Is Church Discipline Getting a Bad Rap? Yes and No

"The marks by which a true Christian Church is known are these:
if the pure doctrine of the gospel in preached therein;
if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ;
if church discipline is exercised in the punishing of sin."


Have you noticed?  Church discipline is back in vogue in conservative Christian churches, particularly those that are Calvinista strongholds.  

When I think of church discipline, I think of Mark Dever.  Here he is talking about one of his favorite topics. What is church discipline and why is it important?-Mark Dever from christianitydotcom2 on GodTube.

Is church discipline getting a bad rap?  YES and NO


Church discipline has become so popular in some circles that it inspired a RAP song.  Curtis (Curt) Allen, a pastor at Solid Rock Church (part of Sovereign Grace Ministries) wrote a song about it back in 2008 called Don't Go.  Unlike the self-proclaimed pastor-athlete C.J. Mahaney, Curt is a pastor-rapper.  You can read about him here on A View From the Cheap Seats. 

Check out these lyrics from Don't Go.

                                                    Verse 3

To whom it may concern: I hope this letter finds you doing good
It just so happens, I’m rapping in your neck of the woods
I heard you thinking ‘bout leaving the flock. Your secret sin has been exposed
Now church discipline got you hot. It’s embarrassing
You thinking that everybody is judging you
And not realizing this process is loving you. It’s biblical, believe it or not
And its invent was meant for you to repent, not vent and leave the flock
You gotta understand a pastor’s position, if you sinning and won’t repent
Then you are living like a non-Christian
It’d be foolish to judge the past fruits of your life
And be like, “All right, I think they in good standing with Christ”
This is serious, as Scripture teaches that what you gotta do
Is repent and believe the gospel that was a part of you
If you don’t, your sin can’t be condoned, but we hoping that it won’t go there
Repent and come back home

To read all the lyrics and download the song from the SGM Store for less than a buck, go here.  

Before you think I'm ragging on Curtis, you need to know that I actually have a lot of respect for him.  Why?  Because he is one of the only SGM pastors who has shown genuine compassion for those who have been victimized in Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Several months ago he engaged in a dialogue over at SGM Survivors and even fielded some questions.  That took a lot of courage, and I applaud Curtis for his bravery. 

Getting back to the SGM rap song, I believe these lyrics demonstrate that church discipline in some churches has gone over to the dark side.  Why in the world is church discipline the subject of a rap song?  I'd love to know who suggested it.

YES, church discipline is definitely getting a BAD RAP – pun intended!

Now for the real purpose of this post. 

Is church discipline getting a BAD RAP, which we define as "unjustified criticism"?


Have you noticed that church discipline has almost become a cottage industry?

Take a look at the 9 Marks book we featured at the top of the post.  According to Amazon, this book will be coming out at the end of April, right after the Together for the Gospel conference.  How convenient!  Conference attendees will in all likelihood preorder the book for an early May delivery.  The number of books, sermons, blog posts, articles, and videos about church discipline is staggering!  Just Google it and you will see what I mean.

I did some research and discovered that Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been highly outspoken about church discipline for well over a decade.  Perhaps he knew about Mark Dever's Nine Marks when he penned this article:  "Church Discipline:  The Missing Mark" which was featured in Chapter 8 of The Compromised Church: The Present Evangelical Crisis (1998).  It certainly appears that Al Mohler and Mark Dever have been strategizing how to re-implement church discipline for quite a while.

Mohler concludes his church discipline article with these words:

"The mandate of the church is to maintain true gospel doctrine and order. A church lacking these essential qualities is, biblically defined, not a true church. That is a hard thing to say, for it clearly indicts thousands of American congregations who long ago abandoned this essential mark and have accommodated themselves to the spirit of the age. Fearing lawsuits and lacking courage, these churches allow sin to go unconfronted, and heresy to grow unchecked. Inevitably, the false unity they seek to preserve gives way to the factions that inevitably follow the gradual abandonment of biblical Christianity. They do not taste the true unity of a church grounded on the truth and exercising the ministry of the keys.

John Leadley Dagg, the author of a well-known and influential church manual of the nineteenth century, noted: “It has been remarked, that when discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.”16 If so, and I fear it is so, Christ has abandoned many churches who are blissfully unaware of His departure.

At the end of the twentieth century, the great task of the church is to prove itself to be the genuine church revealed in the New Testament— proving its authenticity by a demonstration of pure faith and authentic community. We must regain the New Testament concern for fidelity of doctrine, purity of life, and unity of fellowship. We must recover the missing mark."

A decade ago Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Trustee of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Founder of Nine Marks sat down with Wyman Richardson and answered some questions.  The questions and answers were recorded in an article entitled: Concerning Church Discipline:  An Interview With Dr. Mark E. Dever. The interview begins with these questions (in bold) and answers.

"Dr. Dever, we do appreciate you granting us this interview.

Thank you very much. I’m delighted to spend the time with you.

We will be referencing two things rather frequently throughout this interview, so I suspect we need to offer some definitions up front. Dr. Dever, if you don’t mind, could you give us a definition of (1) church membership and (2) church discipline?

“Church membership” would be the concept that there are a certain number of people who have committed themselves before the Lord and with each other to the service of God in a particular local assembly, in a particular local church. “Church discipline” is really the larger idea of us as Christians realizing that in that church part of the function is for us to help each other grow up in Christ.

Commonly, when people use “church discipline,” they don’t mean it in the formative sense, but only in the corrective sense. But really, technically, it would be all of the training we do: Sunday School, preaching, everything. That would be considered formative, the positive side. Negatively, when you correct somebody, it’s called “corrective church discipline,” and that’s usually taken from Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5, and elsewhere, but mainly from those two texts about how we should try to realize that our brother’s or sister’s sanctification is partly our responsibility also. Then, when we confront them, if they don’t change, as Jesus says in Matthew 18, after being confronted by us alone, and then by two or three others that come with us, then finally, our appeal is to the ecclesia. That’s the word that’s used there in Matthew 18. It’s to the church. And so we take it not to the Southern Baptist Convention or not to simply the pastor and staff or to the board of deacons, but we take it to the church. And so it’s called “church discipline.”

You have dealt with the topics of church membership and church discipline in your book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and also in the book Polity, which is a collection of writings. But you contributed an essay to that and edited it.

That’s correct.

Why have you felt led to focus so much on these two topics?

Well, because when I look at the gospel in America today, I think one of the main roadblocks is not our lack of telling people, though I want us to tell people more, but it’s what our churches look like when they’re full of people who say they know it and believe it. And I think our churches are one of the main roadblocks to our evangelism. So I don’t think we need one hundred more churches doing Evangelism Explosion. I think we need one hundred more churches practicing church discipline. And once those churches begin to look distinct from the world, then all of a sudden the verbal witness that all of the Christians give starts to mean a lot more."

It certainly appears that Al Mohler and Mark Dever have been two of the leading voices for church discipline.  We will continue this topic of discussion in our upcoming post.

Lydia's Corner:  Jeremiah 1:1-2:30   Philippians 4:1-23   Psalm 75:1-10   Proverbs 24:17-20



Is Church Discipline Getting a Bad Rap? Yes and No — 221 Comments

  1. “Discipline”. A term which appears several times in the Bible.
    And not once in the context of “church”.

  2. I can’t say that there is never a need for church discipline but, what I find odd is in the new testament we hear about one specific church discipline case. This fellow was SLEEPING WITH HIS STEP MOTHER!! I have heard of a church discipline case where a man with a drinking problem was an elder in a Lutheran church. The church had ignored it for a long time until a new pastor came and began to see that this elder was coming to some of their meetings a bit tipsy.

    He was confronted and was given help through AA I believe. He was disciplined in the sense that he could not commune and could not participate in any of his old duties of the church. As time went on, he still came to church and was loved by all. Within a certain time frame the pastor one Sunday announced that he was being reinstated and that was that. There were no panels to discuss all of this. In that case, I can’t say that I see a problem. It is a tough thing but, it had to be done.

    My question for 9 Marks and other Calvinist groups is what are your grounds for discipline? In the case above there was grounds for discipline. An elder of the church was given to too much wine. Also, I get the feeling that they think that the church in America was grow leaps and bounds if we discipline people. Is that what Paul was running around Asia Minor doing?

    I can’t wrap my head around what they mean by discipline. I just need to know if they are talking about gross immoral behavior or the fact that last week you yelled at your husband. Also, if you are going to confess your sins will you be disciplined or is it ONLY for those who refuse to repent? Finally, I need to know what Mark Dever means that they are excommunicating them without doing it in the RC sense of damning someone. Does he mean that during church discipline that person is not really saved? I have lots of questions here because I am not anti church discipline, I just think that I have a different idea of church discipline than a Calvinist.

    You all should take a look at and pat kyle’s response to Sophia. He talks about Church discipline being a mark of the church for Calvinist but Lutherans don’t view it that way…

    Any comments, thoughts?

  3. Robin – about Lutherans – there really is no single answer, as there are differences from synod to synod.

    In the ELCA (Evangelical Luth. Church of America, which I belong to), I can’t imagine anyone experiencing punitive discipline. It just doesn’t work that way, though it might have a hundred-two hundred years ago.

    on the other hand, the Wisconsin Synod has excommunicated people for participating in Boy/Girl Scouts. (I wish I was making this up!) So there’s no telling where they stand on this issue.

    I think the LCMS (Lth. Church Missouri Synod) might be more severe than the ELCA, but I’m not at all certain how it works there. (They are pretty strong on Biblical inerrancy, though.)

  4. In that one case (called punishment, not discipline, by Paul) it’s amazing how the II Cor 2:5-11 half of the story gets relegated to a footnote. Just read the entreaty of Paul to the church toward the now-sorrowful fellow: turn to forgive and comfort him. And: reaffirm your love for him. And: You forgive, I forgive.
    The Matt 18 passage only has to do with church to the same degree it deals with the 2 or 3 witnesses– as another attempt or prod to “gain” your brother. The “you” who initiates and carries through the whole process (including the gentile and tax collector part) is — the injured party! Not the 2 or 3, not the church, and not church leaders.
    Forgiveness is also the point of this process, as Peter understood when he immediately asked how many times he should do so. As for discipline– we find this best spelled out in Heb. 12– initiated and carried through by God Himself.

  5. In the 1930’s my great-grandfather was a young cofC elder in rural Alabama, at a small congregation comprised mostly of extended family.

    He was encouraged by a visiting preacher rapidly rising to fame as a radio star to initiate dis-fellowship of his own teenage sons for the mortal sins of stealing chickens and making homebrew.
    Common sense dictates that such petty delinquent behavior was best corrected within a large, loving, respectable and God-fearing family.

