Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you have probably read my previous piece on the Revoice conference. Revoice has been the source of great division in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the denomination in which I serve. That is because although Nate Collins, the conference organizer is a Southern Baptist, the church which hosted the conference belongs to the PCA and several of the speakers are office holders in the PCA.
 

As I have written previously, I am thankful that those connected to Revoice have repeatedly affirmed their belief in the biblical ethic that sexual intimacy is to be shared between a man and woman in the bonds of marriage. There are no special congratulations for affirming what the Bible teaches. However, lest anyone mistakenly conclude that the speakers and organizers of Revoice advocate the normalizing of homosexual acts, I want to be clear that is not the case. Unfortunately, the positions they hold concerning human identity, sexual orientation, sanctification, and the moral status of same-sex desire will, I fear, ultimately undermine their current commitment to biblical standards of conduct.
 

I will not argue about the motives of those connected to Revoice. I can only assume that they sincerely hope to minister to those who struggle with sinful sexual desires. This is a cause the church must embrace. The new sexual revolution and the gender chaos connected to it is wreaking havoc in the lives of many of our neighbors; people we are called to love. The church must think constructively and regularly about ways to communicate God’s law and gospel to those who struggle under the weight of homosexual desires and gender confusion.
 

But as I have stated before, along with many others, the trouble with Revoice is the content. What Revoice proposes is a departure from what Christians have historically believed about key doctrines and their ethical implications. Revoice represents a theology and ethic which, if allowed to take root in the PCA, will lead us into great and grievous errors.
 

One of the troubling statements which came out of Revoice was that the “nuclear family” has become an idol in the church. In his plenary address, Nate Collins made the following rather extraordinary statement:

Is it possible that gay people today are being sent by God, like Jeremiah, to find God’s words for the church, to eat them and make them our own? To shed light on contemporary false teachings and even idolatries, not just the false teaching of the progressive sexual ethic, but other more subtle forms of false teaching? Is it possible that gender and sexual minorities who have lived lives of costly obedience are themselves a prophetic call to the church to abandon idolatrous attitudes toward the nuclear family, toward sexual pleasure? If so, we are prophets.
 

Dr. Collins’ shocking application of the Scriptures – that homosexuals are prophets in the way of Jeremiah sent by God to rebuke the church – can be left for another post. In a future post I may also address whether abstaining from what God calls an abomination constitutes “costly obedience.” What I wish to focus on here is the notion that the church holds “idolatrous attitudes toward the nuclear family.” This theme, that the church idolizes or makes too much of the “nuclear family” was affirmed elsewhere at Revoice.
 

In her conference workshop, Bekah Mason stated that “the non-traditional family is the biblical family.” She cited examples of families from the Bible which strayed from the pattern of husband, wife and children. However, in doing so Miss Mason neglected or ignored an important principle of biblical interpretation: description is not the same as prescription. The fact that the Bible records the existence of family arrangements other than husband, wife, and children does not suggest that the Bible commends those arrangements. Indeed, the Bible often points out the inevitable disasters that occur when God’s design for the family is rejected.
 

So, why the ambivalence and perhaps passive hostility from Revoice toward the pattern for family established by God in his Word? One can only speculate. Perhaps it is because, having uncritically accepted worldly categories of sexual orientation and human identity, an ambivalence toward the family is inevitable. Since the speakers and organizers of Revoice wish to challenge what the church has always believed about the nature of temptation, homosexual desires, and human identity, perhaps a necessary component of that project is a relative devaluing of the family as designed by God.
 

I am choosing my words carefully, I assure you. I believe that the warnings from Revoice against making an idol of the “nuclear family” are, at the very least, ill conceived. This warning comes from those who have chosen to embrace a homosexual identity, invented a category of non-lustful same-sex sexual attraction, and have, in many cases, eschewed the creation mandate. I do not believe they are in a position to offer wise counsel regarding the family. That may sound harsh. But my intention is to correct what I view as a sharp trajectory toward serious error. Even the terminology of “nuclear family” is adopted from secular culture. Much like the term “sexual orientation,” “nuclear family,” implies that there are various ways to be family just like there are various ways to be sexually oriented. But in the Scriptures we see that God has instituted two families: 1) The conjugal family of husband, wife, and children, and 2) The spiritual family, the church to which all Christians belong.
 

Consider what God affirms about the conjugal family in his Word:
•    It is the creation of God (Gen. 1-2). The conjugal family is the one God-prescribed design for families.
•    It is given the creation mandate to have children and govern the created order (Gen. 1-2). That means humanity’s very purpose is tied to the conjugal family.
•    It is the means by which God communicates the blessings of his covenant of grace from one generation to the next (Gen. 12, 15, 17; Acts 2:39).
•    It was the means by which the Messiah was raised and incorporated into Jewish society.
•    It is assumed in and governed by God’s moral law (Ex. 20:1ff; Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:18-21; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
•    It is the ordinary means by which God trains his people to understand and obey his law (Deut. 6:20-25).
•    It is (marriage, that is) a living illustration of the mystery of Christ’s love for his church (Eph. 5:22ff).
 

Even a cursory survey like the one above suggests that it would be exceedingly difficult to value the family more highly than does God.
 

To be sure, the human heart is a factory of idols. Our imaginations run wild in ways we are probably not fully aware, seeking to worship the creature rather than the Creator. So I suppose it is possible to make an idol of the family. But I suggest that is no easy task. Again, is it possible to value the family, to love the family, to place a higher priority on the family than does God? I assume so. But how hard one would have to work to do so.
 

However, it is also true that not everyone is called to be married. Indeed, some are positively gifted to remain chaste. The Apostle Paul himself recommended chastity for those who would follow in his footsteps of dangerous and demanding ministry (1 Cor. 7). What is more, not every marriage is blessed with the ability to procreate. These men and women must never be slighted, ignored, or in any way devalued within God’s spiritual family, the church of Jesus Christ. I am blessed to be a pastor to precious souls in all these categories of life and our church is stronger because of them.
 

