09 June 2010

[insert title here]

by Frank Turk

Earlier this week, which I saw via Twitter, Justin Taylor linked to the following from Ray Ortlund:
What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the Bible. What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike. What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13).

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

And a lot of you already have your hackles up on both sides of this statement. Welcome to the internet.

Personally, I completely get what he’s saying here: given that Augustine didn’t believe everything we “reformed” folks believe, and Aquinas didn’t believe everything we believe, and frankly Calvin and I would have some robust disagreements, and Jerome and I would have some disagreements, and in the other direction Wesley and I would give each other the angry eyebrows, and Billy Sunday and I would probably not see eye to eye, and in the end Billy Graham and I would probably not agree, and Chuck Colson and I would probably disagree ... given all that disagreement, can I find in these men some kind of trace of their status as redeemed people?

I think that’s Pastor Ortlund’s question here: how perfect (in our opinion, btw: God didn’t hand you a sheet of orthodoxy litmus paper to test the saints for the appropriate amount of systematic perfection) does someone have to be for you to fellowship with them? Specifically, how “perfect” does their ability to spell out all the consequences of the Gospel have to be? How perfect does their spelling of p-r-o-p-i-t-i-a-t-i-o-n have to be to allow them your fellowship and your brethrenliness in Christ?

I think that’s a great question – because it reflects directly on how we conduct ourselves in church, yes? I mean: many of us want a pastor who would recite the Heidelberg Catechism every week and make the same exceptions we would, and anyone who will not be under that teaching with all humility (our humility taken for granted, because we agree with all of the agreeable parts, so we are humble – disagreement makes one as unhumble and sassy) should either repent or get out. How can we join a church where there are people who are not really exactly like us?

That’s a hard question, y’all, because let me suggest something: they are really all just like us. That is: they are all sinners just like us.

So when Pastor Ortlund says, “What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love,” I’m completely with him. What’s amazing about the Gospel is not what it makes of other people (for good or ill): it’s what it makes of me, which is that I am acceptable to God, and therefore I am acceptable to other people – not a lost cause which other people should rightfully shun.

In my own right, my own merit, I am a lost cause who ought to be shunned. Anyone in their right mind should not associate with me for what I am on my own – because I’m a loser on my own, morally, socially, and spiritually.

But in Christ, by what Christ has done, I have the right expectation that I am right with God – and that other who are like me in this regard are also right with God and therefore in the same standing and beautiful family that I belong to.

That expectation should make me generous to others spiritually, not stingy. And it should, as Pastor Ortlund says, make me a joy to be with.

Is that who you are? I know, I know: there are other questions to ask here – and I’ll ask them next week. Right now, let’s ask ourselves if our theology makes us people who are grateful to the point that we want to fellowship with everyone who is equally-blessed.

I suggest that it does not – and that’s a pretty serious problem.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I would say this is probably the best post I've ever read of yours, Frank (except for the one where you asked for prayer for me, which I still need :-)!

In Bible College, in my ecclesiology class, my most excellent prof Dr Rex Koivisto had us do what are called "ecclesiology builders;" we were required to visit three Christian denominations or traditions that were different than ours. The goal was to see if we could see a spirituality and vibrancy of Christ's life in the fellowships of these various "communions." This was a great exercise, and maybe a practical way for some of the readers here to concretely flesh out what Ortlund and you are talking about. That is that there are actually true Christians outside any given enclave or denomination. Surely sectarianism is rife in the church, which is really just fear; and people recoiling back to the safety of what they know. This is too easy, and Ray's call for following a Christ-centered/Gospel central hermeneutic is right on! Anyway, good one, Frank!!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I would echo Bobby Grow's affirmations as well.

"Right now, let’s ask ourselves if our theology makes us people who are grateful to the point that we want to fellowship with everyone who is equally-blessed."

Well, I'd like to adapt that fine self-introspective question to express the following:

"I'm grateful to the point that I, a conservative Bible-believing Protestant, can be and want to be a cultural co-belligerent alongside with conservative Roman Catholics and conservative Eastern Orthodox folks as fellow signers and supporters of the Manhattan Declaration which resolutely affirms the sanctity of life, biblical marriage, and religious liberty."

Anonymous said...

frank: great post with some very salient points.

i don't think my theology makes me look down on fellow believers; my fallenness takes care of that. it's when i let go of the gospel that i become haughty. it's when i take my eyes off Jesus that i begin to feel smug and superior to others. my theology helps me remember the great and mighty extent of God's redeeming work in my life and the life of my brothers and sisters. it's when i choose to ignore it that i become arrogant, dismissive, and cold.

oh that i would constantly warm myself at the gospel fireside, never to drift, eager to share the Radiance.

Hanani Hindsfeet said...

The first sentence in the Ortlund quote is the best, it really puts everything in Christian life in perspective and defines for us what Christianity is.

But the section Frank has highlighted is probably the most challenging, because we should all know the gospel unites the church and probably all of us agree with it in theory...this really does challenge the boundaries we might apply to relationships with other Christians. It also asks deep questions of the heart.

One problem is, all of us who are serious about biblical truth probably succumb to the temptation of holding people at arm's length (if not further) if they do not have that great theology check list we are looking for.

Given that the balance can sometimes be tricky to judge in terms of standing for what is right while ensuring we display true Christian love for those who may err on some significant, but non-essential points, I have to wonder Frank whether you have posted this with the ongoing legalism-Fundamentalism discussion in mind.

I don't know if anyone else sees a connection between the two, but I think I can...

FX Turk said...

Please excuse TUaD's obsessive-compulsive disorder.

On a recent WHI, Horton & Co. made the statement (which many others have made in the past) that we are not saved by our faith in the doctrines of Christ: we are saved by Christ. This is said so often around the blogosphere, in fact, that it is a sort of truism -- a platitude. It's greeting-card theology.

The problem is that we do not have faith in doctrine: we have faith, and our doctrines describe the kind of faith we have. That is: the doctrine one espouses tells us in whom and in what one has faith. There are other ways to describe the kind of faith we have as well -- as James points out in his letter in the New Testament.