    Unfortunately, my great-grandfather heeded the preachertainer’s call for a public show of church disciplinary authority.
    An essentially private parenting matter was exploited to glorify the preacher. The boys were mortally embarrassed in public and ostracized from the family, which was the church, for no good reason. Henceforth, all of my great-grandfather’s own children would doubt his fitness to protect them from predators like the radio preacher. One of the boys never returned to the church that was instrumental in reuniting our family after Civil War.

    That was the first time meddlesome advice by professional clergymen tore my family apart. It would not be the last.

  6. Long before Dever and Mohler appeared on the scene, conservative evangelical churches I attended practiced, on appropriate occasion, formal and informal discipline.
    Formal discipline meant having a church meeting with members only. Very rare.
    Informal meant the leadership handled it quietly.

    As I recall, no matter how the leadership handled it; people were upset.

    “Nothing new under the sun.”

  7. But these people are known for throwing softball pitches to grown men in leadership while being heavy-handed when dealing with a ten year old girl that was molested.

    Why should we allow them to continue hurting people?

  8. Just an anecdotal story that relates tangentially…

    We moved last spring and our new home is further away from our church by about fifteen minutes. It isn’t impossible for us to continue there, but since we are in a new community it would be nice to worship and make friends in our new little town.

    I emailed our pastor (we are in a Christian Reformed church, not Neo-Reformed) and told him we were going to visit some other churches. I told him the reasons about distance, finding a place to fit in, finding a place to use our gifts, etc. We had a good and open dialogue. He made it very clear he hopes we will stay.

    Last night our assigned elder came to visit us as a follow up. He wanted to open with a word of Scripture and prayer. He read John 3:16 and commented on how the Gospel boils down to this and everyone who believes in Christ as Savior and Lord will be together in heaven. We talked pleasantly for about a half an hour about various things related to the church. He closed by saying that the leadership hopes we will stay, but if we feel God leading us to another church we should feel free to leave and we will go with their blessing.

    We all shook hands and he left.

    No guilt, no manipulation, lots of listening and asking questions.

    So, yes, there are healthy churches out there being led by humble men – even of the Reformed persuasion.

  9. I think this is by far and large a ‘handling’ of church discipline issue. The stories are many of people who have been abused by the leaders and hurt by the church. We don’t need to discredit or take away from that.

    We also must refrain from over-correcting and not holding the standard high. One can not make it through the letters of Paul with out seeing the way he rebuked others, or at the minimum held them to a certain expectation. The entire letter to Philemon is about calling him to walk in a certain manner.

    So to answer your question. I agree the criticism is not unjust, it’s my prayer that we learn how to carry out disciple and accountability in a biblical manner.

  10. Sallie,
    Thanks for sharing that story. It’s always a great reminder that there are churches out there who truly function like a church!

  11. Robin
    I did read his retraction when it went up. I believe he believes he did the right thing. I, however, upon looking at the discipline contract and then the debacle of the internet posting (really, really dumb) disagree with the entire episode. Let’s assume for a minute (and I do not believe this) that Andrew fell on a couple of other occasions, maybe even before he came to Mars Hill. I also do not like it when people pull the “you don’t know the whole story” routine. I saw this used on a group of boys who were hurt. The leaders would say that they couldn’t discuss these things and that there was more to the story. This is a way to deflect poor behavior. Oh, there was more to the story and it involved them and it wasn’t pretty.

    The real question remains. Is this really the way to handle things? I say no and I believe in church discipline. However, the way this church discipline was handled was embarrassing, autocratic and condescending. This is nothing in Scripture that says we have to publicly humiliate a person. As you rightly pointed out, the one sin in Scripture was for “sleeping With His Step Mother. It was actually worse. This guy was flaunting it playing the game of “freedom in Christ.” This was a dangerous situation for the church. It wasn’t just the sin (and a startling one at that). It was the flaunting of this.

    The problem inherent in the Mars hIll situation is this. Driscoll raises everything to a “felony” offense. He has publicly announced that people sin through questioning. His motives are very, very questionable. Meanwhile, Andrew confessed and actually felt bad that he had hurt his fiancee. The guy in Scripture was flaunting it. I disagree, hands down, with the way this was handled-top to bottom. And I don’t really care if there was “more to the story.” This sort of response by the church will have a chilling effect on confession of sin in the Mars hIll body. People will go into overdrive hiding their faults because, who knows, tomorrow you will get disciplined for saying Mark Driscoll appears to be a pompous autocrat.

    There are better ways. This crowd chose a mediocre way which is my view of the theology and practice of their pastor-MEDIOCRE (at best).

  12. Apostle Appalled aka Dave

    I do not mean to be ignoring you. We are getting flooded with comments and are barely hanging on. But we will prevail! This blog is meant to be more than just a place to share thoughts. Deb and I actually care about the folks who spend their precious time and share their thoughts with us. We never expected such a response and so we are trying to peddle as fast as we can in order to make sure this blog does not become depersonalized. We love your comments and you always add much to the discussion, particularly in regards to Scripture.

    In fact, I have a request. If you think we are overlooking any comments, yours as well as others, will you hit us over the head either by comment or email. We need all the help we can get!

  13. Sallie
    I, too, have been a couple of excellent churches and have written about that here. That is why I become so incensed when I see church going rogue. It does not need to be that way.

  14. Yes, researching and writing posts and keeping up with all of the comments are quite challenging! My hubby remarked to me last night, “I believe you work harder than I do”, and he has a very demanding position.

    Please forgive us if your comments are not properly acknowledged. 🙂

  15. This argument over church discipline is driving me as crazy as it’s driving you, Dee and Deb! 🙂

    I mean here’s the thing. What we are arguing over is NOT “should church discipline ever exist when it is needed, or should it be ignored?” That’s what MH and other places THINK we are arguing, but it’s because they aren’t listening to us. (Or don’t want to).

    What we are arguing is “What is an appropriate definition of ‘church discipline,’ and what is an appropriate USE of church discipline?” Our complaint is that they are using manipulation practices and calling it “church discipline” when it really isn’t.

    I’m not sure where the strange, authoritarian notions of church discipline are coming from in the Calvinista circles….is it growing out of their understanding of authority? Of sin? It’s really hard to say. In any case, I wish they’d examine it more closely.

  16. sad observer,

    Your comment is spot on! That’s exactly what today’s post will be addressing. I plan to quote you. Inserting your comment into the draft right now. 🙂

  17. I’m not sure where the strange, authoritarian notions of church discipline are coming from in the Calvinista circles….is it growing out of their understanding of authority? Of sin? It’s really hard to say.

    Actually, it’s really simple:

    “The only goal of Power is POWER.”
    — Comrade O’Brian, Inner Party, Airstrip One, Oceania, 1984

    In any case, I wish they’d examine it more closely.

    — always quoted by crooked/abusive televangelists to silence opposition

  18. If you read all the pronouncements about why it is so important to “become a member” of these groups, invariably they will tell you it is so you can be subject to church discipline. They want control, pure and simple.

    Dee, there is far more to the situation at Mars Hill than we have been privvy to so far. It is a good bet that the ‘Andrew’ situation is just the tip of the iceberg. Have you seen this: ?

  19. The problem with the church discipline cases that have been in the news lately is that they read like bad divorce cases where one spouse is saying, “I don’t like you anymore so I’m going to make your life a living hell from now on. I won’t let the kids (other parishioners) talk to you or any of the neighbors either.”

    I don’t think that’s what church discipline was ever intended to be, nor am I convinced it was intended to be a formal process akin to a court (of the kangaroo variety). Tie this kind of attitude to the remarkably poor exegesis of scriptures related to church discipline and there is a recipe for spiritual abuse.

  20. Just wondering – or is it wandering…

    Can’t seem to find “Church Membership, ” or “Local Church,” in my antiquated KJV.

    Even Dever knows “Church Membership” is NOT in the Bible, NOT biblical…
    He calls it a “concept.” If it was in the Bible – he would be quick to quote some verses. 😉

    Dever couldn’t even find verses he could twist or mis-interpret. Oy Vey!!! 🙂

    Five paragraphs up from the bottom – Dever says in the interview…

    ““Church membership” would be *the concept* that there are a certain number of people who have committed themselves before the Lord and with each other to the service of God in a particular local assembly, in a particular local church.”

    In the Bible – Does anyone know where to find…

    Someone “Going to Church?”
    Someone “Joining a Church?”
    Someone “Leading a Church?”
    Someone “Tithing to a Church?”

    A building called “Church?”

    A Pastor – in a Pulpit – Preaching – to People – in Pews? 😉

    Does anyone know what the word “Church” means?

    No… Really… Does anyone know what the word “Church” means? What it refers to?
    How it is used in the scriptures? – NOT *the concept.*

    What is popular is not always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is not always popular.

  21. TedS.

    Someone sent me that link a few days ago. Just this morning I have seen it three times!

    (1) A commenter posted it in response to a post on Wade Burleson’s blog

    (2) Rory posted in under our post Brother Mark’s Traveling Sex Show

    (3) You have provided the link here

    This brave blogger ends with the following paragraph:

    “I hope Mars Hill’s current elders will encourage Mark to stop and repair with those he has specifically directed his anger and misogyny over the years and to seek counsel for his past issues he hasn’t addressed, because the past verbal violence he directed toward individuals was verbal violence toward the Savior. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me” (Mt. 25:40). And the issues he hasn’t yet addressed in his own heart will resurface again. In every instance in which Mark’s accountability structure (whatever that is now) is aware of his verbal sins without holding him accountable and is aware of baggage from his upbringing without pointing him to gospel counsel, the name of Jesus and the good parts of doctrine Mark teaches will be undermined right along with him, as is now the case in many secular news stories.”

    I hope those here will take the time to read it.

    Our Review of Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll

  22. Juniper,

    What an excellent comment! This was terrific:

    “I won’t let the kids (other parishioners) talk to you or any of the neighbors either.”

    Shunning makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE!!!

  23. The marks, by which the true Church is known, are these: if the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin: in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. – Belgic Confession Art. 29.

    It is interesting, at least to me, that in all of the discussion on church discipline, at least among the new Calvinists, there is a real focus on excommunication as the sum of discipline. In reality if you examine the Reformed confessions on the subject (Belgic Confession, Westminster Confession of Faith, Second Helvetic Confession), the understanding really is this:

    1. The preaching of the Word is, in itself, an act of discipline.
    2. The right administration of the sacraments is, in itself, an act of discipline.
    3. Therefore, in every church where the gospel is preached in its fulness and the sacraments are rightly administered (i.e., fencing the Lord’s Table) church discipline is happening, and happening weekly!

