Posted on Tuesday, June 05, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

There is a new and exciting initiative from Scott Swain and Michael Allen of Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando. It is called the Paideia Center for Theological Discipleship.

 

The Paideia Center will offer regional reading groups of classic Christian texts, monthly gatherings, and an annual conference.

 

From the Paideia website:

  • Do you desire a rich theological diet so you can develop whole and mature in Christ?
  • Do you want to read Christian classics but don't know where to start?
  • Would you like to grow with people who share your love for theology?
  • Are you eager to connect biblical teaching with everyday moral discernment?
  • Do you need greater biblical wisdom to lead in your church?
  • Are you eager to stand on the shoulders of men and women who have gone before you?

 

Be looking out for the Mortification of Spin interview with Michael Allen about the vision and work of The Paideia Center.

 

Posted on Monday, May 21, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I am not sure if it is possible for me to find anything I care about less than the royal wedding. I care more about how liver is cooked and I don’t eat liver. So I have no interest in the festivities that took place last weekend at Windsor Castle. At least I did not care until brothers in my own denomination including pastors began publicly praising Rev. Michael Curry and the sermon he delivered.

 

I won’t get into the details of Curry’s sermon. David Robertson of St. Peter’s Free Church in Dundee has done that in a clear and convincing critique HERE.

 

It must be pointetd out that the Rev. Curry is one of the leading forces in the continued apostasy of the Episcopal Church. He is not a friend of biblical orthodoxy. He is no friend to the truth concerning human identity and sexuality. Ironically, he is no friend to marriage. Reverend Curry is actively seeking to change his church's marriage liturgy to include homosexual couples thus vandalizing the biblical vision for marriage.

 

His conception of Jesus and what it means for him to have died on the cross are very different from the witness of Scripture. Likewise, his conception of what it means to love our neighbor and love God would depart in many ways from what we understand from Scripture not least of all in terms of getting the gospel right and speaking the truth about human identity and sexuality.

 

Reverend Curry’s sermon was a rather typical paean to “the power of love.” I think John Lennon would have been pleased. No wonder the secular media, various celebrities, and theological liberals were so enamored with it. But one would expect more wisdom and discernment from Reformed evangelicals. To say the name of Jesus is not the same as proclaiming Christ. Rascals throughout the history of the church have used the name of Jesus from Arius to Pope Leo to Fosdick to Kenneth Copeland.
 

Yet there it was on my social media feeds: fawning praise for “brother Curry” and his beautiful proclamation of the gospel from some of my brothers in the PCA. I could not decide whether to be surprised or not. Regardless, it was a sad thing to see.
 

In addition to the lack of discernment think of the unkindness it is to those faithful Anglicans who are hanging on or who have had to flee the ever-apostasizing Episcopal Church for reformed evangelicals to heap praise upon Rev. Curry and his sermon. These faithful brothers and sisters have been harassed in court by the denomination which Michael Curry leads. They have been sued and the property they occupied confiscated under the leadership of Curry. So much for the power of love I suppose.
 

This event served as something of a canary in a coal mine experience for me. It has revealed the presence of a dangerous leak. PCA pastors publicly praise an apostate for a moralistic sermon and call it gospel proclamation from a brother. And yet when some of us express concern about the doctrinal trajectory of the PCA we are met with anger, incredulity, or demands to prove such a trajectory exists.

 

From David Robertson’s piece:

When Curry spoke of the cross, [he] spoke of it as sacrificial, as exemplary, not as THE atoning sacrifice.  We too can be sacrificial and it is that sacrificial love that is redemptive and changes the world.   Can you see what he is doing? He is turning the cross from being THE redemptive work, to it being an example of redemptive love that we can all show. He is teaching us that we can save ourselves and indeed save the world by just having the kind of love that Christ had and following his example. That is not the Gospel. It is the antithesis of the Gospel.

 

UPDATE:

It seems that some of my PCA brothers who had praised Reverend Curry and his sermon have removed those posts. Perhaps upon further reflection they saw that such praise was inappropriate. I hope that is the case. If so, a follow-up to their readers/congregants would probably be appropriate. This issue matters. Again, I would never expect the leader of the EC in the USA to preach a sermon faithful to the gospel. But that it was being praised by Reformed evangelicals left me grieving. I hope those initial words of praise were nothing more than an understandible enthusiasm to hearing Jesus' name in such a well-broadcast event. I hope the praise was not the result of such things as the influence of N.T. Wright. Wright's view of the gospel, atonement, and imputation are, as many know, incompatible with the doctrinal standards of the PCA and other Reformed denominations. Sadly, Wright has had a rather strong influence among some pastors in the Reformed community. For them, I fear, a moralistic sermon on the love of God would indeed sound like the gospel. I hope that pastors will be open and honest about their theological commitments. The unity of our churches requires such honesty.

