Posted on Friday, April 07, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

It only took 43 years for the Northern Presbyterian church to move from defrocking Charles Briggs for advancing higher criticism to defrocking J. Gresham Machen. That is a titanic shift in what is essentially only two generations.

 

Posted on Wednesday, April 05, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Last week I posted a rather strong critique of the Truth’s Table podcast entitled “Gender Apartheid.” Those who have followed this blog know that I subsequently took the post down because of charges of racism that were being leveled against me. Yes, I chickened out. Those charges were wicked and untrue.
 

Part of the pushback I received was from a fellow PCA pastor who wrote a stern rebuke of me and gathered signatures from others who shared his opinion. Since then I have received a great deal of encouragement from across the PCA. Some who agreed with my assessment of the podcast have suggested that the signatories of the letter rebuking me are guilty of a chargeable offense in the denomination.
 

I want to be perfectly clear: I do not share that opinion. My fellow pastor disagreed strongly with my original post. He had every right to post a response. Certainly I do not agree with his perspective of what I wrote. I still believe my original assessment of the Truth’s Table podcast was correct. Could I have been more nuanced? Certainly. That’s probably true about many of the things I write.
 

Anyway, I bear no ill will toward the pastor who wrote the piece nor toward the signatories. If you are one of those who agreed with my original post I would plead with you to not take up an offense against those brothers. I am not offended. I write and podcast for public consumption. I’m well acquainted with disagreement. When you publish material publicly you have to be prepared for public challenges. Those brothers did nothing wrong in publicly disagreeing with me.
 

I have had a very cordial correspondence with the pastor who took me to task. He is a very kind man and a brother in Christ. I fully expect our correspondence to continue.
 

Fortunately there have been some very helpful critiques of the Truth’s Table podcast. I encourage you to read Rick Phillip’s post at Ref 21 and listen to an extremely helpful podcast from Pastor Jon Payne and Doctor Gabriel Williams.
 

Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Much to the disappointment of many good friends I have made the decision to remove a critique I posted last week of a troubling podcast.

 

I was naive. Actually I feel quite stupid. When I saw the charges of racism being leveled against me just moments ago I decided immediately I would not subject my family or the church I serve to such wickedness.

 

Any of the dozens of pastors I heard from who were deeply troubled by the podcast are certainly welcome to speak out. I will not blame them if they don't.

 

I've never been accused of being a racist before. When you see such a filthy charge in print it is stunning and sickening. I understand why it is such an effective tool to silence dissent.

 

Chalk it up as a learning experience.

 

I should add that neither my MOS co-hosts nor the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals wanted me to remove the post. In fact I feel quite bad for retreating. But I simply cannot subject the people in my life for whom I care so deeply to endure what was becoming an increasingly nasty ordeal.

 

I also want to thank Christina Edmondson with whom I shared a very cordial correspondence. Yesterday I asked Christina if she would be willing to write responses to some specific questions that arose from the Truth's Table podcast. Her responses would have been posted on this blog without any commentary or editing from me. She graciously accepted that invitation. I think it would have been a helpful experience.

 

Posted on Friday, March 17, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I am a convert to Presbyterianism. I came running from the vague and confusing world of broad evangelicalism. For several years prior to my taking vows in the PCA I, like so many of you, read quite a bit about the history of Presbyterianism in the United States. One of the things we know from the history of Presbyterianism and of all Christian denominations is that liberalism comes easy. It seems to be the natural drift of all denominations, seminaries, and churches unless deliberate measures are taken to ensure confessional fidelity. Faithfulness to confessional standards requires effort and discipline.
 

The PCA was formed precisely because the Presbyterian Church (US) had drifted far from Scripture and Reformed confessional standards. Could it be that the PCA is facing in the not too distant future a similar crisis?
 

Don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that the PCA is in the same shape as the PC(US) in the 1960’s and 70’s. That would be an egregious overstatement. The problem however is that denominations, if they act at all against the drift into liberalism, seem to always act too late. I once asked a faculty member at a confessional seminary about a crisis they faced in the recent past. My question was, “How did the conservatives at the seminary allow the place to begin drifting into liberalism?” His answer was illuminating. He said, “Conservatives, in these situations, are always playing catch up because they just assume people will stay true to their vows and not organize to change the institution. By the time the conservatives notice that a serious drift has occurred,” he explained, “it is often too late.”
 