    Furthermore if you examine WCF 31.3, you discover the primary point of church discipline in Presbyterian churches: “Church censures are necessary for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren…”. This is the point of discipline. According to the WCF, it is only in the case of notorious and obstinate offenses that excommunication occurs; the intermediate step is suspension from the Table. It takes some pretty heinous acts to reach the level of excommunication, as well as an obstinate refusal to repent.

    Which makes me wonder…

    Why hasn’t Mahaney been excommunicated??

    I’m willing to volunteer!

  24. Too many people here are blasting the concepts of “church membership” or “discipline,” because the talking heads don’t whip out proof texts. As if they invented this concept out of thin air and then decided it must be from the Bible. Puhleeze. Have you EVER even heard of historical theology? This has been a standard practice and interpretation of the church for thousands of years. Dever didn’t make it up, he’s just fighting to keep the practice from being dropped in a culture of pragmatic pastors counting noses and nickels.

    I think Sad Observer gets it right. It’s about doing discipline correctly, not whether to do it at all. Every church disciplines somebody. EVERY church. Jesus said “go make disciples, baptizing them and TEACHING them to obey…” that’s what discipline is. It’s teaching obedience to Christ. To the extent that somebody refuses to comply with the clear instruction of Christ, that is when corrective discipline comes in, i.e., the man sleeping with his mother in law. It’s NOT ABOUT BEING THE SIN COPS! Just because you yell at your wife, it doesn’t put you under corrective discipline. The purpose is NOT to blast sinners who make mistakes. It for sinners who would justify their behavior as an acceptable expression of a Christ follower. IF I yelled at my wife habbitually, and eventually did it in front of others, who then talked to me about it and say, “hey, that was a rather cruel way to treat her,” and THEN I proceeded to defend my right to be a jerk like that and said, “there’s nothing in the Bible against me yelling at my wife…” etc… THEN I might become a candidate for corrective discipline, because scripture is very clear that husbands are not to be harsh with their wives.

    The problem is when fundamentalist or liberal churches attempt to disciplines. Fundamentalists will deny you communion for playing cards. The Baptist church from my hometown does not allow its members to consume alcohol. That’s just plain legalism, or adding to God’s law. Liberal churches can’t discipline anybody because they refuse to accept the simplest definitions of what is or is not sin.

    Another problem arises when people attempt to discipline others who are not under discipline themselves. There is no perfect system where EVERYBODY is under accountability, but when a Pastor has spiritual sanction to discipline all but nobody can speak into his life, then he is in a position to become a tyrant, and usually will. That is why non-denominational churches can be such a joke; it’s entrepreneurial religion at its worst, not an organization dedicated to promoting the teachings of Jesus. But just because some tyrants abuse discipline does not mean we should not have it: the solution is to make sure that they answer to somebody as well.

  25. Sad Observer,

    This comment, “What we are arguing is “What is an appropriate definition of ‘church discipline,’ and what is an appropriate USE of church discipline?” Our complaint is that they are using manipulation practices and calling it “church discipline” when it really isn’t.”

    Is spot on. My months of reading blogs of people who have been hurt has slowly showed me this very thing.

  26. Oh, and I’m a big fan of removing from the membership role people who do not attend. A church with 1000 members and 100 attenders needs to update their books. When 500 hundred people show up on voting day, that’s a political game: at least 400 of them have no stake in the outcome, since they do not participate in the life of the church. They do not deserve a vote, and giving it to them simply tramples on those who are pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into the life of that particular congregation. If you want to “belong” to a church, you should be a part of what it does. Why should we even need the Bible to justify this?

  27. “The beatings shall continue until morale improves.”

    Mark, We must run in the same circles. I have said this for years. Good to know someone else gets it.

  28. I was big time on board with the whole concept of church discipline but the problem has been that…… It is the leaders who needed the “discipline”.

  29. “We also must refrain from over-correcting and not holding the standard high. One can not make it through the letters of Paul with out seeing the way he rebuked others, or at the minimum held them to a certain expectation. The entire letter to Philemon is about calling him to walk in a certain manner.”

    You are missing a huge point, friend. Paul used persuasion, warnings, etc. He had no power to excommunicate anyone. He told the ENTIRE Corinthian church how to handle a serious problem. He did not write the elders (who were they, anyway? Names please since they are so important) and tell them to handle it. The entire church was to handle it.

    He rebuked Peter publicly but had no power to “discipline” him. The whole point was to call attention to wrong behavior of Peter.

    What we have are little men who love the power to decide what should be “disciplined”. The problem is the false teaching of a caste system of “clergy/laity” in the Body. If more people understood they are priests in the priesthood and sought Holiness outside some human’s words, we would not have these power hungry little popes and their magisterium.

  30. Robin,

    I have read pretty widely from Calvinista literature on the subject since I went through a reformed phase before coming to Lutheranism.
    I can assure you that the vast majority of them have in mind what was practiced in the Lutheran church from your example. A very similar thing happened recently in Tom Ascol’s church, Reformed Baptist. The man was kicked out for 17 years because of alcohol abuse, and welcomed back the minute he sought help for his problem. Calvinists are staunchly opposed to private confession (like to a priest), so pretty much it’s for cases of gross immorality. Obviously, there will always be exceptions, and those who exploit the system for personal power.

    Dever is right about helping the church: The Apostle Paul WAS going around asia minor teaching. He was teaching obedience to Christ, and this is the essence of discipleship. He did not back down from calling out sin, his letters are full of it. It rarely went into the “corrective” phase because typically if you got a letter from Paul addressing your specific behavior, it was corrected without a whole lot of debate. Dever’s point is we have all the positive discipline, or teaching, but without the corrective, we’re just making suggestions. Churches need to be places where people are committed to following Christ, not just where it is suggested.

    Dever was clear in the video that their “excommunication” does not remove a person’s salvation. I think you might find your ideas of church discipline are much closer to what Dever is getting at than you think. Mahaney is a different story; he’s just playing games with the system.

    Lutherans absolutely DO practice discipline. We don’t call it a mark of the church because the only two marks for us are the right teaching of God’s Word and the administration of the sacraments. However, one of the ways we DO practice discipline IS the private confessional. We believe the Pastor has God’s authority to forgive our sins, and Luther even held this to be nearly a third sacrament.

    Believe me, it’s much simpler to go just to your pastor, who is pretty much obligated to two things when you confess: 1. Confidentiality, on pain of loosing his job. 2. To give forgiveness. He is not authorized to withhold it from a repentant sinner, even if they keep doing it again and again. The Calvinists would to well to learn these two tips from us.

    Private confession is falling out of common use in modern American Lutheranism, but it is still common to deny communion to unmarried couples living together, which is usually the most common example.

  31. Oh could I say some things that would have “the man behind the curtain” ready to forever zap my IP address, but because I may be censored and have comments deleted that would really shake the already shaky relationship between us, I will only say….

    If you want to know the results of what I call “Spiritual Abuse” to the victims of those Power Hungry “Church Disciplinarians” actions or AKA those within the Religious – but mostly the Baptist Mafia – just ask someone that IS going through or has gone through this HATE CENTERED and “Provoking” process.

    There are times when “private” counsel, prayers, LOVE, and FAITH are needed to bring someone to a point of repentance, but when you do it to those just to “show authority and control to your disciples” to those that leave a church and have been gone for months only to embarrass them, or have illegal searches to find out “who” an exposer is…. you then have better be ready to not only have the battle of your life, BUT you’d better to be ready and prepared for your ” Walls of Jericho ” to come tumbling down…..

    It is a battle in which being shunned is NOT accepted especially when it is NOT justified, verified, AND when you have NO idea you are being “Disciplined” some 5 months after you leave a church!

    Being Spiritually Abused will make a normal man or woman go to the greatest measures to protect their Truth, their Character, their Dignity, and especially Integrity against those that “PROVOKE” them! It is only then ” The Internet is The Great Equalizer!

    Unless you have been a real victim, you have NO idea.

    Can you forgive those that “Spiritually Abuse” you? Yeah, but you have to be asked first for forgiveness.

    They say “Church Discipline”…. I say “Spiritual Abuse”

    Need I say more!

    Following Christ, Not MAN
    Doug Pittman

  32. “This was a dangerous situation for the church. It wasn’t just the sin (and a startling one at that). It was the flaunting of this”

    Thank you, Dee. That part is usually left out. Not only that but the church was going along. I have often thought the transgressor was probably someone well connected.

    This passage has nothing to do with someone in the Body CONFESSING as Andrew did. There was nothing to confess in the 1 Corin 5 passage as he was flaunting it.

    People do not read or perhaps comprehend. Andrew was treated wrongly by biblical standards.

    Of course, now it is VERY convenient to claim there are facts we cannot know about Andrew. This is right out of the playbook. Nevermind they made it wellknown about Andrew on their online facebook. (Which was a mistake they now say) Now they have to be confidential? Yeah. Right. We used to play these games all day when we were caught with out pants down, too.

    What is amazing is how many young minds full of mush believe these people. People are very blinded by power and position. They simply do not know how God’s economy really works because they read scripture through the filter of the magisterium.

  33. Doug,

    As you know, we feel so badly for what you’ve been through.

    Please know that I think of you often and am keeping you in my prays.

  34. Doug–

    I shall lend thee outstretched arms and squeeze. What a testimony you have. It’s incredible. I can only imagine. Have you posted your story anywhere I may read it?

  35. Miguel–

    If I may edit your sentence from Churches need to be places where people are committed to following Christ, not just where it is suggested. to…

    The WORLD needs to be a place where within Christians CHOOSE to follow Christ and show others by example, and not simply within the church, whereby suggestion or force we pretend to model what appears to be a church.

  36. TedS
    Thank you for the link. Several years ago, when we started this blog, we barely knew who Driscoll was.

    As time has progressed, however, I have read about his life quite extensively. As a former public health nurse, I came to the conclusion that there is something “wrong” about Driscoll. His personality seems off, he is chronically angry, uses violent imagery (punch them in the nose, go OT on them) and his depression is palpable.

    His review points out something that Deb and I got very early on – Driscoll blames his wife and she takes the beating. We have expressed our concern for her well-being on numerous occasions. He also controls her emails, becomes incensed when she cuts her hair, and on and on. I disagree that she seems to accept this. I think it is a process that involves protection for both her and her family.

    At the same time he is closed mouth about himself. Why is this? Could it be that he struggles with an issue, which if revealed, could wreak havoc? I don’t know. Time will tell.