 

Posted on Friday, May 11, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

When was the last time you read a book on Patristic exegesis that was a genuine page-turner?

If you have not yet had that experience then you must add Craig Carter’s outstanding new book Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition to your reading. The subtitle of Dr. Carter’s book is “Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis.” You will find this book to be both intellectually stimulating and spiritually refreshing. Carter is not shy about challenging some of the presuppositions many of us were trained to accept in exegeting the biblical text. Some of these exegetical assumptions and methods depart from the Patristic tradition and, in Carter’s estimation, threaten to undermine the biblical doctrine of God and the basis for accepting Jesus Christ as Messiah. He demonstrates how aspects of the modern approach to biblical interpretation, even among many conservatives, has more in common with enlightenment skepticism than with the believing presuppositions of the fathers.

 

Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition stands tall among the new books which are, thankfully, recovering the riches of Nicene Christianity for the modern church.
 

Here is just a taste from the preface:

The purpose of exegesis is to understand what God is saying to us today through the inspired text. The text may have one or several meanings because of the complexity of God the Holy Spirit inspiring the text through a human author. The authority of the Bible is God’s self-authenticating Word speaking through it, and in order to hear God’s Word, it is crucial that we interpret it as a unified book with Jesus Christ at its center. The interdisciplinary practice of biblical studies as found in academic settings today is an agent of secularization in the church and needs to be reformed so that it becomes the servant of Christian theology and spirituality rather than a confusing amalgam of history, philology, archaeology, literary theory, sociological theory, and philosophy operating with unacknowledged metaphysical assumptions and without any material center. The meaning of the text for today is what we seek to hear as we study the text carefully, intensively, and reverently. Biblical exegesis is a spiritual discipline by which we are gradually made into the kind of readers who can receive with gladness the Word of God. Ancient reading practices, which have never died out completely in the church, can help us hear God’s Word in less subjective and more ruled ways than modern hermeneutics makes available to us…

The Enlightenment has exercised more influence on scholars who wish to make an impression on the secular academy than it has on faithful pastors who wish to cultivate a love of the Bible in their congregations. Many books seek to bring church practices into line with academic theory; this one seeks to do the opposite. It is my conviction that academic theory needs to be reformed according to church practice when it comes to biblical interpretation.

This book has grown out of a decade of reading, research, and reflection on the Christian doctrine of God. I have become increasingly disillusioned with modern theology in general and with the twentieth century’s so-called revival of Trinitarian theology in particular. The post-Kantian, Hegelian, Trinitarian theology that has dominated the twentieth century is actually not a revival of the Trinitarian classical theism of the fourth-century pro-Nicene fathers or of creedal orthodoxy as it has been understood throughout church history. It represents instead a massive revision of the Christian doctrine of God. The Great Tradition of Christian orthodoxy begins with the Old and New Testaments, crystalizes in the fourth-century Trinitarian debates, and then continues through Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, the leading Protestant Reformers, post-Reformation scholasticism, and contemporary conservative Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant confessional theology. The locus classicus of the Christian doctrine of God is qq. 1-43 of Part I of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, which sums up and carefully sets forth in a clear and coherent form the wisdom of Athanasius, the Cappadocian fathers, and Augustine – that is, the Trinitarian classical theism that is expressed in the Nicene Creed. The same doctrine of God is also embodied in the seventeenth-century Westminster Confession of Faith and in the twentieth-century Catechism of the Catholic Church. It has a timeless character that stands in contrast to the shifting winds of doctrinal innovation and cultural fads.
 

Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Recently Carl delivered two lectures at Reformed Theological Seminary (D.C.). They are entitled The Road to Nowhere and are well worth your time. Broadly speaking, the subject is how we have become a people for whom the statement "I am a man trapped in a woman's body" makes sense. Or perhaps, how we became a people fascinated by the wife of Kanye West. This is public theology done well and a great alternative to the shallow thinking that often accompanies Protestant interaction with the spirit of the age.