I say that to make sure we don't start talking about what I'm going to talk about next week -- but I also don't want this to turn into a discussion about the breadth of ecumenism. We're talking about being in fellowship with people who actually have faith in Christ.

That's all I have to say about that right now.

JG said...

I think one way to self-diagnose an answer to the question is this: are we more active in converting non-believers to becoming believers, or converting the non-reformed into becoming reformed? I know that for me personally, in the past it has been the latter. My family back in my home state goes to a (small) church where nearly every sermon and Sunday School lesson centers on the 5 points of Calvinism...to the point that they were studying "Calvinist" verses in order to be able to "disprove" the "Arminian" verses.

I grew up being taught reformed theology by my parents, but in a church that didn't address it. As a result I have had the opportunity to have great relationships with other believers with whom I disagree on this point, and I hope I always can.

Do I think reformed theology is the most correct interpretation of Scripture? Yes. Do I think I've reached some sort of higher plain of enlightenment than those who do not have reformed theology? I'm sorry to say, some days, the answer is "yes." But as dan said earlier, that's my prideful (fallen) nature talking, not the theology.

John said...

Excellent post Frank - accolades.

The more I meditate on my depravity; on my own sin (past, present, and future); what Christ did for me - and all of that - the lower I become. I am chief among sinners. And I'm so grateful to God I am finally beginning to learn THAT.

Maybe we should all spend more time removing the log from our own eyes so we might more clearly see the speck in our brothers' eyes.

Who's my "brother?" There you go again...

James Scott Bell said...

I'm very glad to have read these words in this space. Much needed, not just here, but across many boards. (Including that board in my own eye.)

The Damer said...

TUAD is the poster child for everything that is wrong with the reformed blogosphere.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Right now, let’s ask ourselves if our theology makes us people who are grateful to the point that we want to fellowship with everyone who is equally-blessed."

Frank Turk: "Please excuse TUaD's obsessive-compulsive disorder."

Damer: "TUAD is the poster child for everything that is wrong with the reformed blogosphere."

"...we want to fellowship with everyone who is equally-blessed."


Merlin said...

Where does one begin to draw the line? Should one draw a line at all?

I've posted before about my Anglican roots. I would say at this point that the leadership of the American Episcopal Church is so far away from what can be called Christian as to be frightening. At the same time, there are still many true Christians lost within the pews of those Churches. Would I be happy or pleasant sitting next to the presiding bishop? No, to be honest, I wouldn't be.

So, I guess my point is this. The work of educating the faithful does not end when they begin to attend Church regularly, regardless of where they are. I think there is much to learn from Christians in decidedly less Christian places and people to shy away from in supposedly Christian places. I'm just not smart enough to tell the difference.

So, therefore, where does one begin to draw the line? Should a line be drawn at all?

naturgesetz said...

I like to say that salvation is not a matter of passing a theology test.

jmarinara said...

"how perfect . . . does someone have to be for you to fellowship with them? Specifically, how “perfect” does their ability to spell out all the consequences of the Gospel have to be? How perfect does their spelling of p-r-o-p-i-t-i-a-t-i-o-n have to be to allow them your fellowship and your brethrenliness in Christ?"

Well, for the average everyday believer, I think that there is a minimum standard of theology that should be met before reasonably calling themselves a believer. What I mean is that if a person's theology makes them, say, polytheistic, than clearly they aren't saved. How could you be saved if you mis-understand something so fundamental to the faith you claim to hold too?

That said, I'm not going to expect every single believer, all of whom are at different stages of growth, knowledge, and understanding (not to mention intelligence, study, and education) to know every fine, or even broad, detail of theology.

But for me, it's different when it comes to someone who is putting themselves out there as a leader. If you are going to call yourself a minister, or have a "ministry", or lead a Bible Study, or something to that effect, you had better get this stuff right. You had better understand what you are leading people towards.

This is why I have very little respect for guys like Billy Graham and Rick Warren. They're fundamentally wrong about a number of things, they've been shown that they're fundamentally wrong, they claim to have the education and knowledge to KNOW they're fundamentally wrong, and yet they cling to their fundamental wrongness (if that's even a word).

THAT is crossing a line.

Another thing, if the difference I have with the person has nothing to do with the gospel, then I tend to not care as much, even if I know they're wrong from scripture and not just my own opinion or belief. This doesn't mean I don't care, it just means I'm most sensitive to the Gospel being wrong.

Bottomline: I try to give grace and the benefit of the doubt to your average everyday believer that's not trying to lead or put him/herself out there as someone to be followed. Those who do put themselves out there I hold to a higher standard, especially when it comes to the Gospel.

Good topic Frank.

Anonymous said...


True. But while no one should be out there administering theology tests...can someone who wants to be maturing as a Christian fail a theology test with no twinge of conscience?

Merlin. Clearly a line must be drawn as to what is orthodox and what is not. I don't hear Ray Ortlund or Frank saying that since we should be in fellowship with those with whom we disagree (sometimes vigourously) on theological issues, that theology doesn't matter.

Clearly it matters. Where we fall down is on the issue of when, and to what degree, it brings division.

We're good at dividing when it's necessary, but not so good at not dividing when it's not necessary.

Incidentally, this is what makes the T4G and other conferences so good. When John MacArthur and R.C Sproul can share the podium, they understand something others of us often forget.

Unknown said...

Right now, let’s ask ourselves if our theology makes us people who are grateful to the point that we want to fellowship with everyone who is equally-blessed.

If I was answering that posed question, I would unfortunately have to answer no regarding what goes on in my head in practice. I tend to be very dismissive of true Christians who I believe hold to bad theology. I personally tend to zero in on sensationalist Charismania, anti-Calvinists, and functional Pelagian/semi-Pelagianists.