    This whole thing concerns me. People have claimed I say the next thing “joyfully.” I don’t. I believe sincerely that something is going to happen one day with Driscoll, and all of the evangelical leaders will claim they are shocked. And I will just shake my head. There are warning signs that Driscoll has issues. Those who are silent around him are complicit and will bear some of the responsibility. What more does this guy have to do to raise concerns? Oh, these concerns that I am discussing are not his theological stances although I have some differences there as well.

  37. Too many people here are blasting the concepts of “church membership” or “discipline,” because the talking heads don’t whip out proof texts. As if they invented this concept out of thin air and then decided it must be from the Bible. Puhleeze. Have you EVER even heard of historical theology? This has been a standard practice and interpretation of the church for thousands of years. Dever didn’t make it up, he’s just fighting to keep the practice from being dropped in a culture of pragmatic pastors counting noses and nickels.

    Miguel– Of course we’ve heard of historical theology? Are you blind? It’s the point why we can even begin to have these discussions. Just because we disagree with Dever’s assessments, doesn’t mean we think he made it up. We just think that his practice is contrary to what Scripture tells us by our own interpretation. Don’t you think Dever is depending on his own interpretation as well–regardless if he has the help of his Biblical Fathers before him with whom he agrees with their polity?

    Oh, you should know that I went to Dever’s church for about 2 years. So yes, I know what historical theology is. Duh. Seriously. Don’t insult people here and act as if we have never heard these terms. If you haven’t gathered that most people here are well-read and well-versed in church polity, then you don’t know your own audience.

    Membership, as it is being practice in Dever’s church and others, is not found in the NT, not in this way. What you have currently is, in the opinion of many, unfounded. We could argue the legitimacy of membership all day, but at the end of the day, the local church is completely different from the universal church. And while the local church serves a purpose, and a good one if operating well (not perfectly, but well), it isn’t the exact focus that NT Scripture was speaking of when addressing the church. Paul’s letters would be the equivalent of saying “to the church in Washington DC” or the church in North America, or Mexico. It was to all Christians within those areas. We cannot assume that their congregations all met together. It’s clear that there were house churches and different groups of people meeting up together to encourage one another in the faith, yet the letters went to all of them, for the purpose of teaching all. They were all members by faith and confession. Not because they were voted in, or could be voted out.

  38. Reformed Rebel
    I promise i will post your Edwards assessment. I’m sorry for all of these things that have distracted us. You are discussing normal Reformed thinking. This stiff has nothing to do with that. It has been redefined and repackaged for authoritarians and far too many people have sat back and let it happen.

  39. Ewwww… Dee. Don’t mention that 4-letter word. I just drank my coffee. I hate small groups. I really do. In my walk of over 30 years, when small groups became popular until now, I cannot say that my faith, walk or anything else regarding my spirituality has benefited from not ONE small group that I have ever been a part of. And I’m not being overly dramatic here. I am simply telling the truth. The most growth in me as a believer has come from very personal and sincere relationships with my grand parents, my aunts, my best friends who are believers… and more. But for some reason, we have made the small group the most necessary thing in a believer’s life. Why?

    I used to sit right in the middle of my grandmother’s version of a small group. These ladies had Bible study together. They met at each others houses. Read from a book particular verses. Someone would teach on it. They would pray together. Eat snacks and leave. Personal issues were not shared in these groups; at least not deeply personal issues. Those things were taken offline and shared within proven and trusted relationships where there was freedom to be transparent. They were very mature relationships, that had stood the test of time and many issues in their lives. Those conversations, the ladies had one on one, on the phone or in person. Not in the context of a group. Hence, it’s why I could be present, and learn and sit with my grandmother and her friends and see how these women studied and took seriously their knowledge of learning Scripture together and encouraging one another.

  40. Dee,

    “Could it be that he struggles with an issue, which if revealed, could wreak havoc?”

    I’ve thought (and think I’ve stated here before) the exact same thing. It is crystal clear that Driscoll has serious sexual hang-ups and obsessions. Anger and sexual obsessions can be a dangerous combination. Throw in power and Driscoll’s obvious belief that the rules don’t apply to him, and you’re playing with fire. Really bad things can happen. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he struggles with an issue and is hiding something.

  41. Miguel
    These guys like Driscoll would deny up and down that they are fundamentalists. They hide it under a smokescreen…
    “You can drink beer-here will teach you to make beer.” And stupid people, like myself, initially believe it.

  42. In response the questions posed above, by A. Amos Love and anon1 (@ 11:57)

    When you ask “does anyone know what the word ‘church’ means, are you referring to the English term, or the words in the underlying Hebrew (קׇהׇל)and Greek (ἐκκλησία) texts? Since ἐκκλησία is uniformly used to translate קׇהׇל in the LXX, the meaning is “a convoked assembly”, depending on the context, may be for any number of purposes. Most often, however, both in the Old and New Testament it is a regularly summoned religious assembly, for any number of purposes. The normal meaning is a specific Christian group assembly, gathering ordinarily involving worship and discussion of matters of concern to the community: Mt 18:17; συνερχομένων ὑμῶν ἐν ἐ. when you come together as an assembly 1 Cor 11:18; cp. 14:4f, 12,19,28,35; pl. vs. 34. ἐν ἐ. ἐξομολογεῖσθαι τὰ παραπτώματα confess one’s sins in assembly. It can also be used to reference a congregation or church as the totality of Christians living and meeting in a particular locality or larger geographical area, but not necessarily limited to one meeting place: Ac 5:11; 8:3; 9:31, 11:26; 12:5; 15:3; 18:22; 20:17; cp. 12:1; 1 Cor 4:17; Phil 4:15; 1 Ti 5:16; Js 5:14; 3J 9f; 1 Cl 44:3; Hv 2, 4, 3. More definitely of the Christians in Jerusalem Ac 8:1; 11:22; cp. 2:47 v.l.; 15:4, 22; Cenchreae Ro 16:1; cp. vs. 23; Corinth 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; 1 Cl ins; 47:6; AcPlCor 1:16; Laodicea Col 4:16; Rv 3:14; Thessalonica 1 Th 1:1; 2 Th 1:1; Colossae Phlm subscr. v.l. Likew. w. other names: Rv 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7; IEph ins; 8:1; IMg ins; ITr ins; 13:1; IRo 9:1; IPhld ins; 10:1; ISm 11:1; Pol ins. Plural: Ac 15:41; 16:5; Ro 16:16; 1 Cor 7:17; 2 Cor 8:18f, 23f; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Rv 2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 22:16; the Christian community in Judea Gal 1:22; 1 Th 2:14; Galatia Gal 1:2; 1 Cor 16:1; Asia vs. 19; Rv 1:4, and cp. vss. 11 and 20; Macedonia 2 Cor 8:1. κατ᾿ ἐκκλησίαν in each individual congregation or assembly Ac 14:23: ἵνα τιθῆνται κατ᾿ ἐκκλησίαν in order that they [the statues] might be set up at each [meeting of the] ἐ.). On κατὰ τ. οὖσαν ἐ. Ac 13:1.

    In reference to Paul’s excommunicatory powers, anon1, you’re right that Paul could not just of himself excommunicate; however, it is the right of the elders to seek repentance before turning the individual over to the congregation for excommunication.

    And it is right to presume that there were elders in the Corinthian church, since it was Paul’s practice to set up elders (cf. Titus 1:5); the fact that there names are not mentioned is insignificant.

  43. Miguel
    We agree with you on the “membership” roles. In the SBC, for years, they played a little game of keeping people on the roles, long after they disappeared. So, for example, Bellevue Baptist Church would boast 30,000 members and have only 3000 actually come to the church. (maybe even less). That is why the SBC is in crisis mode. They have been claiming 16 million members. Yet, almost everyone agrees this number is 8 million or less. I am beginning to see emphasis on numbers as a “mark of the beast.”

  44. Oh and might I add that groups were not really separated by station in life. There were groups where women and men met together, both married, single, widowed and divorced. It was a Bible study after all. There were groups where men met to encourage each other. There were groups where women met to encourage each other. There were groups where teens and young people met to study together, often led by elder men and women in the church. It was all very simple. All for the purpose of studying the Bible together. Again, it’s why I could be present in my grandmother’s Bible study with her friends. I was a young woman amongst widows, married, elderly, and middle-aged women. What a great experience that was. THAT, I will use as example and hold close to my heart.

    This modern version, I have no idea even where to begin. It’s stupid to me to have a close friend leave your small group because she’s married now and MUST, yes, MUST join a married small group. What the what??! Really? How do you expect people to build relationships when you keep dividing them by station in life or sex? It’s so discouraging.

  45. Anon1
    Leaders needing discipline?? Now, now, they are anointed so “touch not the Lord’s anointed.” Right?

  46. “In reference to Paul’s excommunicatory powers, anon1, you’re right that Paul could not just of himself excommunicate; however, it is the right of the elders to seek repentance before turning the individual over to the congregation for excommunication.”


    If so, Then your next paragraph makes no sense. You are contradicting yourself:

    “And it is right to presume that there were elders in the Corinthian church, since it was Paul’s practice to set up elders (cf. Titus 1:5); the fact that there names are not mentioned is insignificant.”

    The “practice” as you call it, did not happen in all the churches. That is where most get it wrong. The Corinthian church was actually pretty old by church start standards in the NT and the letter was not written to ELDERS. Nor was the church discipline issue given to “Elders”. The closest thing we have to a named leader in 1 Corin is Chloe! She had her own “people”.

    I started really researching this about 10 years ago when I kept hearing folks make comments like you did above.

    I have to admit Viola does a great job pointing out the misunderstandings of scripture just as you have here….in “assuming” there is a universal principle in church polity. You make a universal argument based upon a few examples but ignore the GLARING silence in other Epistles….where instructions of all sorts are given to the entire Body in that city!

    Check this out. Do your homework and be a Berean when reading this. I did. (I am NOT endorsing all of Viola’s writings but he gets this history and obvious modeling in the NT churches correct. WE have made mountains out of molehills….all in the name of having power over people or excuses for following your favorite guru)

  47. Miguel – Whoa!!!

    1. Not all Lutherans – even in the LCMS – handle things in the way you say they do.

    So, if you were to preface your statement with something like “This is how I’ve seen [whatever] done in my church/my part of the LCMS,” that would be cool.

    As is, you’re making blanket statements about an extremely diverse group of people, even within the LCMS.

    The LCMS is by no means the sum total of Lutheranism in the US.

    2. Wot’s all that about “liberal churches”? I think I know what you mean, but it would help if you were more specific.

    3. Private confession isn’t that common in American Lutheranism anymore, so I think you are a bit confused.

    4. yes, we do know about “historical theology” – and church history! You are presuming a lot in claiming that people here do not have any background in either.