 

 

 

Posted on Monday, March 05, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Like many, I was troubled by the response from Sovereign Grace Ministries to Rachael Denhollander's stated concerns about their handling of sexual abuse allegations. I was equally troubled by the number of men who forwarded SGM's response along as "thoughtful" and "helpful." I found it to be neither.

 

Mrs. Denhollander has written a thorough response to the SGM statement. It is carefully worded and free of rancor. It would be well worth your time to read it. And I do hope that those who forwarded SGM's statement will read and carefully consider Denhollander's assesssment.

 

Pastors, we must be vigilant in these matters. The impulse to protect our reputation or that of our church must never be considered when abuse is revealed. We have an obligation to the vulnerable. We also have an obligation to the civil authorities. We have an obligation to our Lord to act in defense of those who have been abused. If we mess up in the process then let us give full disclosure and offer full repentance.

 

Posted on Monday, February 05, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

The media loves a former Christian. Recent years have seen well-known former believers rise to prominence. Some are scholars like Bart Ehrman while others are are more folksy celebrities like Rob Bell and Jenn Hatmaker. Now, Mrs. Hatmaker still maintains that she is Christian. The problem is that her Christianity bears little resemblance to that of the Bible and the church's historic confessions. The de-convert's stories are often moving. Sometimes we can identify with and even agree with portions of their experience. But upon careful reflection their reasons for abandoning biblical Christianity are rather dull and unpersuasive.

 

Michael Kruger has written a piece which is quite helfpul in exposing the flaws of the typical de-conversion story. Of these stories Dr. Kruger writes:

De-conversion stories are designed not to reach non-Christians but to reach Christians.  And their purpose is to convince them that their crusty, backwards, outdated, naïve beliefs are no longer worthy of their assent.  Whether done privately or publicly, this is when a person simply gives their testimony of how they once thought like you did and have now seen the light.

Through his excellent blog, Dr. Kruger has for years been addressing the reservations, doubts, and outright attacks of well-known skeptics and de-converts. His latest post was prompted by an interview of Jenn Hatmaker by well known de-convert Peter Enns.

This interview has been making the rounds, and I can see why.  She’s a friendly, charming and well-spoken woman who is easy to listen to.

And the title of her interview fits this de-conversion theme perfectly: “Changing Your Mind about the Bible: A Survivor’s Guide.”  As many know, the main issue Hatmaker changed her mind about is that she now fully affirms the LGBQT lifestyle as consistent with biblical Christianity.

But, Hatmaker’s journey in this interview is not as original as it might first appear. In effect, she simply follows the same basic playbook used by Rob Bell, Bart Ehrman and others. The details may be different, but the overall point is the same.

Dr. Kruger offers five common features of a the de-conversion story. They ring powerfully true...

Step #1: Recount the Negatives of Your Fundamentalist Past
Step #2: Position Yourself as the Offended Party Who Bravely Fought the Establishment
Step #3: Portray Your Opponents as Overly Dogmatic While You Are Just a Seeker
Step #4: Insist Your New Theology is Driven by the Bible and Not a Rejection of It
Step #5: Attack the Character of Your Old Group and Uplift the Character of Your New Group

 

Dr. Kruger concludes:

In the end, there’s no doubt Hatmaker’s de-conversion story will be persuasive to our postmodern world.  And I am sure some will adopt her newfound theology as a result.

But, upon closer examination, it is rife with problems.  While claiming to be non-judgmental, she declares the fruit of those who believe in traditional marriage as “rotten.”  Despite her insistence that the Bible should be read without certainty, she offers all sorts of dogmatic claims about what the Bible teaches. While claiming her views are due to a deep study of Scripture, she offers only simplistic (and even irresponsible) explanations for the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality, while disregarding 2000 years of church history.

Yes, we should not settle for pat answers.  But, sometimes the Bible does give clear answers. And when it does, we should be willing to listen and receive them.

You can read the entire post HERE.

 

Posted on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I have been challenged politely by some and excoriated by others for writing an open letter to Andrew White, the staunch defender of Roe V Wade, PCA Ruling Elder, and candidate for governor of Texas.
 

I have been called divisive and even unchristian by some fellow Teaching Elders for posting the letter. The basic point of the complaints is “Have you contacted him personally? Why don’t you just let the session of his church handle this? That’s how Presbyterianism works.”
 

But how does my open letter in anyway hinder or stop the session of his church from doing the right thing? How does my open letter stop the Presbytery from doing what is right?
 