Why do I do this? Pride is probably at the root of it (although I am firm in my convictions to the "white, black, and grey"). Pride and dismissiveness (might I note that this is an antithesis of love) seep their poison into my theological convictions and I then tend to essentially despise and look down on other Christians. Other, real, living, justified, washed in Christ' blood, Christians.

It goes without saying that this is wrong. Ortlund has excellent points and his words are worthy of consideration. Alas, may I leave with a simple reminder to me and you: love our brethren (1 Cor. 13).

Shameless promotion: I think I found a new topic to write on at my blog. (http://arguingwithangels.blogspot.com) I will post something on this before the end of the week.

FX Turk said...


When you equate "love of fellow Christians" with "signing the Manhattan Decalraltion", you bring it on yourself.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I guess if I didn't feel this way I'd be perpetually miserable - since I've never attended a church where I agreed with everything taught there!

DJP said...

Frank, for years and years I've struggled with how to express this concisely.

Someone screws up
He's confronted with the truth
1. Makes the necessary correction; or
2. Dedicates his life to making his bad look good

Work that up and get back to me, won't you?

FX Turk said...

I just want to point out that this post was about "why" we should show love to one another -- especially because of our high-falutin' theology. That is: what causes me to be lovable, and to want to love others.

The questions of "who is a believer" and "how do I love him" and "when do I break out the torches and pitchforks" are not really part of this post.

The question asked explicitly in this post is: Right now, let’s ask ourselves if our theology makes us people who are grateful to the point that we want to fellowship with everyone who is equally-blessed.

FX Turk said...



Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Frank Turk,

If you read my first comment more carefully, you'll notice that I did not equate what you claim I did.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Stratagem: "I guess if I didn't feel this way I'd be perpetually miserable - since I've never attended a church where I agreed with everything taught there!"

Have you never attended the Church of One?


Sven Pook said...

Thanks Frank, something else to feel like I'm getting it wrong =)

Oddly enough, in the area I live, an Anglican church is the closest to reformed teaching. The father, whose dad attends the local community church, thinks his son is way off base. Of course, the father (not the dad) points out that he is not an Episcopal. Interesting guy whom I have no problem hangin' out with . . . those people at the community church, not so much. . .

Dang, I just revealed how far short I fall AGAIN

naturgesetz said...

Frank, thanks for restating the question, with emphasis supplied.

I think it is fair to say that for me the answer is, "Yes." I'm not saying I'm perfect at it, or that I don't sometimes manifest a controversialist and divisive attitude. But it does grieve me that there are Christians who are unwilling to fellowship with me, and in my own small ways I try to overcome the divisions they place.

joel said...

'Right now, let’s ask ourselves if our theology makes us people who are grateful to the point that we want to fellowship with everyone who is equally-blessed.

I suggest that it does not – and that’s a pretty serious problem.'

Frank, if our theology is our deepest knowledge and understanding of God and your suggest, rightfully so, that we should want to fellowship with others equally-blessed, but that our theology hinders that. Wouldn't that mean that we have in part bad theology? What do you think that bad theology is, I sincerely would like to know? If my theology is hindering my activities as a Christian then it is not theology but Idolatry.

Merlin said...

Giving this a little redirection, it is exactly the other Christians with whom I disagree that attract me as the people with whom I want to associate. Better conversation that way, you know. So, yes, I seek them out to understand and learn their positions better. They may not enjoy the fellowship with me so much....

dwitzke said...

Thank you, Frank, for this. When we consider that we will spend eternity with the SAINTS (not the -ists, or the -ites, or -isms, nor any other titled group, but every person who is a genuine blood-bought believer), it is a good call back to a proper perspective and attitude, when we start thinking about real fellowship, and edification.

Not that we don't stand for truth and distinctions. But that our hearts demonstrate the love of Christ. Kind of like Paul giving thanks to God for the Corinthians, while yet admonishing and exhorting them in their sanctification.

joel said...

I have dear friends who are pentacostal, and I love to spend time with them as often as I can. My theology causes me to grieve that I can not fellowship with them more fully. No snarkyness intended at all, but I can't in good conscience bring my family into a church to sit under the teaching of a woman pastor and be instructed in pursuing speaking in tongues and listening to the Spirit speak to us individually.

Anonymous said...

I think that the extent to which our theology doesn't drive us to being that kind of grateful people who will gladly associate with other gospel-blessed folk, is the extent to which we either have our theology wrong, or the extent to which we don't really understand what it is we claim to believe.

It's a given that our theology isn't perfect. I fear that I don't truly believe, or at least always believe, or at least act like I believe, what I claim to be Biblical truth.

Besides, as Stratagem alluded to...do any Christians who know that they disagree with me theologically, still love me?


So what's my excuse?

FX Turk said...


We all want to be the brother who is forgiven by Christ but still struggles with the daily fact of progressive sanctification -- that is, that we are justified before God even if every thought is not captive to Christ. In fact, we all see ourselves this way if I know anything about the people I have encountered.

So all of us see ourselves as someplace between your #1 and #2. And I think factually we are all someplace between #1 and #2.

The problem is that we all (starting with me) want to be treated like #1 and are prone to treat everyone else like #2.

Therein lies the problem ...

FX Turk said...


Your next comment in this thread will get you banned, even if you say "I am sorry for badgering Frank".

The log in your eye is monsterous, and you are proud of it. Please go away.

Saved By Faith Alone said...


Don't have time to read all the fine posts here so if I step on someone I apologize...

What occurred to me as I was reading Ortland's Twitter and then Frank's response was the following:

If there is anything that a true Christian admits freely, it's that our knowledge and understanding of Scripture is somewhat like our sanctification. It's a process that will not be completed until the "end of days".

If this is true, then how could we ever expect complete agreement on anything but that which is the very essence of "The Gospel" which of course is "Christ and Him Crucified" In fact, without the leading of the Holy Spirit did any of the Apostles have a perfect understanding? Who but Christ knew (was in) the Father and therefore knew the Father's desires perfectly?

Dan H.

David Regier said...