So, the church is made up of the married and the chaste as well as those with and without children. If any pastor, elder or church member withholds love from or marginalizes someone because they are unmarried or without children they are sinning against God and the body of Christ. It must also be stated that those who are married and have children should not be resented for it. Neither should churches be dissuaded from acknowledging the goodness of marriage and child-raising.
 

In the weeks since the Revoice conference, nothing I have read has lessened my deep concern about the theology and ethic taught at the event. Given where the conference was hosted I wonder whether the theology of Revoice will be given a place in the PCA. I suppose it already has.
 

I agree fully with the following statement from Rick Phillips in a post published yesterday (9/25/18):

There are many reasons to have sympathy with the aims expressed by the Revoice conference, especially the genuine sorrows of those who experience same-sex attraction. But the doctrine of Revoice is not one that biblically faithful Christians can afford to view with sympathy. Either the biblical view of humanity, sex, marriage, and society is right or else it is wrong. Likewise, if gays represent a prophetic voice challenging the church to conform, then it is the traditionally understood Christian view of sex and marriage that comes under rebuke. It is for this reason that the PCA cannot afford either to endorse the Revoice message or even to stand by inactive as conferences like these are held in our churches. If the Bible is true, right, wholesome, and good, then the doctrine of Revoice must not be embraced, nor permitted in the counsels of the church. What is at stake in this controversy is nothing less than the commitment of our denomination to the truth of God's Word and our embrace of the Scripture's view of life and godliness.
 

Recommended:
You can read Dr. Harry Reeder’s excellent commentary HERE.

Tim Geiger of Harvest USA attended Revoice and recorded his thoughts HERE.

David Strain wrote a wonderful piece on same-sex attraction in the form of an imagined letter to a struggler.

Dr. Guy Waters wrote a helpful piece on Paul’s words about homosexuality HERE.

 

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Once again Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Powder Springs, GA will be hosting their annual Reformation Worship Conference in partnership with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. This years’ theme is “Worshipping God’s Way, Not Ours.” I’m planning to attend. Give me a shout if you see me.
 
Date: October 18-21, 2018

Speakers:
Scott Aniol
Roland Barnes
Kent Butterfield
Dan Cole
David Garner
Robert Godfrey
David Gordon
David Hall
Terry Johnson
Burk Parsons
Carl Robbins
Mark Ross
Neil Stewart
Carl Trueman

Register HERE
 

Posted on Friday, August 03, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

The Revoice conference is over. But we will continue to hear from Revoice, its various speakers and supporters. It is not my goal here to write a point-by-point rebuttal of the many troubling things that were stated in the conference. I have listened to the addresses from Nate Collins and Eve Tushnett and there is enough troubling material there to keep one busy for quite a while.

 

One of the central points of controversy with Revoice specifically and the Gay Christian movement in general is their understanding of sin and temptation. They have departed from the testimony of Scripture and the Protestant theological heritage. Is attraction to members of the same sex inherently sinful, morally neutral, or essentially good like attraction to mebmers of the opposite sex? If Jesus was tempted in every way as we are then does that mean he struggled against same-sex attraction? Some, even in the PCA, are saying yes.

 

Mark Jones recently posted the following helpful comments on his facebook page:

 

"

SSA and Christ's Temptations. A few thoughts...
 

Temptation and Sin
 

Lusting in the heart after that which is opposed to God’s law is opposition to that which is good. Here we are speaking of internal temptations, understood as the deliberation to sin. Thus sin has several stages, as follows:
 

A) Inclination and propensity;
 B) Deliberation (via inward or outward temptation);
 C) The resolution to sin;
 D) The act itself;
 E) A certain pleasure in performing the act;
 F) Boasting.
 

Of course, not all stages are necessary for sin to take place. Temptation, inwardly, may be sinful. What is temptation? As John Owen notes,
 

“It is raising up in the heart, and proposing unto the mind and affections, that which is evil; trying, as it were, whether the soul will close with its suggestions, or how far it will carry them on, though it do not wholly prevail. Now, when such a temptation comes from without, it is unto the soul an indifferent thing, neither good nor evil, unless it be consented unto; but the very proposal from within, it being the soul’s own act, is its sin” (Works, 6:194).
 

If temptation is understood this way, then a proposal towards that which is evil (e.g., same-sex attraction) is sinful. We are distinguishing between proposals from within versus a proposal from without. And the distinction between the two is not a mere quibble, but the difference between heaven and hell.
 

As John Davenant notes, “although the faculty of desire itself is not sin, yet the inclination and propensity of it to evil is sin; even in one asleep, when it does not at all actually incline to sin.” This is similar to the act and habit of faith. As those who still have remaining indwelling sin, we have the habit of sin always that leads to acts of sin. We mortify not just the acts but also the habit, which means we repent not only for the act but the habit of sin. In other words, we repent for who we are, though forgiven, because we are still those who have remaining uncleanness in our very being.
 

Christ Tempted in Every Way
 

I hold that Christ was not “liable to temptations from within.” If I may summarize the basic view of Reformed theologians, and including the vast majority of the Puritans I have read, I would argue the following:
 

Our temptations typically arise from within us, as we are lured away by desires that give birth to sins such as unbelief and sinful lust (James 1:14–15). Jesus was free from these types of temptations. He did not have an inclination towards evil or the “inclination and propensity” of desire towards evil from within. For example, as the Sinless One, filled with the Spirit beyond measure, he did not experience lust in his heart towards a woman; however, that does not mean he did not find certain women attractive. As a man, he would have experienced a natural attraction to a beautiful woman. Beauty is necessarily attractive. Nevertheless, this “attraction” was always kept perfectly in check. Never once did it move to the realm of lust or covetousness.
 

The various outward temptations that Jesus would have felt may have had a certain appeal, but he fought ardently to repel them all. To depend on oneself or to give in for a moment to a lustful thought or action always carries an appeal, but Jesus could not and did not do that. He always entrusted himself to his Father. He always responded perfectly to any situation in which he found himself tempted.
 

There were, however, no sinful impulses in Christ that originated from within his human nature. Because Jesus had infirmities, he had natural human weaknesses that, for example, made him subject to hunger. Thus the devil tempted him in that area in the hope that Jesus would not depend on God but upon bread alone. The desire to eat when hungry is not sinful, but such a craving at the expense of faith in God’s provision is. As the sinless one, Jesus felt the force of temptation more than we can imagine.
 

