Shepherds sneaking into the fold, undercutting "properly recognized and authorized shepherds"...

(Tim, with thanks to Dave C.) Commenters on this blog warn those who would "commit their very soul and eternal destiny to men (who preach) lacking the proper authority from God's ordinary means of salvation, the Church" pointing out that "the Church is the one given the task of calling and charging ministers with particular tasks and spheres of ministry." They conclude their warning: "Nor should we take kindly to supposed shepherds to sneak into the fold and take allegiance away from properly recognized and authorized shepherds..."

So I wonder who they'd side with in this battle? In this particular case (which is by no means rare across church history) who is it who is "lacking the proper authority from ...the church?" Who are the "properly recognized and authorized shepherds?"

One of the very many  problems with this Neo-Old School, Mark Noll, Daryl Hart argument is its failure to acknowledge that, by this very construct, John the Baptist, our Lord, and the Apostles all abrogated to themselves authority that bypassed those who claimed to be the only true successors to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Aaron. In other words, John the Baptist, our Lord, and every one of the Apostles were "lacking the proper authority ...from the church," and were not "properly recognized and authorized shepherds."

Now of course, our Neo-Old School brothers may be fleet of foot, responding to this objection by saying that John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles all had the anointing of the Lord, and therefore were themselves the rightful successors to Aaron. But this is begging the question. Who knew it at the time except through the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Weren't the Apostles "unschooled, ordinary men?" And if so, what on earth gave them the right to preach, teach, and baptize?

Fact is, all through the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic church used the same arguments used by our Neo-Old School brothers today to silence evangelical ministries ordained and empowered by the Spirit of God. And those who oppose such ministries as those of Whitefield, Edwards, and the Tennents need to pause and ask themselves what, after all, the Word of God does mean when it warns us not to quench the Holy Spirit?

Officialdom is good, but officialdom is also quite dangerous and must be used with meekness and humility lest we're left with the Sanhedrin and the temple courts filled with merchants, every one of which has the proper certification stamped with the imprimatur of the proper ecclesiastical authority.

When Calvin and Luther set about to reform the Roman Catholic Church, Rome's officialdom made precisely the same arguments against them as are still being made today against men such as Whitefield, Edwards, and Tennent. But the reformers appealed to the marks of the church, answering that those who claimed for themselves the title of "the true church," and yet didn't administer the Sacraments biblically, didn't preach in a way faithful to God's Word, and didn't exercise biblical church discipline only spoke in behalf of synagogues of Satan--not the true Church.

So, dear brothers: Either they were right and the same judgment needing to be made at the time of the Reformation and in Colonial times must be made yet today. Or they were wrong and Rome's our home. Take your pick, Neo-Old School men; one side or the other.



Well said--either Rome or Constantinople would be our home. In my circles, I've seen a lot of similar damage done by the "Landmark Baptist" movement.

Are 21st century American Protestants equally in danger from an overweening ecclesiastical slavishness or from a desire for autonomy? I don't think so...

It's not so much an overweening slavishness to the denominational hierarchy as a fear of being viewed as "vile" by fellow ministers. And that both are endemic today is easily proven by the number of evangelical pastors who, still at this late date, minister within the mainline denominations.

Further, to support Calvin, Luther, Whitefield, Edwards, and the Tennents in their prophetic calling is not to deny that the evangelical world needs to be purged of the worst sort of ahistorical, atheological, unbiblical ecclesiastical solipsism.

Well, i appreciate being quoted so well (though, i'm not a plural person, but a singular, masculine person, i.e., "he/his," not "they/their").

I'd love to comment on your modern-day example, but i don't have loads of spare cash lying around to purchase a subscription to the NYT online. Perhaps you could give us a summary? I assume it is some issue with mainline/liberal/sinful stance in the ecclesiastical establishment.

Of course, whatever the cause, i would apply to the sphere of the Church exactly the same principle you and i both would apply to the sphere of the home and its properly authorized authority: that if a husband attempts to lead his family into overt sin and disobedience to God, he exempts himself from being submitted to and operating in the authority that had been delegated to him.