Would I be in communion with a guy that had the theology I had 20, 10, 5 years ago? Would I love that guy, or hate him?

Would I believe that that guy could be changed by humbly receiving the word of God implanted which is able to save his soul? Would I believe that God's word would not return void in his life, even though he's as stubborn as an ass?

Rachael Starke said...

I'm so glad you picked this up Frank. I was getting a headache from pounding my head against the wall at some of the reactions to the post at B2W.

I had a major shift in my thinking about this issue after first reading Piper's "Finally Alive" on the doctrine of regeneration a few years ago. That book opened my eyes, not only to all of the implications that doctrine has for sanctification, but all of the implications for Christian unity too. If you bear evidence of regeneration - love for the Lord Jesus, turning from sin and towards God and His righteousness - you're family. You have the same Holy Spirit I do. He doesn't separate from Himself, or argue with Himself. All that comes from our flesh and our ignorance.

It's ironic to me that so many of the separatist types, who are so all about doctrine, including, I'm assuming, the doctrine of regeneration, don't, well, emphasize that particular aspect of that particular doctrine.

Terry Rayburn said...

This is an important post that deserves re-visiting from time to time.

I didn't hear Frank say that truth isn't extremely important.

I did hear him rating love way up there in our rightful priorities.

Isn't that what Paul was doing when he said that without love we are clanging gongs and even "nothing" (1 Cor. 13)?

Or when he wrote, "...faith, hope, and love, these three...but the greatest of these is love."?

It's great to hear this biblical, refreshing and vital message from someone who has the credibility of caring about truth (as opposed to, say, some guy whining about loving everybody while they ask "hath God said?" about the rest of the Scriptures).

Excellent, Frank.

CR said...

Frank: That is: what causes me to be lovable, and to want to love others. snip snip

Right now, let’s ask ourselves if our theology makes us people who are grateful to the point that we want to fellowship with everyone who is equally-blessed.

What causes Christians to be love his brother (or his neighbor for that matter) is the love he has for Christ. If he has that right vertical relationship with Christ and loves Him that love will overflow to his brother and his neighbor. Having the right theology is part of it, but it is not all of it.

Having the right theology is part of it because if you don't have a right understanding of who God is then how can you love a God who you don't have a correct understanding of. But of course, having a right understanding of who God is not sufficient.

Stefan Ewing said...


This is a wonderful post, and providentially well-timed for me, as God is challenging me right now on the broadness of my tent, and bringing to remembrance something that happened a year ago, the first time I was challenged to walk outside of my theological bubble.

I was riding on the bus, and out of nowhere, a lady sitting nearby was going through what could only be described as an intense spiritual crisis, and cried out for someone to pray with her...in tongues (!).

I replied back that I would pray with her, but I couldn't pray in tongues. For the next several minutes, I ministered to a sister in Christ, praying out loud for Jesus' protection, a couple of "crazy Christians" inadvertently witnessing on a crowded bus.

I later found out that she goes to a Foursquare church, and you probably couldn't have found two born again believers with such completely different theologies, and yet I was able to serve her in the love of Christ.

Stefan Ewing said...

"...and yet I was challenged to serve her in the love of Christ," I meant to write.

mike said...

our issue here is that just as we tend to live a pendulum lifestyle in regards to freedom and legalism, we swing (as a group) from discernment to inclusion.

i believe that extremes in any of those areas bring problems.

if we could learn to defend the honor of God, instead of our own, this would get easier.

Unknown said...


I'm so glad to see this post. I've been reading this blog for about a month now. My overall impression has not been one of inclusive loving fellowship, but rather a group of guys who all believe they are guarding the last outpost of truth.

While I may agree with 90% or so of the doctrine being defended here, I have also been offended by the seemingly arrogant, dismissive, and divisive overtone of many of the posts.

Pastors and theologians who don't fit into the mold of what the authors have decided is universal truth are treated with contempt pretty regularly here.

I am all for the defense of the truth and exposing false teachers, but unless this is done in a Christ pleasing manner what is it worth to the kingdom of Heaven?

I like this blog for the truth being spoken and the continuous challenges to think beyond myself. I would exhort you and your cohorts to continue to speak the truth, but also to make certain it is being done in love.

Bobby Grow said...


Stop it, I'm starting to like you ;-).

Scot said...

I very much agree with Frank here. Dr. Ortlund's was well written and convicting.

I'll try and answer Frank's question. I think Reformed theology is good and proper biblical theology. The problem is us. We are all sinners.

I'll use myself. I delight in being right and others being wrong. I think I'm right most of the time, and it's a rare time I when I listen to another's disagreeing viewpoint, pause and consider it, and then say, "I hear what you're saying but I still disagree."

This isn't humility and love because I've been forgiven much; this is pride that I got 100% on the test.

Paul delighted in the truth(Christ crucified for our sins), but he delighted in sharing it with others. He held to the truth, but he didn't want the monopoly on it. He wants as many who would believe on the truth to take it as their own. He sought to beat his body into conformity with the truth that he had been forgiven much and as such he is one who loves much.

I'm sure someone on this blog has answered this much more succulently than me, but that's my try.

jmb said...

"In my own right, my own merit, I am a lost cause who ought to be shunned. Anyone in their right mind should not associate with me for what I am on my own – because I’m a loser on my own, morally, socially, and spiritually."

Does this mean that believers who associate with non-believers are not in their right mind? Not being snarky - just want to understand what you're saying.

The Blainemonster said...

Good stuff, Frank - excellent points. I'm kind of working this out in real time in my current situation as a burgeoning Calvinist working in an A/G church. My lead pastor has his suspicions about me ;), but we're happily working together for Jesus. (This isn't an over-the-top angry Arminian A/G church. We just want to love people and preach the Gospel mostly (: )

bp said...

Ahh, jmb, but Frank was proly talking about anyone in their fallen right mind. But we have the mind of Christ, and He’s all about hanging out w/losers (like us) ;)

FX Turk said...