As such, Owen and the Puritans would say that a homosexual lust, even if it is not acted upon, is sinful. Even homosexual attraction has to be mortified because it is not natural, but rather unnatural. It is a temptation towards that which is evil. So not just the act itself, but also the “deliberation” that arises from the “inclination and propensity” is sinful and needs to be mortified (Rom. 8:13). Inclinations need to be reoriented so that propensities are reoriented so that the justified child of God is freed more and more from resolutions to sin.
 

Christian faith has indeed seen homosexual orientation as perversion, or at least as a pathology, and its expression as a serious sin. But if people want to argue that inward temptation in the form of homosexual desires is not inherently sinful because Christ was tempted in every way as we are, they will have to do a little better than simply make that assertion.
"

 

Posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I am often asked whether the PCA is liberal or on its way to becoming liberal.
 

I have not been shy about voicing concerns about certain trends in the PCA that, if left uncorrected could lead eventually to a sad undoing.
 

But before addressing any concerns let me be clear on this point: the PCA is not liberal. If it were then I would be seeking a call to another Presbyterian denomination.
 

If you believe that the PCA is liberal then I invite you to ask the opinion of any minister in the PC(USA), ELCA, or Disciples of Christ. They will laugh at the suggestion. To them we are knuckle-dragging troglodytes. For example, the PCA does not ordain women to church office. That alone places us, in the minds of many, in the outer dark along with the other fundamonsters. The PCA holds to the inerrancy of Scripture. We uphold the biblical standard that sexual intimacy is to be enjoyed only within the confines of marriage between a man and woman. And while we are on the subject of marriage, the PCA does not recognize homosexual marriage nor are its clergy permitted to officiate homosexual weddings. Those standards were once again recognized and strengthened in our most recent General Assembly.
 

When we use the word liberal we ought to do so as those who know our history. Protestant Liberalism which bloomed in the United States near the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries was marked by a rejection of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture and pretty much everything supernatural about the Christian faith. H. Richard Niebuhr, no fundamentalist, famously described the theology of Protestant Liberalism as, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”
 

The PC(USA) provides us with a sad picture of a liberal denomination. Over a period of years and decades the once orthodox communion came to embrace a post-modern approach to reading the Scriptures in which they deny its authority and divine origin in favor of a model whereby the reader is free to determine its usefulness. They abandoned the treasure of the gospel of Jesus Christ in favor of a bowl of spoiled pottage. They fully embraced the new sexual revolution and accepted the language and categories of the current gender chaos. They hold forth a Jesus who, rather than being the atoning sacrifice for sinners, is the ultimate social justice warrior; a hippy pro-abortion Pope Francis for the first century.
 

I could go on, but you get the picture. The PCA is most certainly not THAT.
 

We are a denomination that was founded out of the liberal chaos of the old PC(US) – southern Presbyterians who ultimately merged with the larger PC(USA). From its inception the PCA determined to hold to Scriptural inerrancy, a gospel unadulterated by the latest political and social fads, biblical standards for leadership within the church, and biblical sexual ethics. And while it would be foolish to think that those commitments will remain secure or that there are no current challenges, the PCA continues to be a Reformed and evangelical denomination with a high view of Scripture.
 

So why all the concerns? Why have there been so many laypersons and elders warning about a liberal drift in the PCA? Why have I shared many of those concerns?
 

That is the subject of my next post.

 

Posted on Friday, July 20, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Dr. Robert Gagnon, author of what is probably the most thorough study available on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, has written a helpful piece responding to the upcoming Revoice conference being held at Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA) in St. Louis (July 26-28).

 

 

Gagnon writes:

 

"

While I am glad for the fact that persons at the Revoice Conference (July 26-28, St. Louis, in a PCA venue) and those who align with the "Spiritual Friendship" program want to refrain from engaging in same-sex intercourse and thereby uphold this part of the orthodox witness, I have seven consequential concerns about their views.

 

1. Inadequate engagement with the need for "renewal of the mind" as regards homosexual desires. Is there any asking of: "What is the false narrative that gives these impulses particular strength? Why am I viewing a person of the same sex as a sexual complement or counterpart to my own sex? Why am I aroused by the distinctive sexual features of my own sex, by what I already have? Am I thinking of myself as only half of my own sex? What kind of strategies for renewing my mind can I use to counter this false narrative beyond 'washed and waiting'?" Instead, the benefits of a generalized "gay" perspective (minus the sex) are celebrated or lifted up. Even if one's attractions may not change with such an evaluation, they can be disempowered by exposing the lie that lies behind attempts to gratify same-sex desire or (for "transgenders," so-called) to deny one's biological sex altogether. There is more to be addressed here than refraining from homosexual sex.

 

2. The adoption of terminology for self-identity that cannot be sanctified and inevitably brings in the whole "LGBTQ" baggage ("sexual minority," "gay," "transgender"). This terminology is normally associated with self-affirmation rather than sin and switches the obligation of the church from a call for repentance and restoration to a call for inclusion and diversity that celebrates what should be mortified. The fact that evangelical proponents of the "sexual minority" language are unwilling to use it of those with a pedophilic or polyamorist orientation should tell us all something.

 

3. A greater focus on a victim mentality than on the need for disengagement with the LGBTQ agenda (hence their refusal to sign the Nashville Statement). It is more important for them to say that the church has treated persons with same-sex attractions in an ungodly way throughout its history (painting with a broad brush) than to say that those who promote homosexual practice and transgenderism in the church are committing heresy. Indeed, they usually reject the heresy charge and any arguments made from Scripture that homosexual practice is a particularly severe violation of God's standards for sexual ethics. Many cast entering into homosexual unions not as egregious sin but rather as something less than the maximal "flourishing" that God has for us. Self-critique generally doesn't go further than a non-moral disability model. This in turn often leads to favoring church membership (without church discipline) even for self-professed Christians actively engaged in homosexual relationships.

 

4. Support for "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" laws that lead to the persecution of Christians and the erosion of the church's own standards (since indoctrination in the sphere of the state affects the views that people carry into the church); even general support by some of, or at least strong sympathy for, "gay marriage."