You argue as if what i'm arguing for were some kind of slavish devotion to establishment; that's not the case at all (notwithstanding your own mischaracterization of my position in the comments of the former post, in which you closed comments--though, i'm assuming you closed comments in light of your intent to post this current post). I'm arguing that until that happens the established Church must be submitted to. What, pray, was the sin into which the Old School Churches led the people that other ministers had the God-ordained authority to subvert that authority? Advocate a Churchly religion? Advocate that people be nurtured in their faith from infancy through the ordained means of grace in the Church? Is this sinful? Hardly. In fact, nothing could be more biblical.

To clarify my understanding, i have no problem with Jonathan Edwards (aside from occasional disagreements doctrinally), precisely because he never sought out venues to preach apart from his own parish. Whitefield, for me, is slightly more problematic, not as much theologically, but more particularly with his methodology of ignoring ecclesiastical jurisdictions and those who wished for him not to operate ministerially within theirs, as well as his seeming demand for a kind of conversion experience in order to be considered a "true" Christian--though, in this respect, he is not as bad as others like Wesley or the Tennets. The Tennets are squarely on my bad list, not only methodologically, but also doctrinally, because they demanded that kind of crisis conversion to be considered a Christian, and they undercut what had been truly Reformed doctrine of the Church offices, that the spiritual condition of the man who ministers does not in any way impede the work of the Holy Spirit to use the means of grace that are administered through him. And i have not drunk at the well of Hart nor Noll (the only books i have read by either of them are _Recovering Mother Kirk_ and _Turningpoints of Church History_), but only the Reformers themselves and Scripture. Calvin couldn't be more Churchly, nor Luther--in fact, contrary to your implication, i read more Calvin than i do any other single theologian, hands down.

Since you have so great affection for Luther (and rightly so!), i do wish you'd interact with Luther's view in this regard, especially in his expositions on Psalm 82 and John 4. Maybe Luther had an inconsistent view--in that he denounced Romanist bishops regardless of their office and demanded allegiance for himself and his fellow Evangelical priests precisely because of their office--, but believe he was perfectly consistent and properly biblical.

Hi Tim Bayly

As Robert Perry said either Rome or Constantinople would be our home.

But your answer to them is very good what I want is the same and I agree with your words here.

Here's the problem with the analogy between Jesus and Gilbert Tennent. You need to include Charles Finney as another successor to Jesus and the apostles. He too criticized the opponents of revival as synagogues of Satan.

Your difficulty is that you have no rule by which to judge which rule changers are the good guys or the bad guys. It's easy to do with Christ. He's the son of God.

But it's also far easier in church history if you following the bouncing rules. Tennent had agreed to play by certain rules when he entered the Presbyterian ministry, as did Whitefield when he entered Anglican orders. Tennent's fellow presbyters had every right to expect that he would respect them and their deliberations. And when he refused to comply with Presbyterian rules and called his opponents unconverted, why would you expect the Presbyterians to sit by and say, oh my, we have another John the Baptist on our hands, let's follow him. If the Presbyterian church's rules were biblical, then Tennent was attacking God's truth.

Now if Tennent wanted to work through the process and try to convince his brothers that they were in error and missing important truth, he could have done so. But the elixir of the spirit was too potent for that. He had more pressing work to do.

I wonder if the Bros. Bayly would really react so kindly to an officer in their congregations calling into question the preaching and rule of the pulpit and session in each of their settings. The answer may be what would anyone have to object to at the Bayly church? Well, what if Bros. Bayly didn't want to encourage members to listen to Joel Osteen or have the congregation rent a bus to see him at his next venue? And what if the disgruntled officer shot back that Bros. Bayly were squelching the spirit because it is obvious how richly God is blessing pastor Osteen? Methinks Bros. Bayly might feel a little more sympathy then for the folks who thought Gil Tennent got a little full of himself (rather than an extra helping of the spirit).

But if any new work of God is so easily seen by your average church member or officer, then I don't see how you're going to convince Chuck Finney that his holy work was a sham.

My point precisely. You can't have a double standard when judging who has the right to break with the authority of the Church to establish proper order, or else Charles Finney (and the Wesleys, for that matter) must be seen as having the right to go out and peddle their own theological convictions to the masses as George Whitefield had. In each of these cases, men refused to recognize the authority of established ministers and sought to sneak into parishes, presbyteries, and diocese where they were not invited or desired.

