Posted on Monday, October 17, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517


The kind folks at Hendrickson Publishing sent each of us a copy of their handsome facsimile of the Biblia Germanica (the Luther Bible). It is a wonderful work especially given the coming recognition of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation next year. 



Posted on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Over the weekend the world was given the distasteful surprise of the now infamous recording of Presidential nominee Donald Trump bragging in the crudest terms about his adulterous sexual conquests. He even bragged about his success in groping women. Later he explained it away as nothing more than “locker room talk.” By now we have come to expect this sort of disgraceful behavior from Mr. Trump. 
However, what is even more disconcerting than Mr. Trump’s fond reminiscences of his lecherous behavior are the vigorous apologetics offered up by his “evangelical” supporters. They have explained away his words by appealing to the fact that the NBC recording was 11 years old (Trump was a carefree youth of 60 years at the time). They have even echoed Trump’s “locker room talk” explanation.
I have lived for almost 50 years and have never had a man brag to me about his adultery (Confess? Yes. Brag? No.) Certainly I have heard plenty of profanity and even some tales of sexual potency in and out of locker rooms. But I have never heard a man brag about groping a woman or describe anything that could be remotely understood as sexual assault.
What I want you, my sisters in Christ to know, is that there are many of us who find Trump’s words and behavior disgusting. Contrary to Ben Carson’s explanation this sort of talk is not how most men talk about women in their absence. We do not believe that the number of a man’s sexual conquests or his willingness to force himself upon a woman is the measure of manhood. Quite the opposite. For many of us the arrogant swagger and adulterous boastings of Trump are the negation of genuine manhood. He is a petulant child grasping for validation by bragging about his sexual prowess to strangers on a bus. 
I understand why many are reluctantly choosing to vote for Mr. Trump. Given the horrific prospects of a Hillary Clinton presidency I am even sympathetic with that choice. But the enthusiastic rallying around the man from some rather prominent members of the “religious right” is unconscionable. Indeed, the continued endorsements of Trump from men like Jerry Falwell Jr, Mike Huckabee, and Robert Jeffress have proved that the religious right are the new moral relativists. 
So vote for Trump if you believe you must but do not deceive yourself by believing that he is something that he is not. He is not a Republican. He is not conservative. He is a life-long “strongly pro-choice” liberal. He is not a friend of smaller government or lower taxes for the middle class. He is a crony capitalist who has benefited from cozy relationships with politicians of various stripes. He is an unprincipled pragmatist whose great ambition over the years seems to be nothing nobler than emblazoning his name upon as many products as possible.
* I hope no one will understand this post as an endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I believe she would be an utter disaster as President. She is manifestly corrupt and probably deserves to be indicted. Considering Bill Clinton’s history with women, the credible accusations against him of sexual assault, and Mrs. Clinton’s treatment of his victims, she has no claim of moral superiority over Donald Trump. Her position on abortion alone should disqualify her in the minds of Christians. 
Posted on Friday, October 07, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
I was interested to read a recent article by Dr. Jason Duesing of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City (my alma mater). The title of the post is “Where are the Gentleman Theologians?” The post is helpful and appropriately challenging in many ways. I appreciate his call for theologians and pastors to treat one another with charity in our disagreements. Who among us does not need to be reminded of that from time-to-time? He refers appropriately to the late Roger Nicole who was well known for his irenic spirit. I hope that we will be careful to know the difference between those issues upon which we may agree to disagree and those issues which ought to rise to the level of public opposition. 
Of keen interest to me is that Dr. Duesing draws a direct line between the call to be gentlemen theologians and the current controversy over the doctrine of the Trinity (If you need to, you can catch up HERE). 
Certainly there has been substantive discussion over vital issues of non-negotiable importance. Yet, there has also been a great deal of unhelpful polemics as we have seen a blurring of the distinction between healthy intra-evangelical debate and the attribution of heterodoxy. As I’ve watched and read, I have been hoping for more Gentlemen Theologians to help us know how to proceed. For one can contend in public as a gentleman without having also to condemn...
Personally, I agree with Albert Mohler that much of the citations against Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware, and also Denny Burk and Owen Strachan are nonsense, not just for what those concerned claim, but especially for how they claim it. I can’t help but wonder that if those convinced of their brother’s heterodoxy were slow to speak and sought to earn the right to criticize in private, much of the negative impact of this debate could have been avoided.
As I mentioned, I am not implying that essence of these discussions are not extremely important or not worth addressing at length. Yet, I am questioning some of the chosen polemical paths with regard to how one brother attributes heresy to another.
This is where I believe Duesing begins to err. At no point does he identify the “vital issues of non-negotiable importance.” Neither does he name any person or cite an article as evidence of his claim of “unhelpful polemics.” This is most unhelpful for it greatly limits any sort of engagement. But I am still going to try because most people will understandably assume that he is referring primarily to articles which ran on MOS. Since he provides not a single example of his claim I have to proceed upon assumption. 
What is clear however is that Dr. Duesing identifies the opponents of ESS as the offenders in this debate. That is most unfortunate. I assume that he is not aware, for instance, of the mean-spirited accusations leveled against us on social media from some of the men he names in his defense. We were accused of being closet feminists pushing our agenda and even compared to satan. Certainly Duesing would not have intentionally overlooked those ungentlemanly actions. 
Dr. Duesing finds us ungentlemanly who have publically critiqued the theology of ESS as espoused for years by Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware. Of course it begs the question of just what exactly is the gentlemanly response to public theological error. What ought a gentleman to do when he finds error being propagated within the church? Given that error attacks the peace and purity of the church I have typically supposed that a rather vigorous and public response is appropriate. Is that not what our Lord and his apostles modeled? 
