificing the "precision" of the Gospel, which I'm confident a Precise God would not proclaim imprecisely -- as follows:

1. Salvation is of the Lord, literally, through regeneration. Unless a man is born again he cannot even see the kingdom of God, let alone believe in the King.

2. In keeping with #1 above, salvation is through REVELATION.

That is, God reveals Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to the regenerate soul, and when He does so the regenerate soul cannot NOT believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior (hence biblical "irresistable grace", as opposed to the Arminians' straw man of "dragged kicking and screaming" used to argue against TULIP).

3. Thus one can be truly born again, truly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and truly be justified (declared righteous), UPON HEARING THE TRUE GOSPEL OF THE DEATH (FOR OUR SINS), BURIAL AND RESURRECTION OF THE LORD.

4. After that true salvation, there are few heresies an unguided one cannot fall into under certain conditions, while remaining a saint (I'm not talking about outright apostasy, wherein one was never born again to begin with, of course, nor true antinomianism, where one has no interest in the will of God in one's life.)

That's why it's so important for a believer to be TAUGHT rightly through the local church, and LEARN rightly through his own Bible studies (preferably both).

5. ON THE OTHER HAND -- to add a little nuance, just to bug Dan :) -- we should neither have CONFIDENCE in the salvation of one who now teaches a false gospel, nor encourage that one to have confidence in their OWN salvation, if they persist in declaring that false gospel (even if the POSSIBILITY of previous salvation MAY have occurred).

Conclusion: take seriously the Lord's command to not separate the wheat from the tares, but don't do away with the precision of the true gospel meanwhile.

Fred Butler said...

I'm redeeming the word "impact" as a verb for the glory of God and the Lordship of Christ over grammar.

Michael Coughlin said...

Butler FTW.

Jim Pemberton said...

*Congrats on the granddaughter, Dan!

*Maybe Trevin Wax has been too busy to notice that Driscoll has critics... although highly unlikely since he noticed his resignation. Driscoll's resignation is less noticeable than the output of his detractors.

*Perhaps Angley is just upset that he didn't get to have pornographic visions like Driscoll.

Tom Chantry said...

Now that is some Christ-centered impact!

Anonymous said...

The whole "if only someone spoke up earlier about Driscoll" line was absolutely hilarious.

I know about the private letters that were sent to Driscoll from Roscoe Blvd (was a peon on staff at that time). If you try a low-key, non-mud-slinging, private approach (i.e. use some dignity and tact), people scream that you didn't do it publicly and are derelict in your duty to "warn the flock".

If you do it publicly, you're labelled a "hater" and portrayed as a crotchety and self-appointed member of the doctrine police.

I wish the quorum of the 12 at TGC would make up their minds on how the rest of the world should behave...and have the foresight to let us all know in advance.

Tom Chantry's comments were gold.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I meant "quorum of the 32" (or how many people actually compose TGC).

jennifer said...

But didn't you see Trevin said in the comment section that problems came to the surface AFTER he left the Gospel Coalition. Really?!

DJP said...

< facepalm >

Frank Turk said...

Jennifer --

To say otherwise would be to say that there were problems leading up to his exit from TGC. We all know that's not how that went down.. Mark Driscoll is free to return to TGC any time now.

Any time.