To be truthful, in our PCA context, this is really a moot point. In *THIS* respect (though, not necessarily in others) the Old School has won out in the PCA, becasue there would never be some PCA seminarian who would have the gumption to come into the bounds of one of our presbyteries and try to act as an evangelist and establish a PCA church plant without the proper sanction from the presbytery in whose bounds he operates. (Although, the truth is, it's all to easy just to establish some church without any ecclesiastical sanction anywhere people will come and give money.) But the fact is that what the New School Presbyterians did would never and could never happen in the PCA context these days. But on the sad and darker side, even men who *DO* have proper sanction are subject to Gestapo-like discipline because their theological views aren't in lock-step with the New School, conversionist reading of the WCF--which just goes to show what i've been saying, that methodology of the New School Presbyterians (and of the Revivalists in general, beyond the Presbyterians) was only half the problem, but that it went along with a certain theological shift.

Dear Mr. Hart:

It's a minor point but why don't you capitalize references to Jesus as the Son of God and to the Holy Spirit?

You did it enough times in your post to make me think that it was intentional; but maybe not. If it was, just what is your point?

This conversionist reader of the WCF thinks it is actually pretty important.

Sincerely, DW

>Here's the problem with the analogy between Jesus and Gilbert Tennent. You need to include Charles Finney as another successor to Jesus and the apostles. He too criticized the opponents of revival as synagogues of Satan.

Well, of course, that's the problem with the Holy Spirit. He isn't scrupulous with our forms and structures and credentials and imprimaturs and degrees. So we're left with the need for discernment in the power of the Holy Spirit, observing forms that are biblical but not allowing them always to have the final say. Or we're left with the Pharisees, Rome, dead orthodoxy, and the mainline denominations.

Again, look at John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles. They provide all the cautions we need to avoid placing blind faith in the apparatus.

Remember, Amos said he was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet.

DW, I didn't capitalize the spirit because it was precisely at issue whether it was the spirit or the Spirit. Capitalizing suggests Tennent was right.

Bayly Bro. 1, great, you choose Jesus over the Pharisees. So do I. The problem is that that's not with whom we're dealing now. The question before you and me is to Joel (Osteen, that is) or not to Joel. The issue in the 18th c. was to Gil or not to Gil. Simply appealing to Jesus and John the Baptist doesn't make it obvious whether Finney is right or not.

Dear Mr. Hart,

I’m a member of Tim Bayly’s church, and your analogy about taking a busload of congregants to see Joel Osteen was laughable. Why? The Baylys both preach and teach the necessity of Biblical discernment.

There is a standard by which one can judge Joel Osteen, Gilbert Tennent, Jonathan Edwards, or you for that matter; that standard is Holy Scripture rightly taught. You argue that Pastor Bayly has somehow opened up this door of “who’s to say Osteen is wrong?” because Bayly attacks allegiance to mainline churches that are God’s enemies according to Scripture’s standards. Scripture and the right use of Word and the sacraments exonerate Tennent and condemn Osteen and Finney. You’re right, simply appealing to Jesus or John the Baptist doesn’t show Finney as a fraud, but sound doctrine does, and Finney would only have been convinced by the Holy Spirit of his unfaithfulness. Also, I didn’t like your irreverent uncapped “spirit” to diss Tennent’s work, take care not to commit the unforgivable sin, Mr. Hart.

"Your difficulty is that you have no rule by which to judge which rule changers are the good guys or the bad guys"

The rule is the same as it has always been: the truth as best we can discern it. Some rule changes are right because they are in accordance with truth (Luther). Others are wrong since they are not (Osteen).

Is there a formula we can use which will always distinguish the true ones? No...all we have is Biblical discernment.