I was alerted to the story about RE/candidate White by a number of PCA laypersons who were genuinely confused and vexed. I was being asked, “Is the PCA pro-choice?” “Is it time to leave the PCA?” The fact is, Mr. White’s public advocacy of wicked and violent policies has caused division within the church and vexation among brothers and sisters in Christ. A quick and public response was necessary.
 

Let’s frame the issue like this:
Suppose an open white supremacist was running for governor of Texas. Suppose also that he was a Ruling Elder of a PCA church. Let’s also suppose that his position on the legislation of his views was less ambitious than Mr. White’s commitment to actively defend abortion.
 

For example, what if our racist RE simply stated that he believed in white supremacy but did not favor changing any laws in the US? What if he stated that he believed that racial intermarriage should be illegal but that he would not seek to introduce legislation toward that end? What if he stated that while he believed whites to be superior to blacks he would nevertheless uphold current laws?
 

Would that be enough for a public rebuke? I certainly believe it is enough. I would not wait for months to see if his session would act. I would want to be out in front assuring PCA laity and the public in general that his views were absolutely out of accord with the PCA and biblical Christianity.

 

Posted on Monday, January 29, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Andrew White is a Ruling Elder in a PCA church in Houston, Texas. He is also running for Governor of Texas. He has recently stated his full support for Roe V. Wade the 1973 Supreme Court ruling which made laws prohibiting abortion unconstitutional. In an interview aired on Texas Public Radio Mr. White stated, "I support Roe v. Wade 100%, and it's the law of the land, we just celebrated the 45 year anniversary of that." He also said that as governor “I'll veto any of this legislation that's coming out that limits a woman's right to choose.” You may hear those comments beginning at the 8:20 mark in the audio.

 

 

Dear Mr. White,

 

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

You and I have several things in common. We both love the state of Texas. I was born and raised in Houston. You are a ruling elder in a PCA church. I am a Teaching Elder in the same denomination. We both profess faith in Jesus Christ. For this I rejoice. In fact it is on the basis of our brotherhood in Christ that I write to you.

 

I understand that you are running for Governor of the state of Texas. What a tremendous responsibility that would be should you be elected. While Christians will certainly continue to be marginalized because of our belief in the authority of God’s Word and our love for Christ and his gospel I trust that Christians will continue to seek ways to exercise influence in public life including running for elected office.

 

Unfortunately, based upon your public statements it is clear that your Christian convictions will have no bearing on your role as Governor of Texas should you win. I gather this from your own words in a recent interview: "My personal faith is personal to me, but I will not let it interfere with how I govern."

 

How is it desirable for a Christian to believe that his or her faith convictions have no place in the public square? And how is it even possible? If you are indeed a Christian, how is it possible for you to govern a state as though you were not?

 

I was deeply troubled to hear of your position on abortion. You have pledged to give full support to abortion. Indeed your position on abortion seems to be one of celebration. In an interview on Texas Public radio you stated:

"I support Roe v. Wade 100%, and it's the law of the land, we just celebrated the 45 year anniversary of that." And “I'll veto any of this legislation that's coming out that limits a woman's right to choose.”

 

You state that you hold to the Joe Biden position of being personally opposed to abortion while favoring its continued practice.

 

My question is on what basis do you personally oppose abortion? The only reason to oppose abortion is if it is indeed the taking of an innocent human life. And since abortion is indeed the taking of an innocent human life (the only reason for your personal opposition) then how can you support its continued legality? That sort of position collapses under the weight of its own moral contradictions.

 

Since you are a Christian and ruling elder in a PCA church I will proceed with the assumption that Scripture shapes your thinking. I assume as well that our denominational standards are also of great importance to you. God’s Word has no notion of life in the womb being anything other than fully human; the creation of God. The following is a small sampling from the Scriptures and Christian history:

 

The Psalms

The Psalmist refers to children in the womb as “treasure”:

“You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.” (Ps. 17:14)

 

The Psalmist reflects on God’s creative and wonderful work in the womb: 

For you formed my inward parts;

            you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

   I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

           Wonderful are your works;

            my soul knows it very well.

