Spies in the land...
(Tim) Is there a larger point that sits above this week's posts; a larger lesson to be learned from the vulnerabilities we've seen in the PCA's Christian Education & Publications, Women in the Church, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Westminster Theological Seminary, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Covenant College and Seminary, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City? What's to be learned from the sort of leadership we've seen demonstrated this week by the men called to guard these institutions and churches?
Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, “You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.” (Genesis 42:9)
We have allowed spies into our midst and they are scheming how to capture the undefended parts of the land given us by our Heavenly Father.
Trustees, presidents, parents, and alumni of confessionally reformed colleges and seminaries (and, of course, leaders of denominational agencies and church elders) are going to have to decide which side they're on.
And to nail the matter down most clearly in connection with colleges and seminaries, it's not enough for trustees, presidents, parents, and alumni to talk about their own personal commitments or the commitments of most of the faculty of their beloved alma mater. We all love our nursing mothers but that's not the point.
Every last professor at these institutions is paid to profess truth--not lies. He is a steward of a treasure entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit. He has been set apart to train the next generation of fathers, shepherds of God's flock, Titus 2 women, teachers, and mothers. It is his duty to guard that training to the end that it is bracingly faithful to the Word of God written, and thus produces graduates who are not conformed to the pattern of this evil world, but transformed by the renewing of their minds and hearts.
What Fruit Should Instruction in a Christian Worldview Produce?
Men who enter Covenant desiring fame, glory, and wealth should leave carrying their cross. They should leave prepared for the distinct possibility that, in a year or two, they will be booted from the Ph.D. program they're about to enter because their major professor finds their Christian witness intolerable. They should move onto the field of their first call knowing the very real risk they face of being fired (after a secret meeting of their session while they were gone on vacation) because they told their clerk of session's youngest daughter she would vow to "obey" her husband or he would not officiate at her wedding.
Bearing the fruit of the godly worldview and personal love of their Covenant professors, they should leave committed to loving their wives in purity, allowing their marriage bed to be fruitful for the Kingdom of God, providing food, instruction, discipline, and love for the godly seed God has given them, taking in their wife's parents in their old age, picketing the local abortuary, serving their church as a nursing father with equal parts discipline and love, standing shoulder to shoulder with their faithful shepherd as he defends the flock against wolves who have arisen from among them...
Women who enter Covenant hankering after the fame and glory that Carolyn Custis James, Paige Benton Brown, and Diane Langberg have garnered by preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men, should leave having repented of their egalitarian feminism.
Instead, having been theologically honed by professors committed to the Apostle Paul, specifically, they should leave St. Louis biblically committed to submitting to their husbands, bearing a godly seed, loving their children, and being keepers at home who grow into mothers in Israel who teach the younger women of the church to to be "sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands" (Titus 2:5 RSV).
Is this life really too poor and humble, too déclassé for the sons and daughters of the PCA?
To put it bluntly, colleges and seminaries subscribing to the Westminster Standards should be a safe house where leaven is exposed--not hosted and allowed to hide until the loaf is corrupted.
Why then are we not guarding the denominational agencies, colleges, and seminaries God has placed us over?
The Necessity of Disciplining Faculty Members
In a time when men are tripping over their own feet in haste to climb on the feminist bandwagon, those who have not given in to naivete will expect to see faculty members of these colleges and seminaries turning aside from orthodoxy from time to time, and will recognize the necessity of their removal.
This is the whole idea behind Westminster's removal of Dr. Peter Enns from its faculty this past summer. His doctrinal commitments concerning Scripture's authority and inspiration had been turned in a direction that many judged a departure from Christian orthodoxy, so after considerable pressure was brought to bear on him from the administration, some members of the faculty, and Westminster's board of trustees, Dr. Enns resigned.
Everyone knew the context for the discipline. Some disagreed, others agreed; but the important thing was to get the job done.
Yes, there was sin in the process--both on the part of Dr. Enn's supporters and those opposed to his continuation on the faculty of Westminster. Discipline of any sort is never pure and holy. Fallible men administer the Sacraments. Fallible men preach. And men with feet of clay exercise church and seminary discipline.
But again, the important thing is that the seminary president and trustees, as well as members of the faculty, parents, and alumni not allow their fear of repercussions or sentimental softness to cause them to turn aside from the tough work of discipline. It's for this reason that the Apostle Paul, when dealing with the discipline of church officers, commanded Timothy:
Those (elders) who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. (1 Timothy 5:20, 21)
The willingness to discipline faculty members is the chief duty, biblically, of boards of trustees and the presidents they have hired and supervise.
Watch a church that's not had an excommunication for a few years and you'll see an inevitable weakening of the elders' care for the flock and the pastor's preaching of the Word. Then you may observe adultery, greed, envy, divorce, sodomy, fornication, gossip, and bitterness spread through the church. This is what Jesus meant when He warned us to beware of the leaven of truly reformed seminary professors and pastors:
And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6)
This is what the Holy Spirit means when He commands the elders of the church that the tiniest bit of leaven will corrupt the whole congregation:
A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. (Galatians 5:9)
As with congregations, so with colleges and seminaries. Weak presidents and trustees might talk about academic freedom and the importance of unfettered discourse in a scholarly community, and how this is an integral part of developing a Christian worldview and training pastors, but watch a school that's not had a fight over the departure of a much-loved faculty member in the past few years and you'll observe an inevitable weakening of the quality of that school's faculty and instruction. Heterodoxy, first; and then heresy.