 

5. An apparent aversion to any thought of developmental influences on any homosexual attraction and discouragement of any who seek help for reducing the intensity and direction of same-sex sexual attractions. Indeed, the idea of some Christians who shift on the Kinsey Scale in the direction of less homosexuality is viewed as a virtual betrayal of the benefits of being "gay" and a threat to those who have not experienced any orientation change. They not only assert that such change is not possible for them but also appear to want to close the door for all others. Granted, a change in the experience of same-sex attractions is not requisite for being a strong Christian; God can declare "my grace is sufficient for you" without removing said attractions. Yet doesn't God also at times remove or significantly ameliorate the deprivation or difficulty (see numerous Gospel miracles)?

 

6. A formulation of spiritual friendship that looks an awful lot like marriage minus the sex: viz., a promise of lifelong commitment to one person of the same sex viewed as one's "significant other."

 

"

 

You can read the rest of Dr. Gagnon’s post HERE.

 

Posted on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

“Beloved the objects we look at are distant, and we are near-sighted.”
Charles Spurgeon

 

I am a melancholic; a depressive. I am typically rather sad and in some cases deeply sorrowing.
 

I have never required hospitalization for depression or received a diagnosis. But most days I walk about with what I refer to as my dark or stubborn shadow. He sits on my shoulder and whispers destructive and damaging things in my ear. That is a typical day. And then there are the days when that little shadow gets especially wicked and I feel as though I am dragging behind me a rotting corpse. That is a disturbing image. But the sort of melancholy I am referring to is not a case of the blues on a Monday afternoon. Depression is a deeply damaging and oft times deadly malady.
 

I do have times of genuine happiness and joy that are not infrequent. I will from time-to-time have seasons of peace such that I begin to wonder whether the sadness will return. Inevitably though he finds his way back to me and perches on my shoulder.
 

That was difficult to write. As much as we have learned about depression and anxiety and as openly as these matters are talked about there is nevertheless a stigma attached to them which causes the sufferer no small amount of embarrassment. Even as a pastor who can relate to depression I find it easier to talk to someone about their cancer than about depression with someone living in the pit.
 

Those who do not suffer with depression or paralyzing anxiety simply cannot understand the ones who do. They cannot understand how the mind can be in a state where even the most delightful blessings cannot be recognized much less enjoyed. The light is shut out by shadow. They speak to the sufferer with what may be generally true statements and counsel but as ones who use a tool unskillfully: “Just pray. Why can’t you believe God’s promises? Don’t you trust the Lord?” Instead of being a source of comfort, like Job’s friends, they wield true statements in such way that they feel like a cudgel landing on an already bruised head.
 

In his memoir of depression, Darkness Visible, novelist William Styron laments the blandness of the word depression. He writes, “For over seventy-five years the word has slithered innocuously through the language like a slug, leaving little trace of its intrinsic malevolence and preventing, by its very insipidity, a general awareness of the horrible intensity of the disease when out of control.” Styron suggests a term like “Brainstorm” or some other “truly arresting designation” (p. 37).
 

What a blessing then that Scripture gives the people of God a great lexicon of sorrow as well as examples of those who walked in the thick darkness. Indeed, there is an entire book of the Bible entitled Lamentations and the poetry of Job illustrates the dagger-like pain of unremitting sorrow. The Psalmists put sorrow to music.
 

Psalm 88:3-7
    For my soul is full of troubles,
      and my life draws near to Sheol.
    I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am a man who has no strength,
      like one set loose among the dead,
      like the slain that lie in the grave,
      like those whom you remember no more,
      for they are cut off from your hand.
    You have put me in the depths of the pit,
      in the regions dark and deep.
    Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
      and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
 

Psalm 69:15
Let not the flood sweep over me,
    or the deep swallow me up,
    or the pit close its mouth over me.
 

Job 7:13-19
 When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
    my couch will ease my complaint,’
    then you scare me with dreams
    and terrify me with visions,
    so that I would choose strangling
    and death rather than my bones.
 I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
 Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.
 What is man, that you make so much of him,
    and that you set your heart on him,
    visit him every morning
    and test him every moment?
 How long will you not look away from me,
    nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit?
 

The Bible also provides us with portraits of those who experienced times of deep depression and anxiety. There was a time when mighty Elijah wanted nothing more than to lay down and die. As we have seen, the Psalmists and Job drank deeply from the cup of sorrow. Jeremiah was The Weeping Prophet. Jonah’s ministry was often accompanied by times of despair.
 

How often do we contemplate the fact that Jesus knew what it was to walk in sorrow and anxiety? Of course Jesus’ times of despair were not due to nor did they result in sin. But the circumstances which pressed upon him were such that he was referred to as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He wept at a friend’s tomb. He mourned over the spiritual blindness of his people. He experienced grievous physical reactions in the Garden of Gethsemane. Does it comfort you to know that our Lord experienced the deepest sorts of anxiety and sorrow?
 

Think also of the Apostle Paul. He expressed a longing to go home to be with the Lord (Philippians 1:23). He juxtaposed the Lord’s good purpose of using him further for the sake of the churches with his own desire to depart and be with Christ. This seems to be more than simply a wholly positive function of his knowledge of the goodness of the Lord’s presence. It seems to me that Paul’s eagerness to gain heaven was also tied to the weariness caused by his sorrows and suffering.
 

Paul, who wrote to the Philippians that they should be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6) confessed to “the anxiety” he bore for caring for the churches. In fact he compared his anxiety for the churches to the pain he had experienced at the hands of torturers, shipwrecks, and threats from bandits (2 Corinthians 11:28).
 

Once when waiting to hear word about whether the Corinthian church had repented of their sin or remained steadfast in their rejection of him as their shepherd he fell into a time of despair that can only be described as depression. So great was his sorrow that the Apostle could not even fulfill his mission to take the gospel through the open door provided for him in Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12ff). Imagine all that Paul had endured over the years for the sake of the gospel. He had endured beatings and lashings and imprisonments and all manner of physical pain and depravation. And yet he kept preaching. But in the face of depression he collapsed and walked away from an open door the gospel.
 