I'm saying that anyone -- fallen or saved -- who wants to be associated with a winner will not associate with me. Anyone who is saved, and sees that others are saved, will see me as God sees me because I am saved.

Saved people who "hang out with the lost" are trying to save them -- an inversion of the logic of why one hangs out with winners.

Thanks for asking.

jmb said...

Thanks, Frank (and bp), for clearing that up.

Rob Bailey said...

Summation of this issue is I Cor 8. I also disagree with the opening sentence of the quote. It is not the gospel that unifies the church, it is Christ.

Bobby Grow said...

Rob. . . It is not the gospel that unifies the church, it is Christ.

I thought God's life in Christ was the Gospel; what else qualifies as the Gospel, some propositions? The Gospel is a person, that's what Paul's in Christ theology is all about and presupposes (Trinitarian through and through).

Barbara said...

Reading this thread, oh, my goodness. And here I just hunger for fellowship with those who love the Lord and whose deepest desire is to just worship Him in Spirit and in Truth and love Him with all that they are - period. I don't know a greater joy, but I do know that it's all too rare.

donsands said...

"My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them?"


I have non-reformed friends who are heroes to me. I feel unworthy to be their friend.
And yet, we at times will argue predestination and such things. We will have different Christian authors we admire, and so we can get under one anther's fingernails, but bottom line, I love and car about these friends, and pray with all my heart for them, and if they asked me for any favor I would do my best to help them.

I love the Reformed doctrines, and so I do have to be on guard. When I';m with other Reformed believers and we have one of those feeding frenzies of tearing the non-reformed brothers up.

Thanks for the post. Good stuff to take to heart.

All for the Cross of our Lord and Friend, Jesus Christ.

FX Turk said...

Don't answer Bobby, Rob.

It's a trap.

DJP said...

Did somebody say...?

donsands said...

I watched Star Wars VI the other night with my grandson, and when we came to that part, I thought of "T-Pyro". That scene from now on will have a bit more meaning. And that's cool thing.

Bobby Grow said...


My point was rhetorical, there's really no answer to my question needed . . . so don't worry about.

My point was to counter-respond to your point --- you seem to make a false dichotomy between Jesus and the Gospel. They are one in the same; that's what the logic of Scripture suggests, in fact more, it proclaims. Case in point: Jesus said:

I am the the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father except through Me ~Jn 14:6

Here is an example of how Jesus personifies or IS the Gospel. When we come to Paul he appeals to different grammar but the same logic; just follow all of his usages of in Christ. Here we see Paul's theology of Union with Christ; w/o it, we don't have eternal life (see Rom 8:4ff; Eph 5:18ff; II Cor. 5:17; and esp. I Cor. 6:17). In this scheme eternal life (or the Gospel) = or is Jesus Christ and/or God's life (thus its Trinitarian underpinnings). If we don't have Christ, if we don't have the Spirit in us; then we don't have eternal life (paraphrase Rom 8:9-11). The conclusion has to be that Jesus IS the Gospel (otherwise we would have to posit that there is some other ontological category called Gospel or eternal life that is somehow abstracted from God's life . . . and we don't want to do that).

I hope that helps clarify, Rob.


I would be happy to debate you at your debate blog on why the Gospel is a Person and not a Proposition. Want to go a few rounds? This would give me something to do while recovering :-) (it would be a nice pick me up ;-).

Anonymous said...

Frank, Here is an example of your post applied in real life. I grew up in an area where there was narya
Calvinist in sight. And to me, an Arminian lived in Eurasia.

As a child I remember worrying compulsively about the age of accountability, if I was good enough to go to heaven, and maybe this alter call was the one to hold.

As I grew older I stopped worrying so much. My mantra in college was "all roads lead to Rome." Yet believing with great assurance that I was a Christian.

My Father was diagnosed with lung cancer, and it just so happened his respiratory therapist was from the reformed faith (the first calvinist I had ever met), although I had no idea what that was.

A great relationship of trust developed between my Father, my family, and the therapist.

Those were 6 long months in the hospital. I had conversations with the therapist where I spouted absolute religious nonsense. And he seemed to speak in a different language altogether with words like propitiation, regeneration, monergism, sanctification, synergism.

He would listen to my garbage, and never roll his eyes. Then he would respectfully set me straight, and I would roll my eyes.

But the respect I felt for him eventually led me to read one of the books he gave me. His weird language began to make sense. And I even tackled Pilgrim's Progress while my Father was in the hospital.

My Father passed away in 1994. Sixteen yrs later I am still friends with the therapist.

This is proof that one can still "honor all men" while correcting their garbage in a respectful way.

You may be the first Calvinist they have ever met. So are you an arrogant jerk, or someone who cares enough about the Truth to frame it in a way that would honor our Savior?

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Coram Deo said...

""...we want to fellowship with everyone who is equally-blessed."

Does this desire extend to those who operate discernment blogs (not the 5% of "good ones", but the 95% that consist of "drive-by theology vomited out by anonymous, unaccountable people")?

Does your theology make you want to fellowship with those folks, or are they not equally-blessed?

In Christ,

Morris Brooks said...

Several years ago during a teaching trip to Ukraine I was met a another pastor who invited me to come and preach at his church, which I did. In fact, I came back a year later and preached again. Both times I stayed with him and his family. During my second trip, after dinner one evening he turned to me and asked, "Does it bother you that we speak in tongues?" To which I replied, "No, it does not." His reponse was, "Good, because it doesn't bother us that you don't."

The Lord allowed me to bring some reformed theology to them, and share the love of Christ with them, and they loved me in return.

Doctrine is important. Being precise is important. But speaking the truth in love keeps us from being a clanging cymbal, and a noisy gong, and goes a long way with promoting unity amidst diversity.

Bobby Grow said...

Let me clarify before I run, I know this is starting to stray from Franks great post here. While I do not believe the Gospel is ontologically propositional; I do believe that epistemologically it does become propositional, in the sense that we must make assertions about Jesus about the Gospel alongside and under the authority of the original 'Evangelists' (in the "Gospels"). This is a fine line, but I think an important one; the Gospel is ultimately a relation of persons (Trinity); it is penultimately "communicated" to us in terms set out propositionally.