One of the weaknesses of Duesing’s critique is that he seems to assume that these issues can and should be worked out entirely in the context of personal conversations among scholars in fraternal gatherings. He does not seem to understand the history or circumstances of the current debate. The debate over the theology of Drs. Grudem and Ware has been going on for about 20 years. Addresses have been delivered at such gatherings as ETS. Entire books have been written challenging their articulation of ESS. And, yes, there have been personal conversations and correspondence on this doctrinal controversy. 
If you believe that ESS is sound Christian doctrine then you will likely wonder why anyone would be so rude as to publically rebuke it. But this is not simply a matter of theological esoterica to be discussed over eggs benedict at a scholar’s conference. And the proponents of ESS have not left the doctrine in some rarely visited corner of polite academic discussion. Books and curricula advancing ESS continue to be written for laypersons. Crossway even published a children’s book by Dr. Ware promoting ESS. CBMW has been active in promoting ESS to churches for years.  
So the time for pleasant breakfast conversations has been over for a long time. This is not a debate about the mode of baptism after all. It is not a debate over amillennialism versus historic pre-millennialism. This is a debate about the nature of the Godhead and the status of the Son and Spirit within the Trinity. Sadly there are many within the big tent of evangelicalism who do not seem to understand that these are vitally important matters. Or it may be that the bonds of old friendships and various alliances are so powerful that overlooking serious error is considered gentlemanly. 
I still remember a wonderful address some years ago by Al Mohler on the courage of Athanasius who was “willing to go to war over a dipthong.” That is a quote worth remembering. Not very gentlemanly behavior from Athanasius, however, who once declared that if the whole world opposed him then he would oppose the world. Martin Luther was likened to a wild boar in the Lord’s vineyard. Johnathan Edwards was fired in part for not being nice enough. Charles Spurgeon was publically censured by the Baptist Union for making a nuisance of himself with his insistence on sound doctrine. Machen was defrocked and held up for public ridicule. The examples abound of men who were condemned or ignored for not striking the proper, dare I say, gentlemanly tone. 
I am sure Dr. Duesing would agree that Paul was justified in inviting the Judaizers in Galatia to emasculate themselves for tinkering with the gospel. But of course we all know that such jagged polemicizing would be shunned in this era of evangelical niceness (There is no evidence that Paul took the Judaizers out for a cup of coffee prior to his cringe-worthy recommendation). 
I can imagine an objection being raised at this point: “But we’re not talking about the gospel here!” And it is true. The gospel is much easier to understand than the more metaphysical issues related to ESS. Al Mohler has stated that although he denies ESS (I wonder why?), Drs. Ware and Grudem are nevertheless fully orthodox and any contrary suggestion is “ridiculous.” Duesing agrees with Mohler on that point. So, in both men’s minds the doctrine of ESS is fully within the bounds of historic Christian orthodoxy. I suppose then that a true gentleman who does not personally hold to ESS would simply say to the proponent, “I beg to differ my friend. However, our disagreement over ESS is nothing more than a minor quibble over matters that have no bearing upon orthodoxy. Please pass the scones.” 
The irony in all of this of course is that Wayne Grudem does not agree with Mohler or Duesing on this. He does not agree that the doctrine of ESS is a comparatively small in-house debate between equally orthodox brothers. Dr. Grudem sees ESS as a necessary feature of historic biblical orthodoxy. Without ESS, says Grudem, there can be no Trinity (Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, 251, 433). It’s a bold position to state that denying the eternal subordination of the Son “would destroy the Trinity” (Ibid, 433). What is a gentleman theologian to do when that opinion is put in print and delivered to laypersons?  
Is Dr. Duesing aware of the title of Dr. Grudem’s address at the upcoming ETS meeting? It is quite provocative: “Why a Denial of the Son’s Eternal Subordination Threatens Both the Trinity and the Bible” (source). I cannot help but wonder what Al Mohler thinks about that thesis. After calling “ridiculous” any suggestion that the views of Drs. Ware and Grudem are outside orthodoxy, the later goes and says Mohler’s denial of ESS “threatens both the Trinity and the Bible.” While I am apparently no expert on these matters, that does not seem to fit the requirements of gentlemanly behavior. 
Is Dr. Duesing aware of the debate held at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on October 9, 2008? The question under debate was “Do relations of authority and submission exist eternally among the Persons of the Godhead?” Four scholars were involved. Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware debated in the affirmative against Drs. Keith Yandell and Tom McCall. In a display of rather sharp polemic Dr. Grudem called the view of Drs. Yandell and McCall “modalism” a bona fide heresy. Do not skip over this point. The historic Nicene viewpoint represented in the debate was dismissed as a heresy by Wayne Grudem. Is this then an intramural debate among equally orthodox brothers or a battle against heresy? Dr. Grudem in contrast to Mohler and Duesing seems to view it as the later. Incidentally, at no point did Drs. Yandell and McCall accuse Ware and Grudem of heresy. 
I wonder if Dr. Duesing will now write an article lamenting the lack of gentlemanly behavior which has issued forth from the proponents of ESS? 
What then is the gentlemanly response to Dr. Ware’s assertion that the Son receives less glory in the Godhead than does the Father? How ought the gentleman pastor respond to his claim that it is inappropriate to pray to the Son since He possesses a lesser supremacy in the Godhead than does the Father? How should the gentleman theologian respond to Dr. Grudem’s contention that the Trinity is analogous to a married couple with a child? 
Perhaps it is the policy in some Southern Baptist seminaries to promote ESS. That is their business. But I think it would be rather ungentlemanly of reformed and Presbyterian pastors to merely tut-tut politely while consequential errors regarding the Trinity are finding their way into the pews of the churches they serve. I thank God that a discerning committee of laypersons within a rather large denomination, having followed this debate since it began in June, expunged all vestiges of ESS from their women’s ministry curriculum. That would not have happened as a result of hushed conversations over breakfast. 
So I agree with Wayne Grudem. Someone is indeed threatening the Bible and the Trinity. And it is a good thing that there are men who are willing to enter the fray allowing others go about more gentlemanly duties. 
Posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517