The Inevitable Fruit of Undisciplined Faculty
As time passes, watch the quality of candidates for ordination showing up on the floor of our presbyteries and maybe you will note, as David and I have, how soft and wishy-washy many of these men are on matters beyond the recitation of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Question them on moral and ethical questions facing the sheep every day and they'll do a nuanced version of the same errors daily promulgated across the mainstream media. They'll have a carefully crafted defense of euthanasia, a surgically precise set of reasons for repealing our nation's anti-sodomy laws, a Pharisaical explanation for the legitimacy of in vitro fertilization, and possibly a Brian McLarenish explanation for the highly-evolved and non-dualistic commitments of Molech-worshiper, Senator Barack Obama.
But most critically, the men and women graduating from these institutions will not have confidence in the authority of God's Word.
This will show up in a number of ways. Their preaching will be weak with little to no application of the text to their own or their congregants' hearts. They'll always be in the indicative--never the imperative. Their adornment will be that of their hair and necks and ankles and wrists and earlobes and cheeks and breasts and toes; not the adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit. They will proclaim themselves "Not a kitchen housewife."
There will be no rooting out of doctrinal error and sin in their school system, teacher's lounge, break room, family reunion, or congregation. And if there is, it will be the doctrinal error of insufficient appreciation of grace--never law. It will be the error of not having a transformational understanding of the width, depth and height of the wonderful grace of God.
The sermon theme each week will be the same as last, consisting in one more explanation that each of us is much worse than we realize, but that God's grace is much, much greater than we could ever imagine. Never a hint of something so harsh as "Save yourselves from this wicked generation!"
So, brothers and sisters, what will it be for us? Will Carolyn Custis James, Paige Benton Brown, and Diane Langberg continue to fill our pulpits and lecterns, invited by our denominational leaders, presidents, chaplains, and female M.Div. candidates? Will profs who hate God's Truth be allowed to continue among us wearing sheep's clothing? Is there anyone who will admit and put their job on the line to root out those who are corrupting our love feasts, or are we the first generation of Christians who are blessed by churches and classrooms and faculty lounges with no hirelings or wolves?
The Case for Women Pastors and Elders: Where Discipline Is Abandoned, Women Do a Better Job
Speaking generally of the state of churches in our country today, a friend observed that most churches might as well put women in the pulpit because the present situation is untenable. We've gelded our men and then asked them to preach. C. S. Lewis put it right: "We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful."
What my Dad used to call "the union card" seminaries bestow on their clients, the Masters of Divinity degree, is more representative of men learning not to make asses of themselves as they work with members of the middle and upper middle class than it is of those who have been faithfully taught and prepared to warn, correct, and rebuke, both in and out of season, and with great patience.
How many men graduate from our seminaries filled with zeal for following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul who described his pastoral care this way:
You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ... Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:18b-21, 26-31)
"Follow him in his humility? Sure, humility is real big with the submergent crowd. Let's do it."
"But trials and tears? Plots against us? Unshrinking declarations? Teaching house to house? Repentance? Innocent of blood?"
"What blood? My wife and I never had an abortion--what's he talking about? Shrinking from the whole purpose of God?"
"God's whole purpose is grace and love and peace; why would anyone shrink from them?"
"Savage wolves? Where? Lock and load, men!"
"Oh, the wolves are men? Here in my church? Elders and pastors speaking perverse things?"
"Well, I never! Isn't that the purpose of a denomination--to keep those things from happening? We're in the PCA, not the PC(USA), you know."
"Admonishing day and night with tears?"
"Oh my, this really is hopeless--utterly hopeless. What we have here--the Apostle Paul and I--is a failure to communicate. I'm afraid that poor beleaguered man has a twisted view of the ministry. He must enjoy thinking of himself in grandiose ways. You know, something like the Surgeon General wearing all those bars and stripes on his uniform."
"Maybe they needed such men and such a philosophy of ministry back in the early church when there were so many heresies. But nowadays, things are pretty clean, you know..."
"What we need today is a gentler, a more gracious, a sensitive ministry. I've been giving this considerable thought."
"Really, women are much better at being women than men, so I'm coming to the conclusion we ought to let women do it. If we want gentle worship, if we believe God is calling us to have graceful sermons devoid of risk or danger, parry or thrust, clear the men out of the way! Half the human race already has what it takes to please us, so let them at it."
There Is No Demilitarized Zone--Someone Will Die
The plain truth is that we hate discernment and no longer believe that heresy or savage wolves pose any danger to us or those God has placed us over. Nor do we believe in Hell.
And so we are forced to turn our discipline in the opposite direction--against faithful fathers, elders, and pastors.
Two Ways, Two Roads, Two Paths and One Life To Live
So, take your choice: It's Tim Keller's feminism or the Apostle Paul's much-maligned creation order--which will you choose? You'll either love the one and hate the other, or love the other and hate the one. You can't serve both God and feminism. (And yes, I know there are aspects of feminism that Tim Keller doesn't buy into.)
Take your choice: It's either the heretical doctrine of Diane Langberg's Christians for Biblical Equality or our Lord's safe sheepfold in which the lambs lie down in safety. Which will it be? You can't have both Diane Langberg's feminism and the safety of Jesus Christ. (And yes, I'm guessing Diane Langberg doesn't hold to every last one of CBE's doctrinal errors.)
Take your choice: It's either the bloody choice of one third of Covenant College's faculty, Senator Barack Obama, or hatred for bloodshed and a commitment to expose all those prostituting themselves to Molech (Leviticus 20:1-5). Which will it be? We'll either hate the one and love the Other or love the Other and hate the one. We can't serve both God and Molech. (And yes, I'm guessing some of the faculty members who indicated their support of Obama do regret his commitment to baby-slaughter.)
Men, if we love those God has given us to care for, we will face the right direction and fight, not fearing those who can only kill the body, but rather the One Who can throw both body and soul into Hell.