    I could go on, but I’ll stop for now, with one exception:

    there are other ways to handle the membership rolls. Basically, I will never be off the rolls in the church where I was baptized or confirmed, unless I transfer my letter elsewhere.

    But that doesn’t mean that I am automatically a voting member. That is different, and there is a distinction made between active and inactive members, in order that voting not be compromised in the way you mention.

    Of course, we’ve got an elected church council that is up for re-election ever year. Not sure how it’s done in the church you’re part of.

  48. And… Miguel, you seem like a really nice guy, but – in sum – you come on a little too strong sometimes. (imo, of course!)

  49. P.S.: I am so NOT a fan of Mark Dever – or anyone else in the Gospel Coalition.

    Now, I might change my mind if they stop endorsing such authoritarian positions. Might.

  50. Trina –

    I so agree with you regarding small groups and “not being separated by their station in life.” I have gained much insight in mixed age and gender groups, not to say that there isn’t a place for separate and one to three in a gathering at times. I have seen small groups work well and not so well. I, of course, prefer groups where we open our Bibles and expect God to use the scripture to speak to us versus discussing a few application questions from a sermon.

    Back to the station in life issue . . . I have found this a difficult concept to wrap my head around. Some people prefer the “station in life” approach, but don’t realize the consequences . . . such as 10 young couples with 15-20 children between them trying to help and instruct one another – ouch! The poor group leaders want to quit before they even start! Or, the older married couples group that no longer have kids in the home and don’t want to be around kids. And then the leaders who want to ‘”serve” everyone which means they want everyone to go to groups that “best meets their needs.” This sounds like training in selfishness to me! I’m not advocating forced attendance to a group or any “specific” group. I wonder if it is necessary? Would many of us stop gathering as believers and have a difficult time without that “iron sharpening iron?” Are we called to be in face-to-face community with other believers?

    BTW – I totally believe this blog is a form of “community,” and I definitely see “iron sharpening iron.”

  51. I notice at the bottom if the 9Marks books this little phrase:

    “Healthy Church Study Guides”

    Has “Healthy” replaced “Biblical?” This could be a good thing IF it didn’t seem like “Healthy” was such a loaded word with loaded meaning. If you don’t hold to 9Marks view are you then an “Unhealthy” church? (Oh, my! We best get this book and follow it word for word so we are “healthy.” We wouldn’t want to be viewed as an unhealthy church. That would be horrible . . . and adhering to the book is what will produce righteousness, peace, and joy – right?)

  52. When That Church started keeping track of who was going to which small group (in a centralized way, at the church office), I quit going for a couple of years.

    The small group that I was in when That Church gave me the boot was an exception, as some were already friends through being part of the music ministry (as I was, too). When I got the boot, they were told not to have any contact with me, either in person, by phone or email. This was a blanket statement to all music ministry members present at a meeting a few days after I got the boot.

    And then the same “authorities” turned around and said that they didn’t say that, but the damage had already been done.

    The folks in my small group were very concerned and ultimately, not only did I start going again, but they let me play for worship music. (I was also “dismembered” from the music ministry.)

    One of the reasons that I was “not allowed” to attend my small group: because the Powers That Be wanted me to move out of the area, and they thought I would do it faster if they punished me by shunning.

    And no, I am not making this up.


    I think small groups can be great, but that’s more the case when they’re like Trina’s grandma’s group of friends, not the “station in life” – or otherwise micromanaged – small groups that Trina has had the misfortune to be in via CHBC. (Ditto for SGM small groups – I visited one in the mid-80s and never wanted any part of SGM after that. Everyone seemed to look and sound alike, and that scared the crap outta me!!! Please note that this was when Larry T. was still part of CLC/SGM, not after C.J.’s coup.)

  53. Trina:

    I’m not saying that the world doesn’t need Christians to choose obedience. It’s not about suggestion or force, but about teamwork. Christians do not choose and apply discipleship on a hyper-individual basis: we’re called to follow Christ as a community of disciples, not a massive collection of individuals making their own good choices. The job of church leaders isn’t to force obedience; it’s to make sure everyone has a clear picture of what that is. We are doing a disservice if we allow the drug dealer to think he is an obedient disciple. We don’t force him to stop, but neither do we owe him full communion. A Christian who does not model obedience from within a church is not likely to model it outside. It’s not that “official congregational membership” is a prerequisite to loving Jesus, but love and service in, with, and through the larger body of Christ IS an essential component of it. Church membership is a well organized expression of this.

    It seems I’ve stepped on your toes with the historical theology bit, but you have clearly missed the point here. What I’m saying is that Dever isn’t simply spouting his own opinion; it’s been the opinion of the Church for most of its recorded existence. So you think it’s contrary to scripture? Well you’re the one with an individual opinion here. Dever stands with the historic church. He simply received the interpretation that was common and accepted it. He didn’t arrive at these conclusions out of pure originality.

    Sorry, these people here are NOT the most well-read and well-versed in church polity; I’ve had to explain several times here the difference between congregational, presbyterian, and episcopal structures, which are the very basics of the discipline. Most here are, however, well versed in the ways these structures are abused. I just don’t see a whole lot of theological reflection on the ecclesiological theories behind them. The arguments aren’t about “This structure needs to be modified in this way,” but it stays at the level of, “These people are doing bad things and abusing their power!”

    Membership as practiced by Dever IS found, all over the NT. However, the NT doesn’t spell it out explicitly, as in, thou shalt keep a role and remove someone if they don’t come for a year. The model works from scripture implication, not explicit instruction. If you don’t know where they find this in scripture, you haven’t been listening to them. They do NOT pull this out of thin air. The idea that this is unbiblical is a fairly recent notion, as you historical theologians are doubtless aware.

    You are absolutely correct, there is a MAJOR difference between local church and universal church. This is why Dever says in the video that their excommunication does not nullify a person’s salvation. They make a distinction between the visible and invisible church: Those who are truly born again and those who are just part of the congregation. The whole premise is that the leaders ought to reconcile the two as much as possible so that nobody mistakenly believes they are “saved.”

    You are also correct that Paul addresses churches by geographical region, not congregational assembly. Aside from the fact that church polity has always evolved to adapt to current needs, if you wish to return to that geographical understanding of the church, the structure of Roman Catholicism or Presbyterianism would provide a method for that. Paul does not write to all isolated individual believers who happen to live in the same city: He expects that they ARE congregating, even if in separate locations. And I think they are also members by baptism, not just by confession. But I agree, voting in members is silly. I think that’s a Baptist tradition. It shouldn’t be up to the majority to decide; it’s up to a simple criteria; repent and be baptized.

  54. Miguel wrote –

    Sorry, these people here are NOT the most well-read and well-versed in church polity; I’ve had to explain several times here the difference between congregational, presbyterian, and episcopal structures, which are the very basics of the discipline.

    Dude, not only do I call b.s., I think you are coming across in a very bad way. (Arrogant, in other words.)

    . I just don’t see a whole lot of theological reflection on the ecclesiological theories behind them.

    And discussion of “ecclesiological theories” is mandated by – well, is it mandated at all?

    Dude, you need to slow down and try to listen to what you’re saying with your intended audiences’ ears. You are not coming across in a gracious manner – instead you sound an awful lot like Church Lady.

    I don’t think that’s your intention, but …

  55. Let’s not forget . . . other church study guides are probably NOT healthy, so we need to distinguish ours so ya all know the difference . . .

  56. Miguel, I forgot to ask – who are “these people”?!

    Our illustrious blog queens? Other commenters – especially the ones who didn’t go to seminary and/or get degrees in theology or church history or philosophy or God only knows what all else?

    [: insert Superior Dance, which I can do ’cause I’m an Abbess! 😉 :]

  57. Numo –

    Small group was a bad experience for you – yikes! If I’m ever in your neck if the woods I’d be honored to fellowship with you 🙂

  58. OK… my apologies to everyone else for (possibly) overreacting and making discussion too personal.

    Some comments have hit nerves, and I probably need to step away from this discussion for a while. (or something.)

  59. Bridget2 – Likewise! (Get together and hang out.)

    In general, I was in some good small groups over the years, but when The Powers That Be start keeping such close tabs on people, I think there’s a serious problem, and it’s not with the small groups per se.

    My experiences re. getting the boot are in a (somewhat) separate category, though the level of control that was exerted over people in the music ministry (most of my church friends + me) and people in the small group was unbelievable. To top it off, the “pastor” knew who was talking to me and who wasn’t – I have no idea how he got that information, but he knew a LOT of things about me and my personal life that I thought were private (or semi-private, at least).

    As for my sole visit to an SGM small group, that was kind of like walking into a horror movie (think Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Definitely in a class by itself! 😉

  60. Numo,

    1. Sorry, I didn’t mean to make a blanket statement for all Lutherans, but just to say that we do use certain practices, at all, though certainly not universally. Lutherans do practice corrective discipline, just not all of them. And all Christians practice discipline of some sort or another, in terms of teaching and discipleship. And from Luther’s writings, one might assume it was far more common in years past. I understand that LCMS is only one player in the US Lutheran team, I’m well versed in denominational alphabet soup (to a fault, really…) It’s not that its always handled a certain way. I just wanted to point out that Lutherans do participate in this to some extent: It’s not a Calvinist distinctive.

    2. All I mean by “liberal churches,” are ones that read the text of scripture and then think, well, that’s Paul opinion. We know better. Obviously, no denominations at large accept that approach, but many leave plenty of room for it among their ranks. All theology is local. It’s worth pointing out that some stats show the ELCA to only be about 10% more liberal than the LCMS on the lay level for several issues.

    3. I did say that private confession isn’t popular in Lutheranism. “Private confession is falling out of common use in modern American Lutheranism…” My congregation doesn’t practice it, but if I wanted to I could find a Lutheran minister in my area who does.

    4. I’ve never claimed people don’t have a background. It is just ignorant of church history to say that Dever is making this up. It’s been common practice for centuries.

    There absolutely are other ways to handle membership. I insist that the reformed club leans very heavily on textual implication, rather than explicit directives, and therefore there is room for disagreement within orthodoxy. But there methods are rooted in a scriptural framework and implemented for biblical ends. The method you refer too sounds very similar to the Catholic church. Except they practice excommunication. Active vs. inactive members sounds like a good way of handling things! Calvinistas might insist that an inactive member is not really a member, but there are often legitimate reasons for inactivity. Our church elects a council to run the business, and appoints elders to handle discipleship matters.

    I don’t mean to come on strong, but I try to state my opinions clearly at all costs. That way, when I receive a critique, they are critiquing my actual idea, and not a misconception of it. I just through my thoughts out there to get kicked around; it’s how I learn.