Sorry, back to Franks' excellent post. We love, because He first loved us . . .

CR said...

Rob and Bobby,

Succinctly, the gospel (of Jesus Christ) is this: the revelation of God's way of righteousness. In short, it's this, while we were His enemies, still blackened and sinful, God not only forgives us for our sins (which is wonderful) but that He gives us the righteousness of Christ so that we are in right standing with God. He not only regards us as if we never sinned before, but regards as righteous.

Ortlund says what proves that the gospel "hermeneutic" has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on others and if he means that if we remain humble, I don't disagree with that. The fact is, that while we were still enemies, God loved us, should keep us humble. But I think the better proof is that this good news is the most wonderful news we've ever heard in our lives.

Now, Ortlund is saying basically, can you move on and enjoy yourself among other non-Reformed groups/people? Ortlund is saying it's the gospel that unites us. I couldn't agree more, if in fact, we do embrace and rejoice (and don't remain ad infinitum hostile to) the actual gospel of Jesus Christ. I say amen. It is the gospel that unites us, I agree with that part of his statement.

But I think what happens when dealing with certain people in these non-Reformed groups is that they are continually hostile (and by hostile I don't mean they have to reject it in a mean way, they just reject it) some or all of the doctrines of grace. Can we or should we just, "move on" with them. I don't think so.

Why? Well, I won't mention names, but we already have witnessed on a few threads the effects of not really understanding the gospel. They still look to themselves, they say, but I'm still so sinful, I wonder if I'm a child of God. They can't stop looking to themselves. And we know what the result of looking to ourselves is: hopelessness, depression, misery and despair.

Do we just "move on" and be a "fun person to be around with?" I, I, don't think so. It's too important not to contend with because maybe that non-Reformed person is not in a state of misery or depression or despair yet, but there's going to be a point in his life where he's going to have to deal with that.

I'm glad a friend contended with me the Reformed doctrines of grace because what happens in sanctification as the Spirit is working in us, we become more sensitive to sin and had I not known these biblical doctrines I would be a terribly depressed and miserable person looking to myself all the time. Should we look down on others? No, because while we were still enemies, God loved us. Should we just move on and be a fun Christian to be around with? I can't get a 100% behind that.

Bobby Grow said...


Thank you, I don't disagree with you; my last clarifying comment should make that true. But to say the the Gospel is different than Jesus just does jive with the theo-logic of Scripture. You, by paraphrasing Paul have provided the epistemological "what" of the Gospel; which is first and foremostly grounded in the ontological "who" of the Gospel. Jesus IS the Gospel, I've provided plenty of passages of scripture that either explicitly make this clear or presuppose it in Paul's "union" language.

Thanks for the feedback.

philness said...


I'm gonna go with assurance in our salvation is what causes us to want to love others. I was feeding from Isaiah 31&32 today and it may be a stretch but Isaiah 32:17 seems to make my point here.

If by in the process of us working out our own salvation to the extent that we see ourselves successful at performing righteously I think we have a tendency to believe we had a lot more to do with that righteousness than we should claim. So much to the warped extent that we snub our nose's at others who are not so successful and then we arrogantly scheme day and night to quarrel with them. And its as if in some weird way we are jealous of the fact that since we had to say no to sin they should suffer too at it.

Do we think that we are self taught? Or are we so high in the delight of the Lord in ourselves that we restrain or intercept His love from reaching others?

I say assurance in our salvation is the cause that drives us to love others because the only thing I can think of that gives me the assurance that I am saved are those sweet moments that I experience the power and ease of His yoke at work in me to say no to sin. And if I dare claim myself any credit for that, I stop the flow of love to others.

FX Turk said...

Poor Coram Deo. Somehow his own discernment fails him in the matter Paul calls 'the better way' - which is is found in 1Cor 13. He has a Bible, and he can read up on that himself when he has a few minutes.

As this post relates to that question, however, let me say this as clearly as possible: telling someone to stop what they are doing when they are in the wrong is the epitome of love. This is actually a cornerstone of watchblogger ethic - that the lone Christian has the obligation to tell anyone he meets "U R DOOIN IT RONG", as if one was Moses Lolcat, because correction (in his view) is the primary way we express love.

Unless, of course, one is talking to the infallible magisterium of watchbloggers. At that point, you had better capitulate to the anonymous league of post-apostolic, post-puritan cardinals, or expect the Spanish Inquisition. Forever.

Saying that, I love watchbloggers, and I'd love it if they all found other hobbies. Today I love them because Christ's work compells me, and when they finally repent I'll be overjoyed to love them for the outworking of their repentence, but less sacrificially.

Hope that helps.

Coram Deo said...

I'm not sure how helpful that response actually was, Frank; but it was rather revealing.

For all your usual ability to appreciate fine distinctions, and understand nuance, you once again lump together an entire genre of bloggers (the 95-percenters) and caricature them negatively.

Are there some really bad watchbloggers out there? Of course!

Are there some that are truly edifying and Christ-honoring? Of course!

But there's apparently no distinction in your mind. And it's not even as though you caricature them as well meaning yet miguided Biblically-impoverished lone rangers on ill-advised Jeremiads. Such would at least demonstrate some level of actual patience and love on your part towards your errant brethren, but no.

You characterize them as a self-appointed "magisterium" and deride them as subjecting those who disagree with them to treatment akin to that doled out during the "Spanish Inquisition". Can you see the rich irony here, Frank?

Is it really the love of Christ that compels you to sacrificially love those with whom you disagree by equating them with a corrupted body that has arrogated to itself the role of the Holy Spirit Himself (the infallible magisterium) and their work as being equivalent to the Spanish Inquisition?!?

Really Frank? 'Cuz I can tell that I'm not feeling the love, brother and although I smell something, it doesn't smell like the pleasing aroma of the love of Christ. It smells more like a pair of sweaty gym socks that have been left in the locker festering for way too long.