Indeed.
 

I understand that not everyone desires to be a minister in a Christian denomination that holds to the Westminster Standards and Book of Church Order (PCA). I understand that some men want to serve in an Anglican communion. They appreciate the doctrine and practices of Anglicanism. Others desire to hold to the Westminster Standards but they believe that women ought to be ordained to church office. Perhaps they believe it is time for the church to reconsider what it has always believed about homosexuality. What I do not understand is why such brothers took sacred vows to serve in the PCA.
 

If you love Anglicanism by all means be an Anglican. I know some wonderful Anglican brothers and sisters. If you desire to ordain women then transfer to the EPC or RCA. They will happily allow you to do that. But out of respect for the sacred vows you took, your fellow presbyters, and the flock you oversee do not seek to change the PCA into something it is not.
 

I offer these words without tooth or claw. I am not shouting. But I am dismayed. In the nearly four years I have been a Teaching Elder in the PCA I have seen, read, and heard no small measure of sermons, articles, practices, and pleas which directly conflict with our confessional standards (It was acknowledged from the floor of the 2016 General Assembly, from a sympathetic voice, that many of our churches are not in alignment with the BCO regarding women in ministry). I am alarmed by the growing fascination in the PCA with what seems to be a new awakening of the social gospel which has only ever ended in apostasy.
 

Like all of you I desperately desire for the PCA to remain faithful rather than to end up on the garbage heap of protestant liberalism. So let us renew our knowledge of and commitment to the Standards to which we took sacred vows. And if you find that you no longer hold to the Westminster Standards and the Book of Church Order then do the right thing.  
 

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

There is still time to register for the Blue Ridge Bible Conference on March 31-April 1, 2017.

 

It promises to be a wonderful time.

 

The theme is God Has Spoken and our speakers are Greg Beale, Johnathan Master, Carl Trueman, and Aimee Byrd.

 

It is being hosted by Covenant Presbyerian Church in the stunningly beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

 

You can register HERE

 

Schedule

Friday, March 31, 2017
6:00 p.m. Registration
7:00 p.m. The Effects of Meditating on God's Word, Gregory Beale
8:00 p.m. Break
8:15 p.m. The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 1, Jonathan Master

Saturday, April 1, 2017
7:30 a.m. Women's Breakfast: Women, Scripture, and the Covenant Community, Aimee Byrd
9:00 a.m. J. Gresham Machen and the Authority of Scripture, Carl Trueman
10:00 a.m. Break
10:30 a.m. Receiving and Resounding God's Word, Gregory Beale
11:30 a.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m. The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 2, Jonathan Master
2:00 p.m. Question and Answer Session
3:00 p.m. End of Conference
 

Posted on Monday, February 06, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

When you get a chance watch or listen to the lectures from Carl Trueman delivered at The Master's Seminary during this year's January term. You can access the Youtube channel HERE.

 

Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

When you get a chance, listen to Carl Trueman's excellent messages from the Mid-South Men's Rally at First Presbyterian Jackson.

 

Also, our own Aimee Byrd's new book No Little Women has received high praise from Tim Challies. You can read his review HERE.

 

Posted on Monday, January 23, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

It sounds obvious I’m sure to say that your pastor sins. The Scriptures demand such recognition after all. And certainly experience confirms that no pastor has escaped the curse of original sin.

 

Yet I wonder if we have become intermittent Pelagians expecting that original sin ought to skip over pastors. Certainly I am a bit conflicted as I write this since I am a pastor. That is, I do not wish to somehow justify my sins or the sins of any other pastor. Nevertheless it seems that when a pastor sins in ways that are common to most regenerate people the response is shock and outrage. Christians are often scandalized when they observe in their pastors some of the very sins they rationalize away in their own lives.  

 

So let us be perfectly clear: pastors are sinners. They can be selfish at times. They can get their feelings hurt and sulk. It has been reported that pastors from time-to-time can become angry. Pastors are capable of being insensitive or irritable. Out of a sinful desire to please others pastors can neglect the needs of their own families. Out of that same people-pleasing desire it is not unusual for pastors to be insecure and sensitive to criticism. Sometimes pastors have conflicts with their wives, their children, their fellow pastors, and church members. Pastors struggle with anxiety and worry. Sometimes pastors will say or write something before they fully consider all the ways that their words may lack proper sensitivity. There are times when some pastors will procrastinate or even forget an important event.