Church history provides many examples of those who suffered from depression and anxiety. Martin Luther seemed to feel everything deeply. And because he seems to have never had an unarticulated thought we have records of his suffering from despair and sorrow.
 

In Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan wrote of the Slough of Despond, the Giant Despair, and Doubting Castle as ordinary impediments that every Christian must endure.
 

William Cowper, the great poet, hymn-writer, and friend of John Newton, suffered with such maddening depression that he made multiple attempts at suicide. Nevertheless, through those times of thick gloom he could write words of sublime consolation:
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head

 

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust him for his grace
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face

 

Or

 

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die:
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

 

When this poor, lisping, stamm’ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save:
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save.

 

Of all the examples afforded by history the man who has been of most help to me is Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon was pastor of the world’s largest church at the time and one of the most famous men in England. He is the most prolific writer in the history of Christendom. His sermons were in such demand that for some years the transcripts were the largest weekly parcel to leave the coast of England on their way to be read by Christians around the world. His accomplishments in ministry which included an orphanage and school for pastors were so prolific that they boggle the mind.
 

Spurgeon also knew frequent times of melancholy so deep that he could be reduced to a heap on the floor. He was remarkably open about his struggle with depression especially for a man in Victorian England. For example in one sermon Spurgeon said, “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.” References to depression, sorrow, melancholy, etc pepper his sermons. He showed unusual insight into the various causes and “cures” for depression.
 

Knowing that many of the Lord’s servants have been afflicted with deep melancholy Spurgeon wrote:
“There are some true souls whom God loves who yet do not often enjoy a sunshiny day; they are very dark as to their hope and their joy, and some of them have perhaps, for months, lost the light of God’s countenance.”
 

Spurgeon did not berate the depressed or belittle their suffering. This is no doubt due in part to his own experience of affliction. But his empathy certainly owed also to his confidence in the Lord’s compassion:
“Some of you may be in great distress of mind, a distress out of which no fellow-creature can deliver you. You are poor nervous people at whom others often laugh. I can assure you that God will not laugh at you; he knows all about that sad complaint of yours, so I urge you to go to him, for the experience of many of us has taught us that, ‘the Lord is gracious and full of compassion.’”
 

The causes of depression are wide and varied. Much of my experience of depression has been the result of anxiety and shame. Shame is a tough one. There is a helpful role that shame can play in people’s lives. We refer to people who seem to have no boundaries on their behavior as shameless. Shameful acts ought to prompt godly sorrow and repentance.
 

But when God’s redeemed people continue to hear the loathsome accusations of shame the experience can be crushing. In my worst moments that little shadow on my shoulder whispers in my ears words that confirm my worst suspicions about myself; that I am a failure as a husband, a father, a pastor, and a friend.
 

My typical response to even the gentle correction of friends is not defensiveness but far greater self-recriminations and loathing. My mind quickly concludes that not only must the correction be valid but the truth of the matter must be much, much worse. My shortcoming must be the result of the fact that I am a rotten person. This response is like an involuntary reflex. My mind goes there before I even have a chance to breathe.
 

While serving in a difficult church my sorrow and anxiety were intensified. One evening I passed out in an elder meeting and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. In those few years there were days so dark that I would arrive home unable to speak; unable to think of anything but the pain. It was like stepping on a nail. In those moments every bit of reality was subsumed into the intensity of the wound.
 

By God’s grace, my wife Karen did not try to “fix” me. She did not try to argue me out of my pain. Yes, she would gently challenge my perspective and that is needed at times. But the best thing she did as I would collapse into my chair unable to feel anything but fear and sorrow was to open her Bible and begin to read to me from the Psalms.
 

The combination of the power of God’s Word and the tenderness of my wife’s care would begin to poke holes in the opaque shroud that had settled over me. Never underestimate the power of God’s living word to comfort the fearful and sorrowing soul. The Psalms continue to be my choicest place of refuge when the voice of shame shouts and the cloud of sorrow settles over my life.
 

I do not expect to be completely free of this affliction so long as I am on this side of the New Creation. I will continue to ask the Lord to take it away. But at this point it looks like that is not in his plan. What is more, I can tell this affliction has served some purpose in my life. I suspect that were it not for this painful thorn my sins would be far greater than they already are. Without the mitigating effect of sorrow and anxiety I think my pride, anger, greed, jealousy, and lust would all be far worse. In fact the sorrow and anxiety that accompany me daily may be the prime instrument the Lord has used to keep me from bringing reproach upon the name of Christ and his church.
 

Please don’t misunderstand. I do not have a romantic notion of depression and anxiety as though they are something I bear bravely or gladly. I do not like this affliction. When it flares my first response is never, “I thank you God for the wonderful test of my faith. Oh the wonderful things I will learn from this!” Nor do I stoically accept the great sorrow when it comes. I hate it. I hate every second of it. And while to this day I still persist in asking God why he chose this affliction for me to bear I am not completely blind to the necessary things he has done in me through it.
 

I can say this much for certain. This hard apprenticeship of sorrow has caused me to long for Christ’s appearing more than I otherwise would have. The promise that our returning Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes is fuel for my desire for the New Creation. Christians who suffer from depression and anxiety tend to long for that home for which we were ultimately made.
 

I often exert great effort to make this world my home. But the only thing that restricts me from settling down too comfortably is my stubborn shadow. Nothing has humbled me or driven me to prayer and dependence upon Christ so much as depression and anxiety. And so in my best moments, even if through gritted teeth, I can say, “Thank you for this thorn.”

 

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”  (Revelation 21:1-4)

 

Recommended Reading:
The Psalms
Romans 8
2 Corinthians
Revelation 21 & 22
Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray
Depression: Looking Up From The Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch
Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes and Cure by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
 

Posted on Friday, June 29, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Thabiti Anyabwile has stirred up a bit of controversy with an op ed published by the Washington Post. In it he makes some rather serious statements concerning fellow evangelicals who differ with him on certain political issues.