    I’m not a fan of Dever’s crowd too much these days, but I believe Dever himself has SOME good thoughts to add to the discussion of how a local congregation can participate in the mission of teaching obedience to Christ.

  61. Miguel – “the method” that I described is the normal course of events for anyone whose parents are Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopal/Anglican (and other denoms that I’m leaving out, since the list would get might long!)

    – You get baptized as an infant, thus, you are by default a member of X church in general and X parish in particular.

    – You get confirmed (differing approaches on age, I suppose, but the same general idea).

    And this is the ELCA. 😉 (The church I grew up in was LCA – Luth. Church in America – prior to the merger.)

    Here’s the thing – I had already tried to answer Robin’s question, way up at the beginning of the thread. So we can build on that plus your post, no?

    I know of Episcopalians/Anglicans who practice private confession, and I wish I knew some Lutheran ministers who did it, but that seems to be a person-by-person, church-by-church call. There are times when I think informal private confession is a very good thing, and I wish it was a viable option, but at this point, it’s probably not going to make a reappearance. (Though I bet I could set up a talk with the pastor at my church that is, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as private confession – just not called that.) I think some of the wariness has to do with past abuses.

    I’m sorry for getting tense and upset with you, but I stand by the points that I was trying to make. My apologies for being heavy-handed about it.

  62. Bridget–

    Unfortunately, I used to agree with that about 9 Marks. Didn’t someone come in here yesterday saying that “x” church needed to get 9Marks in and give them a look see to see if they were performing as a healthy church? I think that generally is the attitude with 9 Marks as well as the church members in various churches who believe 9 Marks has a corner on the healthy church aspect of the Gospel. It’s very easy to get sucked into. But then I now wonder, why does 9 Marks see itself, as well as others, as a type of healthy church consulting firm? The sheer arrogance I find interesting. Yet, they would claim to be humble. I just simply disagree. Some of these actions include sending members out to local churches who aren’t so healthy to help them become healthy by modeling that of a healthy church member. Interesting, isn’t it?

  63. Oh, I left out 1st communion, which I realize is a big, big deal for anyone who is Catholic, for many who are TEC/Anglican and for some Lutherans as well.

    Where I grew up, confirmation and 1st communion used to happen on the same day; not sure what’s done now. (I have a feeling that practice varies regionally; also from church to church and by predominant ethnic group. PA German Lutherans do things differently than Swedish and Norwegian Lutherans, for example.)

  64. miguel–

    No one ever said that Dever was making anything up. Where did you read that?!? Speaking of what Dever teaches as his beliefs, his polity, and his understanding of Scripture and then disagreeing with what he sees is not saying that he is making it up. You shouldn’t infer so much because that’s really off base.

  65. About Dever: no, he’s not making up historical practices, but he is putting a particular slant on them.

  66. … which is his interpretation of how things should be.

    We all interpret history – and Scripture – every single day, whether we realize it or not. And I don’t mean that in a negative way; it’s part of being human and being born into a specific time and place and all that goes along with that. My view of church polity is probably quite different than that of someone who is from Syria and who is Byzantine Catholic. The thing is: I might not think that I need to hear what the Syrian person has to say, but maybe I really do. And that’s a big, bit “catch,” isn’t it? (Since we Americans tend to assume that our way is the only good way, in pretty much every field I can think of – church is no exception.)

    I hope that makes sense!

  67. Miguel–

    Your response to me makes you come across as a narrow-minded idiot. You don’t know everyone on this blog, and that’s just your opinion. So you think you’re more well-read and well-versed than everyone else here? That’s a bit arrogant, don’t you think? Just as it is arrogant to assume that just because Dever or anyone else is following church history for ages that the history itself could be a misapplication of Scripture. People like you tend to be impressed by the retelling and preservation of a particular type of history, without realizing that history, the passing of it, and the retelling and reteaching of it, still depends on those who are performing this task. As an African-American, I can tell you that much of “American” history that has been passed down for the last 200 years has many issues seriously delinquent and just plain wrong about it. So forgive me if I don’t idolize history in the same way you, and apparently Dever, do.

  68. Trina said

    no one ever said that Dever was making anything up. Where did you read that?!? Speaking of what Dever teaches as his beliefs, his polity, and his understanding of Scripture and then disagreeing with what he sees is not saying that he is making it up. You shouldn’t infer so much because that’s really off base.

    Preach it, sis!!! 😀

  69. BTW: I believe if you want to teach the entire historical account of church history and polity, then why not include all the crappy ish about it too? Why not spend entire sundays preaching that as well and educating your parisioners on such matters? Rather, you’d let them believe so blindly that church history is this amazing work of historical context and accuracy that’s to be idolized. History does have it’s importance. I dont deny that there aren’t great things about church history. But just as Mohler said in that statement above, about reclaiming a genuine NT church, an original authentic church, I’d respond as Lewis would: “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”


  70. Numo–

    Seriously…. I think it’s hilarious this dude is telling me that I have CLEARLY missed the point. Really? So we’re not speaking in depth at the moment about ecclesiastical history since the ages and therefore, we lack such knowledge. That’s really an ignorant DB thing to say. Honestly.

  71. Trina,
    You can most certainly be forgiven of not idolizing history. …actually, since idolatry is a sin, you can’t be forgiven for not sinning 😛

    When people say “Dever is distorting scripture to make these claims,” its the equivalent of “that’s his interpretation.” It’s basically saying that his teaching as the product of his own study of scripture. It’s not true; he’s just towing the party line of the Puritans. By “making it up” I meant inventing a new interpretation of scripture. His is obviously older than him. And people left and right on this post are accusing him of eisegesis. I’m not saying the idea isn’t eisegetical, I’m just saying its’ not his idea, he got it somewhere else.

    When I said disagreeing with him was “making it up,” all I meant was that throwing away principles with historic precedent makes one an innovator, for better or worse. The tension between the visible and the invisible church goes back at least to Augustine, I believe, and theologians have always tried to reconcile the two. Obviously these ideas have come into question and review in recent years, but that’s just it: It tends to be more of a recent phenomenon to say that church membership does not matter. So Dever gets his idea from the ancient church, and membership opponents get it from a recent trends in thought/interpretation. I do recognize Dever’s method isn’t the only way of doing membership.

    I didn’t claim to know everyone on the blog. YOU said they are the most well read and well versed on church polity. I just pointed out it’s not true, I’ve run into much more well read and well versed. I also did NOT claim to be more well read or well versed than anyone else, I merely stated the fact that I’ve had to explain basic ideas in the theological discipline which you might assume those well read and versed in ecclesiological issues might be familiar with. Had I said those things in such manner, yes, it would be arrogant. But now I’m too busy trying to get all the words out that you stuck in my mouth.

    I certainly agree that those sticking with church history could be wrong. But we live in an era of rampant iconoclasm, and I feel society currently errs on the side of throwing things away too quickly if the become an inconvenience.

    I was just clarifying Dever’s position, and defending the fact that they aren’t his ideas, but have significant historical precedent, FWIW. I don’t stand with him on all the issues. And yes, winners write the history books, it’s despicable but true.

  72. Numo,

    “These people” was Trina’s term. I was simply replying in kind: she made a blanket claim, so I disagreed based on my experience. How is it more arrogant to say “they are not the most well read” than it is to say “they are the most well read?” I made absolutely NO claim about myself there. I never said theoretical discussion was mandated. But there is a difference between complaining about tyrants (very well warranted imo) and strategizing more efficient methods of structuring congregations for mutual accountability in mission. This site simply leans much more heavily on the former. Do you disagree?

    Please, I’m not putting words in your mouth or name calling here. I’m also not making derogatory statements about anybody.

    The “method” you describe is a perfect example as a legitimately historical and biblical alternative to Dever’s approach. It seems like the LCMS is somewhat in-between these.

    People, let’s learn to exchange contradictory ideas without getting upset. There’s nothing wrong seeing differently, but if we can discuss it clearly, we can all learn from one another. Like Numo said, we all interpret history and scripture, and I would simply add that iron sharpens iron; that’s why we need these discussions.

  73. BTW: I believe if you want to teach the entire historical account of church history and polity, then why not include all the crappy ish about it too? Why not spend entire sundays preaching that as well and educating your parisioners on such matters? Rather, you’d let them believe so blindly that church history is this amazing work of historical context and accuracy that’s to be idolized.

    Because then you would not be able to say how the 50s was a much better time than any since.

  74. Trina,

    They don’t make books big enough for all the garbage of church history. That’s what the internet’s for 😛

    I don’t teach in church, but I do exchange perspectives concerning this with all my friends who share an interest in the subject. I don’t really have a horse in the race, though. My tradition teaches that churches are free to organize as they see best and most efficient. I’ve not led anyone to believe things blindly, I’m not the pastor either. I want people to think critically about ideas, not critically about other people. I couldn’t agree more with the Lewis quote. I don’t know where the idea comes from that the original authentic church is our current duty to replicate.

    …and you’re not clearly missing THE point. You misunderstood MY point. To the extent that was my fault for being unclear, I apologize, but I really feel you are filtering everything I say through a grid as if I’m going to bat for an abusive gang of leaders, and I’m not. I’m just trying to get the discussion off of THEM and on to their ideas.

  75. Dee, I agree about Driscoll. He’s a fundamentalist in denial. A beer fundie, if I may. We all fell for it, I was raised under that line of bull. Calvary Chapel pastors all think they’re progressive because they preach in a hawaiian shirt, but their doctrine is closer to Jerry Falwell than anything else.

    Yeah, the SBC is having a reckoning with numbers right now. I’ve heard 5 mil is stretching it. And the denomination seems to have bought the church growth model hook, line, and sinker, for the most part. Plenty of good exceptions, as always.

    I agree with Deb’s thrust in the article. Wyman Richardson, though, has a lot of writing on the topic, and is probably a bit more generous than Dever in these matters. Church discipline isn’t the only disproportionate cottage industry these days. How many books have been publish trying to define the gospel in the last 3 years? They wouldn’t fit in my house 😛

  76. Miguel – it’s not what you’re saying so much as how you’re saying it.

    tone is vital, especially because we can’t hear voices, see facial expressions and gestures. I was trying to point out that your tone could use some work. (In fact, I’m still trying to say just that. ;))

    Here’s the thing: there are people who comment here who know a great deal about church history, theology, Biblical archaeology, ecclesiology, and a whole lot of related “ologies.” But they’ve been AWOL (hah!) for the past week or two… and you’re missing the point when you say that people who comment here don’t know much.

    Granted, there’s little in the way of academic-style “learned” discussion here, though there are *plenty* of people who can sling words and terms with the best of them.