As far as your much vaunted high view of repentance and reconciliation, that's a good thing, but methinks log should meet mote in genuine repentance because (at least on this subject) your level of snark and hyperbole belies something other than the sacrificial love of Christ you claim.

Think about it.

In Christ,

d4v34x said...

Is it just me, or did I miss the NT exhortation to make sure we are "fun to be around?"

I'll bet the Apostle John was a hoot at pot luck dinners.

My point is that I wonder if our concept brotherly love and fellowship is rather malnourished due to the culture in which we live.

(Verification Word: rantory. Heh.)

David Rudd said...

Frank, great post.

too bad the comments have been derailed by people saying,

"well, do you love me then?"

instead of

"wow, who do i need to love?"

well done.

Matt Aznoe said...

I was greatly encouraged to see this blog post today. I was raised in Calvinist churches, but quite honestly was turned off to Reformed doctrine specifically because of the lack of love and humility exhibited in the Reformed camp. There needs to be a respect and love for all who belong to Christ.

I wonder if part of the problem is that we have added to the Gospel. The Gospel is simple: God is holy and we are sinners, God became a man, Jesus Christ, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead to prove He had conquered sin and death. To those who believe in Him and the payment for their sins through His shed blood, he has offered forgiveness, peace with God, and eternal life. Belief is not merely mental ascent to facts but results in a life of faith and obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, we have added to this. Some say you must be a five point Calvinist to be saved. Or you must believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. Or you must read the right translation of the Bible. Etc. Etc.

I think we need to get back to the basics of what the Gospel is as spelled out by Jesus and the apostles. In trying to explain every minute detail of exactly how salvation works, I think we muddy the water and invite division and intellectual pride.

Anonymous said...


Pardon me for jumping into a conversation already in progress but I just had to ask for some clarification.

If I read your comment correctly...

1. You are offering a critique of watch bloggers on a blog that some may consider to be somewhat 'watch bloggish'.

2. The hope that you expressed on this blog is that watch bloggers would repent.

It would seem to me that you are tacitly arguing that watch bloggers (except for you of course) are in error for critiquing people and calling them to repent.

In other words, its okay for YOU to critique other people and hope that they repent but its not okay for them (the ODMs) to critique people and hope that they repent.

How exactly did you get this special dispensation from the Lord to make it okay for you to critique people for critiquing without being guilty of critiquing?

Ed Dingess said...

True enough as long as we can agree on what consitutes "other believers." Too often, these comments are made in an attempt to open the church to alternative lifestyles, and overt heresy. Assuming we are talking about "true believers" the I agree; awesome post. And I am sure you mean true believers. I do not know the good pastor you reference so I must reserve comment on what he means due to a lack on context, speaking hermeneutically. :-)

Bobby Grow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joel said...

Chris Rosebrough,

I Think you are missing the point. Frank had some valid criticism and observations about WatchBloggers. Just because he is one himself does not mean that he is exempt from trying to offer correction. As far as I know Frank has never claimed to be infallible or above correction. It is kind of like if you said that a pastor who wrote a paper being critical of improper methods of church discipline can never carry out church discipline himself because he would tacitly be claiming that his methods of church discipline are above reproach. That sir is a non sequitur. If people were half as concerned about wether a criticism levied at them were of any substance or had any basis in truth as they were about the tone of the criticizer or wether the criticizer himself was as pure as the wind driven snow then there would be a lot more people who would benefit from correction.

TAR said...

I have Born again friends and family of all stripes.. They may think I am nuts because of my reformed views, but I cherish Christian fellowship with them.

However i would not choose to have membership in a non reformed church ... I think we have a responsibility to proclaim the sovereignty of God in all things and to hold to those teachings .

I can love those that are Roman Catholic or Orthodox but I will not have fellowship or any political ties with them that have a spiritual base.. my only responsibility to the is to present the gospel, not make pacts or agreements with them

Titus said...

You missed spelled Propitiation... it doesn't have all those dashes in the word.

Aaron said...

That expectation should make me generous to others spiritually, not stingy. And it should, as Pastor Ortlund says, make me a joy to be with.

That's a pretty incredible truth. And I confess that I am often tempted to be stingy because I have difficulty accepting Christians who don't fit within my doctrinal checklist. Interestingly, with all the misapplication of the "weaker brother" passage in Romans to support abstinence from all sorts of things, this is actually the proper context for Paul's instructions.

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.

Pretty much what you said. WE ought to be generous towards others and not spiritually stingy over issues that don't center around the gospel.

FX Turk said...

I am certain that Coram Deo did not expect the Spanish Inquisition. However, that link is my response to him.

FX Turk said...

For our favorite Pirate Christian:

1. At the link I posted for Coram Deo, which goes back to my personal blog, I defined the difference between legit apologetics & teaching and watch-blogging. Anonymous people who are not accountable, not correctable, cannot apologize when they are wrong, and who revise the record of their blog/ministry when caught messing up are "watchbloggers". Greg Koukl, James White, Ken Silva and you (as a short list of examples) are not.

Reputable discernment ministries (and reputable bloggers, for that matter -- you don't have to be an elder in a church to be a decent writer and think) should not fall into the trap that the "careful charismatics" fall into all the time. That is: the careful charismatics don't rebuke/disavow the awful charlatans like Todd Bentley until after they have discredited themselves through moral failure, after many have been bilked, for fear of being seen as a "heretic hunter" and discrediting their movement through skepticism. The careful bloggers, apologists, and theologians should openly discredit anonymous drive-by slanderers who don't have any visible accountability.

The reason is simple: truth should not allow itself to be mixed with error.

You should not want to be seen as a "watchblogger". You should not see TeamPyro as such. And you should not allow others to see it that way, either. You're definitely that smart.

2. Nope. I think that honest-to-God apologists and even merely-reasonable bloggers do a service for the church and fellow Christians. In that, there is often a call to repent.