 

In the interest of full disclosure, in the 2016 presidential election I voted third party for the first time in my life. I do not like Mr. Trump. I find his boasting, his personal life, and his Twitter wars to be highly troubling. I am also exceedingly thankful that Hillary Clinton is not the President of the United States. I am also thankful that Justice Kennedy is retiring during the term of the President who selected Neil Gorsuch to replace Justice Scalia.

 

Dr. Robert Gagnon has written a clear and thorough reply to Pastor Anyabwile which I believe deserves greater exposure. Gagnon is a graduate of Harvard and Princeton Universities. He taught New Testament for years at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary where he stood courageously for the biblical standards for marriage and human sexuality. It is fair to say that Dr. Gagnon has paid a price for holding to these convictions. He is also the author of THE definitive study of homosexuality in the Bible - The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics

 

Dr. Gagnon writes:

 

"

A Faustian Bargain Indeed
 

What a delusional and ill-informed op-ed piece this is by an Evangelical who claims to care a lot for the life of the unborn and for the male-female foundation of marriage ordained by God and self-evident in the material structures of nature. Not shy about criticizing fellow Evangelicals, he accuses those of us who voted for Trump to avoid the cataclysm of a Clinton presidency of being in league with the Devil (!), having “made a Faustian bargain for the mere price of a Supreme Court nominee," a bargain in which “the Devil gets the better end of that deal!” This injudicious language deserves the reprimand of every fair-minded Christian, not just Evangelical.
 

Thabiti Anyabwile "(MS, North Carolina State University) is a pastor at Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition" (TGC). He even misses that this is not just "a Supreme Court nominee" but a chance to finally get a solid majority of SCOTUS justices who won't legislate from the bench left-wing positions on abortion and "LGBTQ" coercion of religious consciences (Kennedy was typically a swing vote for the Left on abortion and all matters "gay") This is arguably the single most important judicial pick in more than a century. Moreover, Rev. Anyabwile ignores the fact that this is Trump's second appointment of a SCOTUS judge (Gorsuch was a solid pick) and that Trump might get one or two more before his first term ends, and certainly 1-3 more if he gets reelected, thereby putting in place a potentially solid majority for a generation. In addition to this, Trump has appointed 41 other federal judges and has taken a number of presidential actions of his own against abortion, transgenderism, and "gay" indoctrination, and for religious liberty and free speech, as well as other issues congenial to most Evangelicals. So Rev. Anyabwile completely understates what is at stake.
 

It is bad enough that Rev. Anyabwile dismisses not as inconsequential but as relatively so the damage that can be done on the abortion front (i.e., relative to the issues that he cites), not only by keeping Roe intact and unchallenged but also by expanding the powers of abortionists into sectors of speech, mandatory indoctrination, and compulsory funding.
 

Worse still is that he completely ignores the even greater destruction of freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion through “LGBTQ” coercion. The great “sea change” issue in the country is the requirement that all bow down to the idol of homosexuality and transgenderism. And what does that idolatry entail? Oh, it entails a great many things that apparently has escaped Rev. Anyabwile's attention.
 

That agenda entails that children be coercively indoctrinated into the belief that anyone who does not support that agenda is a bigot akin to the most virulent racist; that children be confused as to their own sexuality with the increased risk of harm that attends “LGBTQ” identification; that colleges and universities become places for punishing free discourse about the subject on the claim that anything other makes pro-“LGBTQ” fanatics “unsafe”; and that schools lose their accreditation if they do not foster such ungodliness.
 

And that's not all, not by a long stretch. It also entails that people lose their employment if on social media (let alone in the workplace) they speak critically of “gay marriage” or fail to use the “preferred pronoun” and name of a “transgender” person who denies his or her biological sex; that males who have deluded themselves and others into thinking that they are females, but many of whom remain sexually attracted to women, be allowed complete access to the private spaces of women (restrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, showers, women's shelters) and to female sporting events (regardless of the mismatch) and that anyone who attempts to stop them from doing so be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law as a "civil rights" violation; and that the workplace, like schools, must be turned into places of heavy-handed indoctrination (brainwashing) into the ideology of homosexualism and transgenderism, instituting affirmative-action policies for immorality or otherwise be denied contracts or grants from the federal government.
 

And still we are not done. It entails that people with businesses at all connected with weddings (photographers, bakers, caterers, florists) and even some that are not (like T-shirt designers) be forced to use their artistic talents and write messages that express approval for intrinsically immoral “gay" agenda or else be fined tens of thousands of dollars (or more) and lose their businesses and even life savings; that businesses have to accommodate male employees who want to come to work dressed up as women, with a female hair-style and make-up; that bed-and-breakfast places in a private residence must accept persons having "gay" sex under their roof irrespective of personal religious beliefs; and that churches be forced to let their facilities be used for "gay weddings" or any "gay" or "transgender" celebration if they allow their facilities to be rented by anyone else.
 

Is Rev. Anyabwile even aware of the bill about to be passed in California that would make it a violation of the law to talk in an approving manner about changing not just one's orientation but one's behavior from "gay" to straight or from "transgender" to conformity to one's biological sex, so long as there is an exchange of funds, possibly including even the sale of books? And that this violation is not limited to professional therapists but includes pastors and other Christian leaders? Is Rev. Anyabwile this uninformed about the dangers Christians and other people of faith face?
 

I make no pretense to having created an exhaustive list of all the ways in which the "LGBTQ" coercion can affect our lives and the lives of our children, from cradle to grave. The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations. You can rest assured that "LGBTQ" zealots have unbounded imaginations for ways in which they can compel us all to serve their interests and ideology, against our religion and against our conscience. Their primary instruments for enslaving us are the executive and judicial branches of government. At the federal level it is the President who has the greatest influence on the shape of the judicial branch.
 

On what basis does Rev. Anyabwile deny these paramount concerns? For sea-change issues elsewhere? No, but only because he is upset with Trump’s travel ban for select (not all) Muslim countries that don’t properly vet for potential terrorists. Now, one can agree or disagree with whether Trump should exercise his power in this way. But the majority of justices, including Kennedy, were quite right that Trump was within his power as President to take such action and, moreover, that the ban was not strictly an attack on Muslim religion insofar as the ban took in only a small percentage of Muslims around the world as well as some countries that were not Muslim. That Muslim countries were hit hardest by the ban is hardly surprising in view of the fact that nearly all of the international terrorism is inspired by Muslim fanatics.
 