    I think a lot of us are tired of church-speak (and academic-speak, too) and prefer to use plain English. (True for me… I hope I never, ever revert to an academic writing style again – took me a couple of decades to get deprogrammed! ;))

  77. Miguel
    “Beer fundie!” That is a phrase that needs to get into common usage. I plan to use it frequently. In fact, those who wear Hawaiian shirts give me the willies. Fundies adopt what they consider to be a radical style and 50 years later are still wearing it. It then becomes a matter of theological import-all real pastors wear Hawaiian and usually have a goatee.

    “How many books have been publish trying to define the gospel in the last 3 years?” Spot on! The word “gospel” has been co-opted by those who believe that their reading of secondary issues is not only correct but is probably necessary to be considered a Christian. For example, “gospel gender roles.” I actually saw something when I was doing my typical cruise through the “important” au courant theologians and stumbled across “gospel smoking cessation.” It is too much for this aging woman to contemplate.

  78. Bridget2 – indeed!

    Miguel – y’know, Rome wasn’t built in a day. 😉 We may just get around to the discussion topics that you want to see here, but today, that’s not the focus.

    And there are people here who have been severely harmed. They need to be able to speak out without fear of censure… Having been through the mill myself, I think this blog is, in many ways, a gathering of the invisible church (a.k.a. mystical body of Christ, to borrow a Catholic term). Not all gatherings are about how to build or fix things.


  79. Also… I go to certain sites for specific reasons.

    For instance… I don’t come here to discuss West African percussion music. I go to another site for that.

    I don’t come here to talk about small animal veterinary care. I go elsewhere for that.

    I don’t come here to discuss jazz or Arabic classical music or any number of other interests – because that’s not what this site is about.


  80. Numo

    Hmmm West African percussion music…turn the beat around…love to hear percussion…turn the beat arouououound, love to hear percussion. link You can learn anything here!!!!!

  81. Eagle –

    Yes, I know separation is often very hard. This was my positive story. On the other end of the spectrum I have the two spiritual abuse stories my husband and I went through. One cost my husband almost all his friends and the other one cost me a job. Yes, we’ve been down that road as well.

  82. OMgosh, Vickie Sue Robinson! I *loved* that song when it was 1st released, and still think it was well-written, arranged and produced. I think that’s probably because she was working with NY-area Latino musicians who knew their stuff. The sound is still “fresh” to me… unlike most of the disco-era stuff that I liked back in the day.

    Musical interests (mine): well, they’re all over the map, figuratively and literally. I so wish that my W. African percussion teacher was still living in this area, as I haven’t had a lesson in several years – and he was great at getting students to work together in ensemble playing. Boy, do I miss that! (If I knew more, I think I would try to start up open classes again, but I have a long way to go…)

    fwiw, I stared out with Arabic percussion, which I still play. (Though my Arabic chops aren’t what they oughta be… it’s hard to find teachers for this kind of thing out in the boondocks. 🙁 )

  83. Numo
    I chose this one because she was dressed in white, hands folded in prayer and wearing a cross. Yet she boogies anyhoo. Now off to a dinner meeting-I’d rather be dancing with Gloria.

  84. oh wow – I hadn’t checked the vid before I posted!

    It’s Gloria’s cover – well, remake – of Vickie Sue Robinson’s song.
    Here she is:

    I really like Gloria, too, and got a kick out of that photo of her. My fave album of hers is Mi Tierra, which came out in the 90s. Gorgeous updates of Cuban styles, and super-danceable!

  85. Miguel–

    I’ll end this aspect of our discussion by letting you know once more that I got YOUR point. You need to remember that you need not clarify Dever’s point for me. I KNOW his point because he was MY teacher for two years!! I know who and what his influences are, where they come from and why. Now, if you think you can teach me More about Dever than Dever himself than be my guest.

  86. Vicki Sue Robinson, not Vickie.

    I think I have one of her LPs, down in the basement. (Has the longer version of “Turn the Beat Around.”)

    Ah, youth…

  87. Dever should loosen up to some West African percussion ( an inerrant gift to the world, inspired by God, no less). On the other hand, he is a fan of Bob Marley–perhaps his salvation is not in jeopardy after all. There just might be some sooooul under THAT Puritan garb !

  88. Deb, do you have a problem with what the Belgic Confession says? Are you opposed to church discipline?

  89. James,

    I quoted the Belgic Confession because I agree with it. As you will see in today’s post (still working on it…), I am all in favor of Biblical church discipline, with “Biblical” being the operative word. Unfortunately, some pastors conduct church discipline for what the Apostle Paul would consider to be a preference, NOT a sin. Bear with me while I put the finishing touches on my post.

  90. Miguel, thanks for the clarifications on the church discipline issue. I think that when dealing with discipline it is a fine line but, that doesn’t mean it should never be practiced. I guess my whole point was that I have been in several churches and I never knew of someone participating in immorality of the nature that one is disciplined within the NT. Of course those sins could be done unknowingly but, unless it is made known to the congregation how can someone be disciplined? I guess I am wondering how much church discipline is going on? For instance, in your Lutheran church there probably aren’t three or four church discipline cases right? Of course in these above churches there may not be that many either but, since it is talked about so often I am assuming it happens frequently. Maybe I shouldn’t ASSume?
    Also, I am not a Lutheran but, I am intrigued by Lutheranism and have spent a fair amount of time listening to lutheran pastors and reading quite a bit by Lutheran theologians. In your opinion, what are the must reads of Lutheranism?

  91. James,

    I will be addressing 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 in today’s post. Since I am a woman, some males and females for that matter may be offended that I am citing Scripture and explaining it. 🙂 Sad but true!

  92. Pingback: Linkathon 1/22, part 2 | Phoenix Preacher

  93. Numo,

    Ok, I’ll try to keep an eye on my mannerisms, I occasionally argue with strangers the way I would with friends, but you think I’d be more sensitive by now. Thanks for putting it so clearly. I’m sure we’ve got a ton of experts around here, i’m not trying to knock the intelligence level of anyone, and I certainly didn’t say people who comment here don’t know much. That’s not really a fair take on what I said. Trina said they were the most well read and well versed in issues of polity, and my experience has been that the bulk of knowledge contained in these pages isn’t necessarily focused on the discipline of ecclesiology, but I’ll take your word that the resident experts are MIA and await their return. But believe me, I got only props for the writers and commenters here because I do learn much. It’s really the only reason I keep coming around, here or any blog for that matter. Sorry if I came across mean.

    The thing is, I’ve had my share of church griefs in the past. I work there, and I’ve lost my job on more than one occasion to politics. When that happens, your whole life is taken from you; your employment, your friends, and your faith community. I’ve never received so many knives in my back as I did the last 5 years of church work (musician, not pastor). One of the ways I deal with it is to try to find a better way of doing church. No system is perfect, but theres no reason a lot of our blunders can’t be prevented with a little thought put into our polity structure. It’s actually kinda a hobby horse of mine.

    Dee, my major struggle with “gospel” becoming a junk drawer word is that many in my denomination will call you a gospel denier if you don’t buy YEC, inerrancy, and no women’s ordination. I’m not sure exactly how, but the first one and last one always get tied to Christology, and it always seems like a stretch to me. But I’m still listening to those voices until I’m sure that I understand their argument. Then I’ll know whether or not I’m convinced.

    Bridget2, I’ll try to be more patient. I’m a bit idealistically naive about this, as if I could prevent a ton of heartache by figuring out the right method. I know no system can prevent men from hurting each other, but some are really more conducive to it than others, and that’s my bone to pick with entrepreneurial religion: the damage it leaves in its wake is truly preventable.

    Trina, I neglected to notice your extensive involvement at CHBC. While Dever’s methods do interest me greatly, I’ve never experienced them. To me their only a theory, but I’d be really interested to hear how it actually works from an insider. And I’m assuming it didn’t work out so well for you. I’m sure your story would be a very helpful contribution to this discussion for those of us trying to figure things out. Sorry if I came across harsh, but I’m always trying to direct the discussion to ideas instead of people. Two years is a long time to sit under Dever; I’ve tried his podcast and it is painfully boring. I’m not looking for a circus clown, but I just couldn’t stay awake for it.

    Robin, it never ceases to amaze me how much extramarital cohabitation is alway what brings up the topic of church discipline: most congregations ignore it until this happens, then suddenly everyone has an opinion. My congregation has only had one or two cases of corrective discipline in it’s 50-60 year existence, though I strongly suspect a few more were warranted, it’s not my job and therefore non of my business.

    Also, I’m not nearly the expert on Lutheranism I pretend to be, I’m not a year into my conversion. From what I’ve picked up, though, the essential biggies of confessional Lutheranism are anything by Bonhoeffer (the Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, and his tract on the Psalms are excellent), Bo Giertz’s “The Hammer of God,” and C.F.W. Walther’s “Law and Gospel.” Not to mention anything by Luther and the Book of Concord. I’m still working through many of these, but these books just rip me apart every time. Be careful though, Walther will ruin you for listening to most evangelical preachers; he a more than exacting theological critic, in a good way. But what I learned form him cost me a job and nearly a career if I hadn’t gotten into the LCMS. I have to believe in what the preacher’s saying if I’m gonna work for him; otherwise I feel like a fake and it makes me sick to my stomach.

  94. Walther will ruin you for listening to most evangelical preachers; he a more than exacting theological critic, in a good way.

    What do you mean by that? Also, I have been delving into this world for almost two years now and I am not sure what to do. My husband is not convinced but I am finding our church to be quite dificult theologically speaking to carry on there.

  95. Miguel – OMG – not anything by Luther! He wrote one of the most horrific anit-semitic tracts that the world has ever seen: On the Jews and Their Lies. It was used extensively by the Nazis to justify what they did, from kristallnacht onward.

    I have never been able to read more than bits and pieces of it, because it is so hateful.

    Luther is such a paradox; there are things about what he said, did and wrote that are so good, and then – this, which is (imo) totally evil. (And no excuses allowed on the basis that “he was a man of his time,” either!)

    I feel like a lot of people go out of their way to whitewash Luther and his life – a recent example is the 2003 movie where he is shown as being highly sympathetic to the poor during the Peasants’ Rebellion. In reality, Luther was on the side of the rulers, in no uncertain terms. He was quite cruel in his actions toward those who were part of the rebellion – while I hope he had an “aha” moment about it (as depicted in the movie), I don’t know of any way to prove that he did.

    This world is a harsh place.

  96. “Dever stands with the historic church. He simply received the interpretation that was common and accepted it. He didn’t arrive at these conclusions out of pure originality”

    Miguel, The “historic” church is a bloody awful mess. Many “interpretations” were common that were terribly wrong for centuries. Some are still around that are terribly wrong. I say this because those who appeal to “church history” are appealing to man.