 

That is only a partial list of course. But we must remember that the call to be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:1ff) which the pastor must take seriously is not an expectation for him to achieve sinless perfection in this life. Your pastor is now and will continue to be until the day he dies a man who sins.

 

If you believe your pastor has sinned against you (and if he hasn’t he may well at some point) then please consider the following:

 

1. Assume the best rather than the worst.

You owe this to all your brothers and sisters in Christ. How often, when offended, do you consider that perhaps you have erred in your interpretation of events? How often do you consider the possibility that you misunderstood, misread or judged too harshly? When you feel offended your knee-jerk reaction ought to be to assume the best, even about your pastor.

 

2. Consider your own sins and frailties.

You are your pastor’s fellow sinner. You possess similar frailties and blind spots. Are you as open to correction as you hope your pastor to be? Have you given him the same compassion that you yourself hope to receive? One helpful rule of thumb for entering into any conversation about someone else’s sin is to first reckon yourself to be the worst sinner you know.

 

3. Talk to your pastor.

Many pastors have built up over time a bit of a defensive shield because they are so used to hearing things like “some people have expressed concern,” or “I have heard from some folks…” In my conversations with fellow pastors over the years rare is the one who reports positive experiences of people coming directly to them when they are offended. So go to him. Begin by saying, “Pastor, perhaps I misunderstood but it hurt when you said or did such-and-such.” I can tell you that, unless he is a real jerk, he will appreciate that someone actually came directly to him.

 

When you go to people other than your pastor to express your concern or hurt you a) rob him of the opportunity to repent, b) fail to discover that perhaps you erred, c) miss the joyful experience of a relationship restored.

 

4. Forgive your pastor.

Your pastor, like every sinner, needs grace. He accepts the fact that he is held to a higher standard. That goes with his calling. But just because God will judge him by a stricter standard does not mean that you must do the same. If he sins against you and then repents forgive him freely and joyfully. He will be made a better pastor through his experience of your kindness.

 

5. Distinguish between sins and preferences.

Has your pastor sinned against you or has he simply violated your preferences? This is one of the greatest points of confusion I have found in almost 25 years of ordained ministry. My experience and that of fellow pastors I know is that in those times when someone takes offense it is often not because of sins committed but because of preferences violated. Your pastor has not sinned by disagreeing with you.

 

Consider therefore if you are offended because your pastor actually sinned against you or because he is not extroverted enough or preaches too long? Did he sin against you or did he make changes in the church’s music? Did your pastor sin or did he simply not affirm one of your choices or share a political opinion or give you enough attention? You get the picture.

Please don’t misunderstand. I have and do sin against others just like every pastor. I hate it. I despise my sin. And unfortunately I will continue to struggle with sin until I see Jesus. But over the years the vast majority of the time I have invested in healing relational wounds has not been because I sinned against a brother or sister. The majority of those cases have been the result of my failure (or refusal) to conform to someone’s personal preference.

 

6. Consider the burden of your pastor’s calling.

Do not pity him. Do not feel sorry for him. The calling to be a pastor is a blessing. But it is also a great burden. It is not a burden for you to carry. However, at times of frustration with him remember that he lives his life in a proverbial fishbowl. His actions and words are scrutinized more highly than anyone you know. Again, he does not need pity for this. But to periodically consider this would be good for your soul and a blessing to him.

 

7. Pray regularly for your pastor.

Your pastor is a man under attack. The enemy of our souls hates pastors precisely because they are the ones charged to proclaim the Word of Life, equip the saints for ministry, and do battle with fierce wolves. A pastor doing what pastors are called by God to do will never experience long periods of time without feeling the heat of battle. He feels it on Saturdays when the responsibility to preach God’s Word weighs heavily upon him. He feels it on Mondays when he crashes emotionally and worries that he failed God’s people. He feels it when members of the flock wander after myths. When he tries to sleep at night his mind wanders over all the expectations (his own and those of others) that he did not meet. He needs your prayers. Even Moses needed help keeping his arms raised during battle.

 

* I will be following up on this post with one entitled “Pastor, you are a sinner.”

 

* As I mentioned above, I am referring here to the sorts of sins that are common to God’s people. Sins such as sexual abuse, adultery, financial improprieties, and other clearly disqualifying sins must be dealt with as matters of church discipline and perhaps civil justice. If you know of scandalous sins or illegal behavior on the part of your pastor then you ought to make the elders of your church aware.