   My frame was not hidden from you,

           when I was being made in secret,

            intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

   Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

            in your book were written, every one of them,

            the days that were formed for me,

            when as yet there was none of them. (Ps. 139:13-16)

 

The Prophets

“Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.”  (Isaiah 44:2)

 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

 

Mary and Elizabeth

In the first chapter of his gospel, Luke describes an encounter between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth when they were both pregnant. Mary was carrying in her womb the miraculously conceived Messiah and Elizabeth was carrying the one who would come to be known as John the Baptist. The encounter highlights the fact that God’s Word assumes the full humanity of children in the womb:

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Lk. 1:41-45)

 

Christian History

Perhaps you have read about the Christian practice in the first few centuries of the church of rescuing babies left abandoned to die under the cruelty of the elements. So common were these rescues that they captured the attention of the upper echelons of Roman government. This practice of rescuing the weak and vulnerable was based on those Christian’s biblical convictions. They learned from God’s word that they must try to rescue those who were being led away to destruction.

 

The Presbyterian Church In America

The Westminster Larger Catechism (part of the doctrinal standards you and I have taken sacred vows to uphold) states the following:

 

Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?

A. The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.

 

There is also the report from an ad interim committee on abortion from our denomination which clearly states opposition to the practice of destroying life in the womb.

 

I trust that you are aware of the staggering number of abortions performed in the United States since the passage of Roe V. Wade. We have crossed the 60 million mark. Compare that to the number of US military killed in action in all combined wars: about 2.8 million. There is no human slaughter in history that can compare to that which was made possible through Roe V. Wade. It most certainly is not something to celebrate.

 

I wonder also if you are aware of the genocidal feature of Roe v Wade among African Americans. Since, by your own words we “celebrate” the anniversary Roe V Wade I assume you are informed enough to know that almost 2,000 black babies are aborted every day in the United States. Since the passage of Roe V. Wade some 16 million black babies have been aborted in our nation. The numbers are appalling.  

 

In 1935 the Nuremburg Laws essentially excluded Jews from German society. They were dehumanized; called lesser persons. This dehumanization made possible the Nazi program of genocide. Abortion is justified on the same grounds. The most vulnerable members of the human family – the unborn – have been dehumanized. Since the claim that unborn children are not human is no longer supportable on scientific grounds, abortion proponents now label the pre-born “lesser humans.” Surely you do not want to add your voice of approval to such a moral catastrophe.

 

In light of all this, how do you justify your current position on the slaughter of the unborn? How is it that you join in celebrating the anniversary of Roe V. Wade? How can you promise to use all your powers as Governor to uphold and defend the practice of abortion?

 

I am praying for you Mr. White. I am praying that the Lord will open your eyes and grant you repentance from you current views. I am praying that, should you harden your heart and maintain your current position, your church and presbytery will do the right thing and exercise proper discipline in your life. It is not too late. So long as you have breath there is time to repudiate your current views. I pray you do.

 

Yours in Christ,

 

Todd Pruitt

Lead Pastor

Covenant Presbyterian Church

Harrisonburg, VA

 

Posted on Friday, January 26, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

The Best thing I have ever found on understanding Covenant Theology is Ligon Duncan's lectures from Reformed Theological Seminary. You can listen to them free on ITunes.

 

If you would like to actually understand Covenant Theology you won't find a better explanation.

 

Posted on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I will not rehearse the grotesque acts of Larry Nasser.
 

As you probably know by now, Nassar is the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor whose crimes led to his disgraceful end. Today (January 24) he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. It is estimated that Nassar sexually assaulted over 150 women and girls.
 

During the sentencing, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina gave some of those assaulted by Nassar an opportunity to address the court and the man who victimized them.
 

Rachel Denhollander is the woman who first shone the light on Nassar's deeds by recounting the abuse she suffered at his hands. Mrs. Denhollander’s statement in court was powerful. But it was much more than that. She gave a better presentation of law and gospel than you will hear in many evangelical churches.
 

Mrs. Denhollander spoke boldly about the depth of Nassar’s guilt. Her words exposing his actions and the impact of those actions gave him no place to deflect his sin or in anyway minimize its impact. Extraordinarily, after methodically naming his evil she held forth the radical promise of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. I say “radical” because that is exactly how it sounds in light of Nassar’s wicked deeds.
 

In all of this we are reminded that the gospel demands repentance. It is not a self-help program meant to make good people better. The gospel is not a nice word for nice people. It is a word of pardon for those devestated by their sin. It is a promise made to sin's slaves that purchase has been won through the death of God’s Son. So great is the sinner’s guilt that nothing else would satisfy the demands of perfect justice.
 

Speaking directly to Nassar, Mrs. Denhollander said:

In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.

The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God's wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

Read Rachel Denhollander's entire statement HERE