Rev. Anyabwile is also upset by Trump’s attitude toward “Dreamers,” seemingly unaware that there are about 150 million people around the world (per a recent Gallup poll) that want to become US citizens. The US simply can't accommodate everyone who wants to be here, which means that it must rigorously safeguard its borders. The Bible provides no support for the view that countries should do little or nothing to protect their borders against illegal immigration. Like many, Rev. Anyabwile misappropriates Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, which is really more of a missionary text than a social justice text. Compare the parallels with the Mission Discourse in Matthew 10 (esp. vv. 13-15, 40) and the earlier part of the Eschatological Discourse of which the sheep-and-the-goats text is part (esp. 24:9-14). Jesus is referring to a judgment on the nations for how well or badly they treat itinerant Christian missionaries that proclaim the gospel in their midst.
 

This isn’t just my understanding. Among those over the centuries who viewed "the least of these" as Christians or Christian missionaries are Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli; among scholars of Matthew in the last half century, Ulrich Luz, Donald Hagner, Graham Stanton, Robert Gundry, R. T. France, and David Garland. Jesus' advocacy for inviting "strangers" (xenoi) into one's home in Matt 25:35, 38, 43 provides absolutely no support for illegal immigration. As an itinerant messenger of God in Galilee and Judea (and occasionally Samaria) Jesus himself was a "stranger" everywhere he went outside of Nazareth but not an illegal alien. Paul traveled throughout the Roman Empire, himself a "stranger" but not an illegal alien.
 

The Bible does indeed encourage Christians to obey the laws of governing authorities (Rom 13:1-7). Neither this text nor the texts about resident aliens (the ger) in the OT (referring to non-Israelites who have permission to be in the land) sanctions illegal immigration. There are very limited grounds given in Scripture for violating a country’s laws. Cheating a country’s relatively generous immigration laws is not among them. However one feels about the travel ban or the so-called “Dreamers,” this is manifestly not a “sea change” issue. The US already has a generous immigration policy, providing a pathway for citizenship for 1.1 million people each year. There are immigration opportunities for legitimate claims to asylum (which do not include wanting a higher standard of living because everyone in the world wants that). Everyone else needs to get in line rather than cut in line. It’s not as if legal immigration is going to be cancelled anytime soon.
 

Other than immigration issues, which hardly rival the moral weight or significance of abortion and the coercive “LGBTQ” assault on marriage, Rev. Anyabwile can come up with only the “Russian collusion” claim (which appears to many observers to amount to very little) and Anyabwile’s concern for the Trump administration’s rigorous drug enforcement policy, because he feels that this accelerates the imprisonment of “black and brown” drug offenders. Yet the offenders are doing their greatest damage in African-American and poor-white communities. Again, one can argue for greater or lesser sentences for criminal offenses but this is hardly a “sea change” issue affecting the basic human rights of law-abiding citizens. The Trump administration hasn't changed any drug laws; it is just enforcing the laws on the books. And here's the real kicker: According to a WashPost article from Jan. 5 of this year, "The number of people in federal prisons is falling, even under Trump."
 

Is Rev. Anyabwile blind to the fact that he is doing the bidding of the Washington Post, the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party whose main interests lie in the promotion of the coercive “LGBTQ” and abortion agendas and in assaulting with every state mechanism at their disposal Evangelical “bigots” who don’t treat homosexual orientation and transgenderism as the moral equivalent of racial diversity? He is allowing himself to become a pawn of an agenda intensely hostile to orthodox Christian faith. And yet groups like the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptists and The Gospel Coalition regularly give him a platform? It seems that the WashPost keeps going to the "well" of the ERLC (Russell Moore, "If Donald Trump has done anything, he has snuffed out the Religious Right," Oct. 9, 2016) and the Gospel Coalition (Collin Hansen, "This is the last spastic breath from the Religious Right before its overdue death," Oct. 8, 2016) to depress Evangelical support for the Republican candidate so that the radical anti-Evangelical left-wing Democratic candidate for President can win.
 

If I were an Evangelical with Rev. Anyabwile's political views, I wouldn't be accusing other Christians of being in league with the Devil because they preferred Trump to the Clinton cataclysm. The argument is much stronger that Rev. Anyabwile's preference for Clinton (he wrote an article espousing this back in 2016, which was published on the Gospel Coalition website) and similarly minded, hard-left Democrats (he preferred the socialist Bernie Sanders!) is both unwise and immoral. There's not much to commend supporting Democratic candidates hostile to Evangelical Christians (“deplorables” in Clinton’s terms), hostile to any protections for the life of the unborn, hostile to a biological basis for gender and to the notion of divinely ordained sexual complementarity between “male and female,” hostile to a judicial philosophy that respects the process of amending the Constitution and disallows treating that founding document as so many tea leaves into which left-wing ideology can be regularly imputed by unelected jurists, and hostile to every form of free speech and free exercise of religion that calls into question left-wing tyranny...
 

"
 

* Read the remainder of Dr. Gagnon's post on his FACEBOOK PAGE.

 

Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

It remains to be seen whether the unity displayed at this year's General Assembly represents an ecouraging trend or something fleeting. There are times when I wonder whether our differences are largely pragmatic or whether they represent something more fundamental. If our differences are more pragmatic then a greater unity is quite possible. However, if our differences are deep and fundamental in nature then such unity may well be beyond our reach. I am praying for the former.
 

I chose to not attend General Assembly this year since my beloved congregation graciously gave me a sabbatical. But I did watch rather closely through some of the means made available to the various debates and votes.
 