Over at Ref21 Rick Phillips posted a vigorous defense of complementarianism. I agree with much of his defense. What was particularly encouraging for me however was his clear statement regarding ESS. 

Recent months have seen considerable controversy among conservative Christians around the topic of complementarianism, arising mainly from a false analogy between the subordination of wives to husbands and that of God the Son to God the Father. Depending on your perspective, the complementarian view has been either maligned, discredited, or reformed. My hope is that events will prove that the latter has taken place. I am in complete solidarity with those who reject the eternal subordination of the Son in any form, since no amount of nuance or affirmation of Christ's deity can preserve it from functionally reproducing the Arian position. There are no ends for which a degrading of the Trinity is an excusable means. I am therefore grateful for the way this controversy, though regrettably contentious, has highlighted massively important issues of theology that tend to receive little attention. At the same time, my hope is that this attempt to reform the complementarian position will not truly damage the important stand it takes.  (emphasis mine)

I appreciate Rev. Phillips' clarity on this point. Here at MOS we have expressed deep concern over the fact that CBMW has anchored the Bible's teaching on the roles of men and women in the church and family to ESS. I continue to hope that CBMW will once and for all refute ESS. Tethering the Bible's teachings on the relationships within the church and family to error about the Trinity is proving to be disastrous. We must never seek to advance truth through means of error. 


Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517


No, we are not ready to move away from the Trinity controversy yet. The ones who are guilty of propating the error of ESS/EFS have not yet publically repented. That, by the way, is what is required when one spreads doctrinal error.


There are already attempts going on to rewrite history ("Our organization never promoted ESS!"). Those who came out swinging when MOS first began posting challenges to ESS, having noticed the clear consensus of scholars, are remaining largely silent on the issue of late.* That is wise. It's never a good idea to continue to press for something which has proven to be inconsistent with Scripture. The problem is that while seminaries quietly try to get some of their professors up to speed on Christian orthodoxy and publishers revise books on the downlow the errors continue to fester in the soil of many churches and parachurch ministries. 