Mr. Moxey,

I don't know what of Gilbert Tennet you have read, but his methodology and theology all but threw out the necessity of the ordinary means of grace in the Church for salvaion precisely because he taught that a person comes to salvation through an ordered process of conviction (and it must be followed in the correct order!) and commitment. In fact, Tennets teachings, which were followed through with by Finney a century later, made infant baptism obsolete among many Presbyterians who became Methodists and Baptists. There were many godly ministers who worked faithfully and diligently to edify, encourage, and bring to salvation the people in their charge, and Gilbert Tennet called them unconverted, Pharisees, and ministers in the Synogogue of Satan for their trouble--and the only reason that he did so was because they were convinced that *SCRIPTURE* teaches against such innovations as extra-ecclesiastical revivals. The issue is not what personal discernment tells us (since that is always going to be different from person to person); the issue is whether ministers will be submitted to the Church (as they vow to do when they are ordained--without anything such as a "proviso" for any circumstance in which they "feel the Spirit leading them" to support something that their Church has said is out of proper bounds).

But Dr. Hart has touched the thing with a needle, and your appeal to personal discernment doesn't undercut it. What would Pastor Bayly do if someone on his session just up and got a car load of people to head to a Kenneth Copeland crusade in Indianapolis, and he defended his actions precisely upon the fact that he didn't want to be guilty of sinning against the Holy Spirit by not supporting or being part of the Spirit's work through Copeland. What would Pastor Bayly's recourse be? To say that his views are unbiblical? Really? Well, this elder is simply following his own reading of Scripture, and he's following his conscience, which, as Luther said, is the only thing a man can properly do. Will Pastor Bayly move to discipline this man for following his own conscience and trying to sense the Holy Spirit's leading? On what basis? His *OWN* reading of Scripture? That just underlines the point. What happens when good men disagree about what Scripture says? The answer is that it is the Church's job to settle the dispute by going back to Scripture and answering as a Church. That's the point of Synods and Councils. If you're right, it wouldn't matter that your session would discipline that hypothetical elder, because he would be perfectly justified in calling all of them "unconverted" and saying that they have "sinned against the Holy Spirit."

It doesn't help matters to appeal to individualistic discernment, because it is precisely that individualistic discernment (and who doesn't believe his or her discernment is based on Scripture?) that has led to the theological anarchy that we see in American Christianity.

Biblical discernment eventually came to Gil Tennent. He asked for forgiveness for the sin of defaming fellow ministers and dividing the church. Synod, being Christian, forgave him.

Turns out that Tennents' critics were not Pharisees after all. They were rightly dividing the word, even in their defense of Presbyterian polity and the ordered ministry it yields.

>Gil Tennent ...asked for forgiveness for the sin of defaming fellow ministers and dividing the church.

Well, there you have it!

Reading your roughshod summaries of the history, I find myself wondering what on earth I was thinking to fall in love with Edwards, Whitefield, and Tennent? But then I read John the Baptist, our Lord, the Apostles, Luther, Calvin, Baxter, Knox, Archibald Alexander, Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, and Iain Murray, and I remember.

Darryl Hart also has in his corner in this matter the Old Princeton men, especially Charles Hodge, who wrote a scathing critique of this very thing in his 'The Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America' in 1851.I agree with Hodge and Hart as well.

Tim Bayly, if it's any consolation my affections aren't infallible either. I believe even your favorite, Edwards, wrote that somewhere. Like the grass and the flower, crushes fade.

>I'd love to comment on your modern-day example, but i don't have loads of spare cash lying around to purchase a subscription to the NYT online.

Can't figure out what you're talking about since I've never paid a penny to read online content of the "New York Times." The article is a good example of the quandary you and Dr. Hart would place men in, having to choose ecclesiastical authority over the authority of God's Word.

And yes, I know you would deny this is necessarily necessary in your scheme. For myself, though, having been a pastor of a flock in a mainline denomination, it's my testimony that ten tons of ecclesiastical authority will seek to destroy the flock, the session, and the pastors of a church when together they move to leave a denomination lacking the marks of the church for one that has them.

But God was merciful; those ecclesiastical authorities didn't destroy us; and now we're all in the PCA.

It's telling that you haven't engaged this issue. Talk of the endless protections afforded by submission to ecclesiastical authority can sound good to repenting evangelicals, but Rome is the home of such arguments, really. The One True Church and all that.

This exchange between our Lord and the Pharisees keeps coming to mind:


When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?”

