Discipline, denominations, and blogs...

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(Tim) Below a recent post, we've been having a discussion of the nature of leadership and discipline in the church, and I'd like to call attention to this exchange in which I respond to a few comments. Likely, readers need to check out the larger context of the earlier post before they'll understand some of what's written, here, but it's not necessary.

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>>a) Carl Trueman is ordained in the OPC, which means he really doesn't have a reason for making comments about his PCA boss, Peter Lillback, one way or the other.

What? Whatever happened to the church and to church associations (which we call denominations) being confessional communities rather than institutional self-perpetuation machines? This is one of the principal things that disappointed me about the PCA: over and over on both the presbytery and general assembly level men would be zealous for their institutional interests in a way that bypassed or harmed the purity of the Church and Her doctrine. Trueman may not have the ability to discipline Lillback formally within his own denomination, but Lillback is much more accountable and vulnerable to Trueman than he is to the members of his presbytery. Behold, the two men work together! If Trueman thinks Lillback is in error...

we'd hope he'd talk to him; then if that fails, to another faculty member asking him to accompany him to a meeting with Lillback; then if that fails, to the board of trustees and Peter's fellow elders in his church (Matthew 18).

More likely though, this organic relationship would actually lead Trueman to be silent; or not even to see that his article applies to Peter Lillback (which actually is certainly the case; I've never thought for a moment that Trueman wrote with Lillback's practice of woman officers in mind).

>>b) Carl was undoubtedly thinking not just of ministers in the OPC, but of Westminster Faculty who signed to the Westminster Standards and then violated their vow.

If Lillback's PCA and, therefore, not a concern of Trueman because as you say, Trueman's OPC, why would Trueman be concerned about Enns? But let me have a shot at solving the conundrum: it's because the doctrine of Scripture matters and the doctrine of sex doesn't. That would be the solution that is most generous to suggest. It wouldn't be kind to think that it's because Enns was a fellow prof whereas Lillback is the president. (And in this connection, keep in mind, again, that I've never thought Trueman gave Lillback's practice of woman officers a thought as he wrote.)

>>c) Carl likes naming names, and in fact, this was one of his complaints about Enns' accusations in his book "I&I" was that he accused but wouldn't name names.

Really, I'm pleased for this, but when are Reformed men going to begin to demonstrate something other than the complicity of silence or compromise on the doctrine of sex? Enns and Shepherd are easy compared to woman officers--very easy. And I know two of the men deeply involved in the discipline of Enns at Westminster and have taken them both to task for the lack of attention they give to the doctrine of sex.

d) The problem outlined in Carl's blog, is that no one takes vows very seriously anymore. And without a vow carrying any weight, then of course, "confessional" churches are no longer "confessional".

Actually, I disagree. Not taking vows seriously is more a function of the absence of personal admonition between brothers day by day than it is the lack of integrity on the part of the man who errs. When men finally are disciplined formally, it's usual to find a trail of evidence extending over many years that should have been dealt with informally and no record of it being done. So really, fellow profs and presbytery elders are responsible for men violating or not taking their vows seriously because they didn't do the line by line, inch by inch informal discipline that would have warned and exhorted and admonished, thereby heading off the necessity of their brother being fired and/or tried for heresy.

>>In other words, unlike Tim, I don't think that making more rules, or even enforcing the rules in the books is the answer, any more than rules helped the Pharisees maintain their orthodoxy in the face of Christ's incarnation and ministry.

What? Where have I ever advocated trusting in rules? Rather, I've pointed out that these men have violated Scripture, the entire witness of the Church from Her inception, and their ecclesiastical constitution. This was to show the multiple vows they have broken and how bald-faced they've become in their sin.

>>Rules only make sense in a wider culture of "rule-abiding", and we are now in a post-modern, anti-rule culture.

Quite true. But even more pertinent to my concern is that pomos hate distinctions and seek to obliterate them, particularly the most foundational distinction between man and woman all men used to call "sex," not "gender."

>>Am I claiming we are all anti-nomians? Maybe, but what I am really claiming is that something else has taken the place of rules. Call it blogs.

This is weak and getting very old--this lament of men that they have to deal with sin and error brought to light by blogs. Blogs are simply the pamphlets of the Reformation, the letters of the ages, the articles of my childhood written monthly for twenty-five years by my Dad and run in "Eternity" magazine. Thing is, blog writers are accountable in a way my Dad wasn't in that he and his editor could decide who did and didn't get the microphone to argue with his premise or facts after he put his rebuke out in public. Letters to the editor take a long time to appear and are selected carefully and often edited whereas blog writers have to defend their arguments and facts within seconds of publication.

The reason men dislike blogs is that they find their actions and words and conscience subject to the Church in the same forum in which they do their work--that is, publicly--and they realize their friendships and institutional power at seminaries and within presbyteries and their own session are no protection. In other words, web publications bypass institutional gravitas and the protection it affords its patrons and beneficiaries. We should praise God that the Apostle Paul didn't have to go through the board of trustees at Westminster or the editorial board at "Christianity Today" or aquisitions at Crossway or IVP or Eerdmans.

>>Call it shaming. Call it public square. But whatever it is, it means a Congress need not keep its own Constitution, a President need not keep his campaign promises, and one can fall afoul of the authorities just by thinking bad thoughts. So why is it a surprise that rules and vows and confessions have not reigned in the Church?

Now, dear brother, I think you've crashed and burned. Because a blog writer points out error to the broader church, the Bible is dead as an authority? Ecclesiastical constitutions are impotent? Megachurch pastors and seminary presidents may do what they want? Vows and confession are dead and gone? Your logic escapes me.

As for shame, it's always been one of God's kindest gifts to man, although it's widely despised today in our immoral, gay, shameless culture.