To advance doctrinal error is sin. It matters not if the guilty party did not know he was teaching error. To do so out of malice or ignorance is sin. It is impious, for instance, to foist common analogies upon the majestic and mysterious Godhead. It is true that, being in the image of God, we are like him in some ways. Nevertheless God is not like us. And the Trinity is most certainly not like a human family with the Father as husband, the Son as wife, and the Spirit as child. 


An official from a rather large denomination and a fine brother recently reached out to me to confirm that this controversy prompted his committee to begin scrubbing all of the ESS and references to the men who have promoted it from their curriculum and recommended resources. That was good news indeed. But what of the many churches, denominations, and ministries which do not have men as discerning as the brother to which I spoke? This is why repentance and refutation are so important. The men and ministries and seminaries which have either actively or passively promoted ESS need to say what all Christians must say throughout their lives: "I'm sorry. I was wrong." 


Until that happens I do not see how this controversy can come to an end. God's glory and the peace and purity of the church are too precious to turn a blind eye to error which strikes at the heart of the nature of God. 


* I did notice that Wayne Grudem will be presenting a paper at the 2016 meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society which is entitled "Why A Denial of the Son's Eternal Submission Threatens Both the Trinity and the Bible" (p. 51). That is a bold statement. Given the recent controversy I suspect there will be a capacity crowd. 


Posted on Monday, September 12, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517


Some people wonder (others fuss about) why we at Mortification of Spin seem to devote so much energy to objecting to the celebrity culture and methods of Big Reformed(ish) Evangelicalism. That's an easy question to answer. It's bad for the church. Period.


The Reformed community has created their own version of the monster made by broader evangelicalism; a monster they continue to suffer from. Just becasue our theology is better does not mean that we will avoid the dangers inherent in entrusting certain para-church ministries with the duties of the church. Just because we are Calvinists doesn't mean that our celebrities are any more immune from the temptations of fame and wealth as the heretics of the Word/Faith movement. 


And more and more folks are noticing...

This monster–these councils, coalitions, and networks–flourishes in an environment that exists independently of the spiritual authority and accountability structures intended by Jesus. That wouldn’t be a problem except that many of these organizations seem to have assumed to themselves the work of the church–e.g. connecting the grace of God to the world, or calling to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness, or renewing faith in the gospel, or standing together for the gospel, etc. Jesus intended the church to be entrusted with the ministry of gathering and perfecting the saints, and he intended that to be accomplished under the authority and accountability that he also established. When you extract the work of the church from the structure of the church you begin to create an environment ripe for dangerous problems. Problems like false teachers, public scandal, doctrinal imprecision and error, abuse of influence, and the promotion of them all, answerable and held in check by the will and whim of a board of directors devoid of biblical spiritual oversight. That’s the monster we’ve created.

From Kyle Borg's post The Monster We Created: Councils, Brand Names, and Celebrities


Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
I made the decision to take down my post critiquing Denny Burk’s article on Philippians 2:6. It was not an easy decision. I still believe my critique was appropriate. I still believe Denny’s article is problematic. 
But I don’t have very thick skin. 
I learned a lesson today. It was a lesson I was warned of: Be very careful about taking on men with powerful friends. After being bombarded well into the night by angry emails accusing me of everything but the Kennedy assassination I decided that the satisfaction of critiquing a problematic article was not worth it. 
Now, none of Denny’s correspondence with me was inappropriate in any way. I wish however that I could say the same thing about his defenders. 
If any of the men from various organizations who expressed to me their concerns about Denny’s article want to give it a try, my blessings. But some of you will wind up in some truly hot water if you do. 
I grieve over the state of modern reformed(ish) evangelicalism. Quite frankly it looks more and more like a racket to me. Power has been concentrated in the hands of a very few and they all happen to be friends. Mess with one of their family and it’s only a matter of time before Clemenza is sent out searching for you. 
Anyway, at least I got to fit in a Godfather reference.
Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517


Denny Burk and I have been corresponding today concerning my post from yesterday. Understandably Denny takes strong exception to my conclusions. And while his disagreements with my conclusions have been vigorous, his tone has been Christlike. 


To sum up I was happy to hear that Denny does indeed fully affirm the equality of the Son and the Father in the eternal Godhead. 


Denny takes me to task for accusing him of denying ontological unity between the Persons of the Godhead. I do not deny that Denny fully affirms the deity of the Son. That is not in question. For me, the confusion comes in with the terminology used such as "eternal Godhead." We may have a major disagreement on how we understand that. Denny also asserts that this difference of equality between Son and Father existed prior to the incarnation. Apparently I am drawing a conclusion from that statement far different from what he intended.  