Heckling anonymously from behind a keyboard is not the same thing, and those who do that without any accountability and with no intention of doing the right thing when they are wrong are not credibly calling people to repent. They are, to paraphrase Tim Challies has said, sanctimonious gossips.

As for my special dispensation, please think about the distinctions I have provided for you here. After having spent the last 6 years accountable to the men I blog with, the readers of this blog, the people I have critiqued, and my wife, family and church -- and having proven that I do, in fact, offer apologies and corrections when I stick my foot in it -- what I have demonstrated is something the watchblogs do not: accountability and moral responsibility.

That's not a "dispensation": that's simply being serious about my own credibility and intention to live the faith I say I believe.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the clarification and the well reasoned response.

I, like you find some watch bloggers to be over the top and theologically kooky and spooky.

Sadly, it is very common for people to lump me and others who are doing a yo man's work defending and proclaiming the Historic Christian faith in with those who are on the kook fringe. After all, in the view of many, I am the educational equivalent of a one toothed redneck from the Ozarks because I believe Jesus is the only way of salvation, I preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins, believe in hell and don't think you pass the Christian faith along by strip mining the scriptures to find practical advice for making things 'spicier' in the bedroom between you and the misses.

I've been shot at by so-called "friendly fire" more times than I can count and have come to consider it an occupational hazard. You should have seen the hate email that I received when I posted a public 'thank you' to Rick Warren for being a gracious host and inviting me to be his guest at the Purpose Driven Community Conference in 2008. Based upon the reaction of many you would have thought that I had signed a peace treaty with Lucifer himself.

Our exchanges over the past couple of days have opened my eyes to a few things and have me thinking and praying about them.

Do you think there is anything that can positively be done to address some of these glaring problems and more effectively glorify Christ in the ruff and tumble world of internet apologetics?

I sure am open to some new ideas here because I don’t see the need to defend and proclaim the Historic Christian faith against enemies both inside and outside the walls of Christendom to be going away anytime soon. And truth be told, irresponsible and theologically aberrant watch blogging is also a threat to the Body of Christ.

FX Turk said...

Chris --

First of all, God bless you. God bless you for being a high-value target for his name and for the sake of the cross. God bless you for being a serious person who has a sharp intellect and a love for people who are lost -- so much so that you have lost people whom you call "friend".

In that blessing, it's an urgent priorty to remember this: from the day of Jesus, and indeed the day of Moses, and indeed the day of Cain and Abel, the most serious threats to the good faith of those inside the covenants of God have been from inside the camp. Of course there are the threats from outside the camp -- generally sent by God to do James 1 to his people and to bring Glory to Himself. But it is the threat inside the camp which is the most serious.

As people apologetically-inclined, we tend to see the heretics are the ones whoare the most damgerous -- but I don't think God sees it that way. I think God sees people more concerned with their view of justice and their view of judgment and most concerned with being the ones dictating the terms of the faith of other sas most dangerous.

Consider it: is there any passage of Scripture more broadly-condemnatory than Mat 23? And why is that -- is it because the Scribes and Pharisees don't actually have the authority to teach? Of course not -- Jesus says to his listeners of them, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you— but not what they do." Jesus' view, as we see by the middle of the monologue, is that the Pharisees make converts but not to God: to their own damnable ways. And the ultimate statement from Jesus about them is clear: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would [God] have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" The ultimate condemnation of the Pharisees is that they will not bring God's people to God, will not bring them to Him for His purpose.


FX Turk said...


This is the worst condemnation in the whole Bible -- to those who have a seemingly-religious objective but who are turning people away from God. And in my opinion, this is what anonymous drive-by apologists are doing today -- in their churches and on the internet.

But what is the solution?

Let me suggest what I always suggest: The Gospel is the solution to Culture.

Here's what I mean by this: when Paul saw the problems, for example, of the Galatians, and the Corinthians, and the Cretans, and so on, his solution was not to think up a new program which causes people to work harder. It wasn't a new Scripture memory program. It was to remind them that Christ's death makes us new people. Except for gross immorality, or unrepentant and self-aggradizing teachers, every single problem in the church was met by Paul with the reminder that those in the church deserve the benefit of the doubt because Christ died for them. If they are good enough for Christ, they are good enough for me.

I think that we condemn the methods of the watchbloggers plainly and clearly -- but we also tell them: in repentance there is forgiveness, and in forgiveness we live in Christ.

I am not a guy who shies away from conflict: I think conflict is good when it can be resolved. I have grown a lot more through engaging conflict rather than avoiding it and seeing it through to honest conclusion than I have by running away from difficult topics and issues and relationships.

I think we engage the conflict (for example, as I did here with CD) with an eye on plainly telling them what they have done wrong, plainly saying why it is wrong, and calling them to repentance.

I think this is a turning point in popular apologetics, btw: the ability to drive humility and serious introspection back into the culture of apologetics is something that will not come from the Pipers and the Whites and the Koukls because they are above the fray. It is only going to come from guys like me and (I hope this does not offend, Chris, because you have a bigger platform than I do by a lot) guys like you making the right distinction when we run into these internet lynch mobs, and calling out the foibles so that these folks will learn what it menas to speak the truth in love.

Thanks for asking.

The bjjmissionary said...

I expect the Apostle John wouldn't have been much fun at a potluck - he wouldn't have been doing the ice breakers, that's for sure.

However, unless it's normative these days to be an Apostle of God entrusted with specific revelations, then maybe it comes down to how we treat our non-reformed brethren in everyday life, and the issue boils down to how maybe we have unncessarily put some noses out of joint in our efforts to become the self apppointed bulldog of Calvin.

In the light of this, maybe a bit of fun with love undergirding it may not be such a bad thing..

Steve Scott said...

"Right now, let’s ask ourselves if our theology makes us people who are grateful to the point that we want to fellowship with everyone who is equally-blessed.

I suggest that it does not – and that’s a pretty serious problem."

Do you mean our systematic theology? or our biblical theology?