For the most part I was left encouraged by the reports coming from GA. Of particular interest were the votes on overtures 13 and 24. I am thankful that a version of overture 24 was approved overwhelmingly by the assembly and that overture 13 was not sustained. These are good signs. In my previous post some of the details concerning the approval of overture 24 were either incomplete or not accurate. So, let me offer an insider’s view of the process…
 

These Are My Recollections from inside the committee for the curious, A more general account of the whole process I am sharing elsewhere, but this is for the procedural-minded (I hope this can help inform on questions some have asked):
 

After the Assembly sent the Overtures Committee back, the debate was started by a motion that the Minority Report become the majority recommendation of the committee. (Later RE Howie Donohoe would insist we also must "vote to reconsider," though some of us believed the action of the assembly did this, we voted on that to make sure we were doing everything according to procedure.) Debate ensued with a few people formerly in opposition voicing support to Overture 24 if it was cut down to 59-1, 59-2, and 59-3. But a few men voiced continued opposition due to the content of 59-1 and 59-2. One elder objected that the language of 59-1 was perhaps not sufficient for civil disobedience. Another elder objected to 59-2 for its assumption that Reformed ministers would necessarily be performing marriages (as in our tradition some have said the church should not perform weddings, the civil government only should). It seemed like they would be in the minority to vote against it, but still a significant minority.
 

At this juncture, TE James Kessler introduced a substitute limiting the constitutional status just to 59-3, and retaining all the old language of the rest of the Chapter. This was attractive to many who had wanted to retain the old language because it was historic and had been useful to them. RE Melton L. Duncan and TE Guy Waters spoke in favor of it.
 

A few members, including myself, still had opposition. I voiced opposition to making just 59-3 constitutional because 59-1 as binding had use for religious liberty and civil disobedience reasons. 59-2 was also useful as binding due to the instructions on not marrying those unequally yoked. And finally, those instructions in the BCO would be important even if these are in the Westminster Confession of Faith, because the BCO gives us our PRACTICE, and 59-3 at the time only concerns belief (59-3 was merely a restatement of the WCF).
 

A final motion was made to amend 59-3 by TE Daniel Schrock, adding the line about restricting the practice of ministers who marry. (he deftly worded it as “minister who solemnize marriage” so as to allow that we may have ministers who refuse to perform weddings)
 

A short time of discussion followed, but soon TE David Hall called all questions before the house. We voted. The amendment about the practice of ministers passed. Then the vote to make the substitute the main motion passed. (at this point I voted yes, with the addition of the sentence of practice and having been convinced by the speech of TE Sam DeSocio that this was not only what could pass on the floor, but also presbyteries, and could be our overwhelming recommendation to the Assembly). The Substitute of the now revised 59-3 became the main motion and the vote was 104-1-1. One other note: without revealing identities, I knew the man voting against it, and he formerly supported the Minority Report, so I assume voted against the final because he did not believe 59-3 was enough.
 

To close the session, it was suggested and agreed we should sing the doxology. Another note, there exists a man on Overtures with perfect harmony to the doxology that is indeed goose-bump producing. This is not exhaustive, but as well as I can remember.

 

The overwhelming vote on overture 24 is something for which we should be encouraged. Now, why so many of the commissioners chose not to vote I cannot say. But that is disconcerting. Commissioners to GA need to be present for votes. Period. But I rejoice that we can say as a denomination that there is no move to create a path toward the solemnization of homosexual marriage.
 

This is worth giving thanks for. And I thank everyone of the brothers who labored in Overtures to give us something that is truly helpful and unifying.
 

I would encourage you to read Rick Phillips’ reflections on this year’s General Assembly.

 

Posted on Friday, June 15, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America has concluded and there is good news to report.

 

In my last post I lamented the decision of the Overtures Committee of the General Assembly to answer in the negative the overtures presented to make constitutionally binding the solemnization of marriage (Book of Church Order, 59).

 

You can read my previous post if you'd like to know why this effort to make BCO 59 binding was so important.

 

Some of the brothers on the Overtures Committee drafted a minority report which was then presented on the floor of the Assembly.

 

After discussion it was decided that the minority report should be recommitted to the Overtures Committee for further discussion. What appears to have happened is that after some careful crafting the minority report gained acceptance from a larger number on the committee. Long story short - after working out the details and without in any way compromising on the issue, the minority report became the majority report and was overwhelming approved by the Assembly.

 

Praise the Lord for his kindness to us. Also, thanks to those men who labored long to bring about a solution that honors the Lord, upholds or public witness, and helps guard our ministers and churches.

Posted on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Bad news from PCA General Assembly.

 

The overtures seeking to make Book of Church Order 59 (the solemnization of marriage) constitutional were all defeated by the Overtures Committee.
 

It is a sad, sad day for the PCA.
 

There will be a minority report from the OC which will give the assembly the opportunity to answer the Overtures Committee in the negative which means the overture passes. Given the way PCA progressives have rallied against these overtures it may well be that the minority report will fail on the assembly floor. However, I am hoping and praying for a good outcome.
 

The two rationales I have seen given by our progressives for opposing the overtures are:
1) It’s redundant. The Westminster Confession of Faith already states that marriage is between a man and a woman. We don't need to make BCO 59 constitutional.

2) Making BCO 59 constitutionally binding will be like hanging a “No sinners welcome sign” on the front doors of our churches. I have seen this rationale expressed by a pastor affiliated with the National Partnership (the political organization of PCA progressives).
 

Two problems with those rationales:

 

First of all – WCF only addresses the belief that marriage is between a man and woman. The BCO speaks to performing (solemnizing) weddings. Right now that part of BCO has no binding constitutional authority. That means, among other things that we are legally vulnerable. It is also naive. There are presbyterian and reformed denominations which claim to hold to the Westminster Standards but now bless homosexual unions.
 

Secondly, since some PCA pastors are stating that making BCO 59 is unkind to sinners then do they feel the same way about what WCF states about marriage between a man and woman?
 

The rationale for making BCO 59 constitutional is at least fourfold:
1) To honor God by upholding the truth.
2) To give public witness to God’s truth at a moment when that truth is under attack.
3) To give further clarity to our churches regarding this much maligned truth.
4) To protect our churches and clergy from legal attacks. Since the PCA practices good faith subscription to the Westminster Standards and allows its pastors to take exceptions (but NOT to the BCO) we are vulnerable to a legal attack. Any smart attorney can argue that since the PCA allows its minsters to take exceptions to the Westminster Standards and since the Book of Church Order on the subject is non-binding, any refusal to perform and/or host homosexual weddings is arbitrary and discriminatory.