I remain confused about Denny's article as written. I have corresponded with quite a few individuals about it. That correspondence has included systematic theologians and fellow pastors who read the article precisely the same way I read it.


That said, Denny is a brother in Christ and an honorable man and I take him at his word.


I have also extended to Denny an invitation to post a response to me on this blog. If he chooses to respond elsewhere I will post a link. 


Posted on Wednesday, August 24, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
On August 22 Christianity Today posted another article on the recent debate over the doctrine of the Trinity. I won’t rehash the details of the debate. However the author of the CT piece does get a few details wrong. Notably she repeats the line that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) maintains a neutral position regarding ESS/EFS/ERAS (I am sure that is what she was told). She also states that the CBMW website has only one article on ERAS which is by Wayne Grudem, a founder of the organization. Of course, that may now be true (more on that in a bit). 
The fact is CBMW has not been neutral regarding the doctrine of the Son’s eternal subordination to the Father. (As a reminder, no orthodox theologian denies that there is a kind of order in the Godhead or that the Son in his incarnate and self-humiliating state submitted his will to that of his Father as part of his identification with mankind. The error of Drs. Grudem and Ware is that they export that subordination of will from something belonging to the economic Trinity into the eternal relations of the Godhead.) It is true that some members of CBMW’s council reject that errant doctrine. However, the fact remains that CBMW has deliberately and repeatedly built its theological support for the complementary roles of men and women upon this deeply flawed doctrine of the Trinity.
Both Aimee Byrd and Rachel Miller have shown the strong connection between CBMW and EFS. 
I am now troubled by what seems to be an effort to rewrite history. In fact, things seem to be disappearing without any explanation.
The weight of scholarship has spoken on the issue. Even those who stepped into the debate to dismiss as cranks (and worse) the critics of the theology of Ware and Grudem were nevertheless careful to make clear that they did not agree with EFS. One wonders why they don't agree. Obviously it must be because they find EFS to be unbiblical. Now it's one thing to find a pre-tribulation rapture of the church to be unbiblical. It is quite another to conclude that professors in evangelical seminaries hold an unbiblical view of the Trinity!
Let us keep in mind that in his wildly popular Systematic Theology Wayne Grudem writes that the Trinity is analogous to husband (the Father), wife (the Son), and child (the Holy Spirit). It boggles my mind that so many well-known men within the broader reformed(ish) world are unwilling to refute such nonsense. I can only speculate as to why. But I believe that I can say with 100% certainty that if egalitarian theologians and pastors were drawing those same analogies the refutations would come fast and furious. 
One of the more peculiar features of the current debate is the men who insist on agreement in the applications of the Bible’s teaching on the roles of men and women but allow great diversity of opinion on the nature of God. As Liam Goligher has recently pointed out, the doctrine of God is not secondary. The doctrine of God is not subordinate (no pun intended) to, for instance, the doctrine of the atonement. The doctrine of God is primary. And yet some of the very men who helped lead worthy battles against attacks on Scriptural authority and substitutionary atonement seem to offer a collective shrug to views about the Trinity they themselves identify as erroneous. How is it that we must agree on women’s roles in society but not on the Son’s role in the Trinity?
It is clear that the leadership of CBMW now desires to distance the organization from the error of EFS. It would be a shame if their approach to dealing with these errors is to merely remove content from their website. What they must do is refute the errors of EFS and its impious speculations and analogies applied to the Godhead. They must also apologize for their lack of discernment and proper oversight in disseminating those errors to the church; errors that local pastors must now clean up. If CBMW refuses to do this then it will be clear that they continue to stand by those errors. 
Something is wrong with this picture. Something rotten is behind this wall of protection and it spells impending danger for reformed evangelicalism. A movement which rushes to protect those who advance error but criticizes, marginalizes, and pulls levers of power against those who shine a light on the errors is a movement not worth supporting. 
A big tent which gatherers together incompatible doctrines of the Trinity is too big a tent.
Here are a few helpful articles to help you navigate some of the theological categories and implications:
The REF21 series by Alastair Roberts (Here, Here, Here, Here, and Here).
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517


Over at Theology on the Go Jonathan Master hosts an excellent conversation with Liam Goligher on why it matters so much to possess a proper doctrine of God.


Check it out HERE.


The debate over the doctrine of the Trinity is not over. So far as I can tell, those who have advanced the troubling (a kind euphamism) notion that the Trinity is analogous to husband (the Father), wife (the Son) and child (the Spirit) have not renounced their position. Given the continuing influence of these men and the organizations to which they belong it is still necessary for those who hold to historic orthodoxy to offer public push back. As Goligher points out, their errant doctrine dishonors God and diminishes his people.