 

Posted on Monday, January 16, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Phillip Jensen has written a powerful reflection on the appalling ugliness of death and the hope of the life to come. The essay was written in light of the death of Jensen's 16-year-old grandson Nathan.

We expect old people to die – it is the way of the world. Yet, when it happens, and happens to somebody we love, there’s still grief and sadness; there’s still loss and hollowness. It’s an appalling challenge to our very humanity. As the poet said: “Any man’s death diminishes me”. Some part of our world, some part of our selves, has been removed and there is no scratch that will satisfy the itch of the amputated limb.

It’s the natural order of things to attend the funerals of the generations before us: our grandparents, our parents, our uncles and our aunts. We come to expect that some of our own generation will die before us: our siblings and school friends, our colleagues and neighbours. We even discuss with our spouse which one of us will die first and what we will do without the love of our life.

 But nothing prepares us for the death of our child; nothing prepares us to attend the funeral of our grandchild. That is not the natural order of things. That is not statistically normal in our modern society. That is not part of our plans or hopes; our aspirations or dreams. He was supposed to attend my funeral not me attend his. He was supposed to carry my coffin not me carry his.

Read the entire piece HERE.

 

Posted on Monday, January 16, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Once again many of us are talking about the dread evil of child abuse. As recent history proves, churches are vulnerable to predators and must, therefore, take serious measures to protect their children. This means churches must heighten their awareness of the problem, sharpen their policies, and strengthen their resolve to take action.
 

This is the first post of several which will offer a list of actions and attitudes that will go a long way in protecting a church from child predators. Among the issues I will address is what a church is to do with a convicted offender who professes faith in Christ and desires to attend services.
 

We will never be rid of predators so long as we are south of Heaven. Unfortunately churches are typically soft targets. Many predators are skillful at hiding in plain sight. They are successful at what they do precisely because they are good at disguising their wicked actions. So no church should ever assume that it has somehow shielded itself from all risk. But there are many common sense actions churches can take to reduce the risk of child abuse.

 

1. Churches must possess a formally approved child protection policy that is consistently applied.
If your church does not have a formal child protection policy in writing then stop what you are doing and begin the work of securing one. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There are denominations and churches aplenty which have done the hard work of composing comprehensive child protection policies (CPP). You may contact the church I serve (Covenant Presbyterian Church) and request a copy of our CPP.
 

Of course, a CPP is only as good as the willingness of the church’s leadership to enforce it. Simply having a good policy will not, as though by magic, provide a protective shield against abuse. So, a strong measure of resolve must be employed. And this is not easy. If enforcing a child protection policy consistently is new for your church then you can expect some pushback. Some who have been serving in youth or children’s ministry for years may well resent what to them will seem like restrictive boundaries or a lack of trust.
 

Good communication, therefore, is essential. If your church is adopting a new CPP (or simply beginning to enforce it consistently for the first time) then the appropriate leadership will need to meet with the children’s and youth workers. Explain to them that it is not your desire to communicate a lack of trust in those who serve faithfully. Rather, such policies consistently applied are a necessary feature of church life in a fallen world. You must not allow sentiment to sway you from applying the CPP conistently.
 

It does not matter how well you think you know someone in the church. It matters not how long so-and-so has been serving (Remember what we have already said about successful predators). You must insist that everyone working with children and youth in your church comply at all points with the policy. That includes submitting to a background check. If Aunt Millie who everyone has known for 40 years refuses to comply then she should not be allowed to work with children. Simply put, anyone worthy of working with other people’s children will understand the current climate and willingly submit to the stipulations of a wise policy.
 

A good CPP will include:
A police background check for every worker
A requirement for multiple adults in each room
A strict policy governing bathroom visits
A requirement of church membership for all workers
 

2. Have plenty of windows in your children’s ministry space.

Each children’s ministry room ought to be equipped with a large window on the door and/or on an indoor facing wall so that at any time a passerby can look in and observe the activity. There should be no blind corners in a room used for children’s ministry. The design of your children's ministry space ought to invite oppenness.
 

3. Equip your children’s ministry spaces with cameras.

Each room and hallway ought to have domed security cameras with the images being fed directly onto a computer hard drive. This is for the protection of all involved. I cannot think of a single good reason for a church to not be equipped with this technology.
 

To be continued...