And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.” And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.”

He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.

Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”

They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES’? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.

(Matthew 21:23-46)


No one here has been arguing against proper ecclesiastical authority. It's a blessing from God and we all submit to it. But some of us know there are times when ecclesiastical authority is wicked and must be opposed even though "men with the living" (those Jesus refers to as "hirelings") will consider those opposing them "vile."

Ecclesiastical authority isn't infallible.

By the way, I've been a boor not to acknowledge my great appreciation for Dr. Hart's work on J. Gresham Machen titled, "Defending the Faith." (I'd call it a bio but it's really more than a bio.)

Wonderful book, dear brother. Thank you for your work on it. I read it in hardback when it first came out and have recommended it many times, since. I'd still like to see you do a bio of J. Oliver Buswell. Please?

And for those who don't know, quarrels with Pastor Austin are always lovers' quarrels. We keep it that way.

>Ecclesiastical authority isn't infallible.

Anyone want to argue with that? Not me.


I'm not entirely sure what the disagreement is about. Do you not all agree that:

1) If your church authorities are being faithful (more or less), you should submit to them.

2) If your church authorities have apostatized (like Rome, or the PCUSA), it's permissible to unilaterally separate yourself from that body (and thus from that authority) and join yourself to a faithful body of believers (and their authorities).

Or do you disagree on the where the "line" is that, once your church crosses it, you no longer have to submit?

On the subject of preaching in the parishes of other churches, are the alternatives:

1) Preach with their permission.

2) Preach without their permission, but only if you consider them apostate.

3) Don't preach.




>What would Pastor Bayly do if someone on his session just up and got a car load of people to head to a Kenneth Copeland crusade in Indianapolis, and he defended his actions precisely upon the fact that he didn't want to be guilty of sinning against the Holy Spirit by not supporting or being part of the Spirit's work through Copeland.

Suppose the elder took them to a PCRT conference rather than Copeland. Would that make it OK? Suppose the pastor opposed it on the basis that it undercuts his authority?

How do we determine which demands of a session are reasonable and thus to be obeyed without question?

>Suppose the elder took them to a PCRT conference...

Precisely. It amazes me how blinkered we can be as we raise an unholy ruckus against Tennent and Whitefield and Edwards, meanwhile bringing Hart books and Sproul videotapes and Whitehorse talk shows into every parish of the country. And not so much as one "by-your-leave."

Well, maybe i *AM* blinkered, but i have a huge problem with parachurch ministries in general based precisely on this principle i'm arguing for. That's why the only conferences i go to are those sponsored by individual congregations, presbyteries, or broader church assemblies. Banner of Truth is great, as it goes, but it's still parachurch--and necessarily so, because of the huge differences that its ministers have theologically with one another (Credo- and Paedobaptists, Congregational and Presbyterial, and even some Episcopal folks, with greatly varying views on sacraments, salvation, Covenant, &c.).

But this brings me back to the original point i spoke about concerning universally recognized Church authority: going the parachurch route makes us *LESS* likely, not more likely, to have inter-communion ecclesiastically, which would and could turn into dialogue between Churches toward union. It's like the separated spouses that have relationships during their separation with other "significant others," but then complain that they just can't get along with their separated spouse to try and reconcile with him/her. As a pastor to those individuals, i know what i would counsel them to do: get rid of the boyfriend and girlfriend and start talking to one another again, because that's the only way to work through the problems you've had and are having. It's hard work, and you'll never do it by by-passing that work and devoting your time and attention to a more "interesting" girlfriend or boyfriend in the mean time.

And this point is just as true when it comes to denominations and parachurch (extra-ecclesiastical organizations trying to do the job of the Church). In a very real sense, parachurch organizations are the harlots (or concubines, perhaps?) of the Church world--wooing and winning people in Churches away from being reconciled back to one another, which is precisely our duty as those who are part and parcel of one another. But that won't ever happen if we keep finding fulfillment outside of the appointed means God has put into place. Let's be reconciled to one another and get rid of all those organizations who would make us content to be separated and be fulfilled outside of edifying and fulfilling one another in the Church herself.

Tim B., thanks for the kind words about Defending the Faith.

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