    Dever does not really believe in biblical church discipline because of his protection of the wolf, Mahaney. It is that simple.

  97. Miguel – I also understand a little better now that you’ve written a bit about yourself and what you’ve been through. I’m truly sorry for the pain you’ve suffered, and have absolutely no difficulty in believing that a musician would get slammed in the way that you obviously were.

    I think the main thing that I’ve been trying to get across is that this place – and the entire church, really – is a fellowship of the wounded. I don’t know that the focus here is on finding a better structure so much as it is on helping those who have been hurt (and calling out those who use the pulpit as a way to harm others).

    fwiw, I think Trina said “some of the” in reference to the folks who comment here (and their educational backgrounds), but that’s way up at the top of the thread and I am too lazy right now to go and quote it, though I did scan through all of the comments a bit earlier.

    And I do understand about talking as you would to your own friends. problem is, we can’t see and hear each other, and text-only can be easily misunderstood. I have personally been there and done that, and it was kinda painful!

    Hope I’m not coming across as preachy or like Church Lady myself – it’s not my intent. I’m glad you’re coming here – as with any blog, there is a larger, longer-lived, ongoing convo here that includes folks you probably haven’t “met” as of now. I think you’ll enjoy that if you stick around – which I hope you will do!

  98. I’m a bit idealistically naive about this, as if I could prevent a ton of heartache by figuring out the right method. I know no system can prevent men from hurting each other, but some are really more conducive to it than others, and that’s my bone to pick with entrepreneurial religion: the damage it leaves in its wake is truly preventable.

    I hear you.

  99. Anon1 –

    Dever, just like his pal Mahaney, does not practice what he teaches. They are apparently the “Calvanista Untouchables.”

  100. James,

    The Bible can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. When we put into practice what it teaches in regard to how we treat others, it’s a good thing. When we abandon reason and common sense over Pauline details on church polity and assign them the lion’s share of weight, the Bible can be a bad thing.

    Confessions and manifestos written by medieval churchmen both Papist and Protestant did little to advance the good news of Jesus Christ They were far more effective in the cause of war, despotism, and human suffering. This is the real legacy of the Reformation, despite claims to the contrary by modern Lutheran & Reformed churchmen.

  101. Robin, I’ll try to explain Walther’s deal. The principle Lutheran rule of interpreting scripture is known as law and gospel. They are the two doctrines all of scripture. The law tells us what God demands from us, and the Gospel tells us what Christ has done for us. Evangelical preachers always make the former their main point. They’ll include the gospel, but the law is always their conclusion. Lutherans try to always give the gospel the last word. Evangelical preachers tend to point you back to yourself and the subjective experience for assurance. Lutheran preachers point you to something outside of yourself, something external and objective; a crucified and risen Savior. It seems hair splitting when it comes down to Christ in you vs. Christ for you, but once I understood it, almost all evangelical preaching seemed to be about piling on burdens and hoops to jump through. (Mr. Burleson seems a notable exception to this :D) But I can’t do the concept justice, check out Walther’s book, he’s kind of a genius. I’m barely on chapter 3, it’s a painfully slow read for me, but I’m sure you can find much of it online.

    Numo, ok, not anything by Luther, I certainly agree with that much. I suppose I’d point you to his small catechism and “The Bondage of the Will.” And Lutheranism at large has recanted anti-semitism. We agree that is a bad thing, and to the extent that Luther taught it, he was wrong. Luther was quite an interesting fellow. But keep in mind, equally heinous things have been done using God’s word as justification as well. Evil men will always find good men to justify them.
    Thanks for giving me a little slack, don’t worry I’m not gonna disappear, like I said, I learn a lot here. Sometimes I push a few buttons to make it happen. The church discipline discussion is close to home for me because as a church employee, I have a vested interest in the effectiveness of the organizational structure. Our mission is to important for us to not be very concerned with the efficiency of our methods. I believe the religious term for this is “stewardship.”

    Anon 1: Ok, the historic church has had many different theories. Dever is towing the party line for the Puritan tradition, so his ideas are at least a couple hundred years old. Maheney comes form the charismatic “don’t touch the Lord’s annointed” camp, so I have no idea what the two are doing mixed up together. It seems Dever may be guilty of a little cronyism, but the whole SGM thing just seemed too complicated for me to keep up with. There were too many parallels with a situation I came out of, which happened at the same time, so one mess was enough for me to keep track of. But it seems to me that for Dever to back Mahaney is inconsistent with his own school of thought. From what I’ve heard, Dever answers to his elder board, but Maheney was a bit above correction. They are two radically different approaches who got mixed up because they both love tulips. But for all I know, there could be countless stories of abuse coming out of Capitol Hill Baptist. A few commenters here could speak to that better than I, and I’m sure we’ll get their stories.

  102. Anon1 –

    Mahaney still attends CHBC even though he has been reinstated as president of SGM. So, the president of a family of churches does not even attend one of his own churches. Yep – hypocrisy at its best . . . with all the local leaders in kahoots!

  103. numo,

    You’ve mentioned previously that you got “booted”. What did you get booted from? If it’s not too painful please regale us. If you do, I will too, and tell all on how I got myself ejected from Lutheranism.

  104. Miguel – I don’t think you “need” to “push buttons,” but I do think that you like doing it. Unfortunately – from my pov, at least – it does not work well in discussions where emotions can run high to begin with. (As in this post.)

    Muff – I got booted from That church, which is an independent Protestant organization with a building on Capitol Hill near Eastern Market. They have a nice appearance in public but are authoritarian (and not a little calvinista) in practice.

    It was the last in a string of churches I attended that all came from the discipleship/shepherding movement.

  105. and do tell about your getting kicked out of Lutheran church – I’m all ears! (Maybe that should be “eyes.”)

  106. Miguel – look, I was confirmed Lutheran, so… I would go with both the Small and Large Catechisms. But under advisement, in some respects. (for the Large C., not the Small.)

    Though basically, I am no longer in the same camp as Luther re. original sin and its consequences.

  107. This is a drastic understatement –

    “It seems Dever may be guilty of a little cronyism…”

    Really drastic! Miguel, you might want to read some of the other posts about Dever and his good ol’ boys club. (Here and on SGM Survivors, though the best commentary there – on this, at least – is mostly in comments.)

  108. It’s very easy for something that was meant for good to be used for wrongdoing. Nuclear energy, apparently, was intended to be an alternative to fossil fuels, not material for bombs. The internet was initially created for information sharing, particularly between universities. Now it’s a driving force behind the porn industry.

    We’re well aware of Bible verses that get twisted and used to support something wicked. It’s another shame that the verse on church discipline has been twisted to allow power-hungry pastors to silence dissenters, questioners, or those who haven’t quite met their demands.

    Pretty sure Jesus never intended for any of his churches to turn into a dictatorship.

  109. Miguel

    The YE types had predecessors in the earth as the center of the universe argument. Many were condemned as being heretics for believing else wise. There is absolutely no scientific evidence for a young earth. I have no problem with people believing it “on faith” but the moment they venture into science, they sound like raving lunatics. Far too many issues are being made salvific, which is what controlling people do in order to have power over others. We have sold the essential gospel for a bunch of rules, seeming more like pharisees than followers of Jesus.

    I have this thinking about some the new Neo-Cals. When theology results in abusive tactics and redefintion of the essentials, I believe that the theology is of no use except for some intellectual arguments that profit no one except those who like a good fight. And I say this as one who enjoys reading systematic theology and debating such topics.

  110. Numo
    I have taught, several times, the life of Luther in a Sunday school class. I specifically talked about his issues with the Jews and his siding with the princes over the Peasant’s revolt. Luther was the beginning of my understanding of the need for the grace of jesus because we are all utterly caught up in the sins of self-protection as well as the sins of believing what we are told. What do I mean?

    Luther’s siding with the princes probably arose from two issues. First, these princes had protected him from the Pope (hence our name-Wartburg).Secondly, his support came from the concern of further conflicts with the Pope and his allies.In other words it was a political decision. This does not make what he did right, and in fact, I read somewhere that later in life he had regrets over this stand (probably likeI feel over some of my votes in the past).

    Luther was also a victim of the long perpetuated myth that the “Jews killed Jesus.” Heck, there are those today who continue to believe such nonsense.Once again, no excuse but he was a man of his day.

    For all of that, he started a revolution that transformed the world.Years ago, a friend called me and said PBS was doing a countdown on the most influential people of the last 1000 years. She asked who I thought qualified. I said, without hesitation, Luther. Guess what? PBS said Luther as well (along with the Gutenberg Press. Luther stressed that everyone should read the Bible and that we are saved only by faith, not a bunch of church imposed rules. He believed in the priesthood of the believer and the the ordinary Joe was as important in God;s kingdom as royalty and priests. His thinking in this are, along with the Renaissance led to the rise of the middle class. Luther, for all of his frailties was a man used by God to change the world. he is an example why we need grace and how God uses flawed people for glorious purposes.

  111. Deb, regarding Andy & Wendy Alsup’s review of Driscoll’s sex book: “Someone sent me that link a few days ago. Just this morning I have seen it three times!”

    Here is an interesting review of Wendy Alsup’s book, “Practical Theology for Women”:

    “My dear friend Wendy has trained thousands of women in practical theology through her teaching ministry. I am delighted to see her helpful wisdom now being made available to many more women through this book.” — Mark Driscoll, Founding Pastor, Mars Hill Church, Seattle; President, the Resurgence; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network

  112. TedS.

    Thanks for sharing Driscoll’s endorsement of Wendy Alsup’s book. It sounds like she left when he fired the two elders based on her comment at the beginning of her post.

    My how things can change…

  113. Dee –

    She either wondered from Driscoll’s straight and narrow party line, or she desired a breath
    of fresh air.

  114. TedS
    I would like to do a post on this and will figure out how to put in the queue. Thanks for keeping us updated.

  115. Dee – Luther was convinced that his reform efforts would result in the conversion of many Jewish people.

    When that didn’t happen, he unleashed a LOT of hatred. That particular screed is one of the single worst anti-semitic documents in the history of the world, and is far and away the worst of his era.

    For that thing, I do NOT buy the “man of his time” excuse. (At least, I think it’s an excuse when applied to a virulently hateful tract like On the Jews and Their Lies.)

    Peasants’ Rebellion: of course it was political, but that didn’t stop him from doing and saying some very cruel things.

    Yes, he was, in some ways, great, and in other ways, he was vile, in both words and actions.

  116. Also… I do not believe that *anyone* was/is a “victim” of the “long-perpetuated myth.”

    People make choices to believe or not believe in such a cruel and inhuman thing. Look at Germany in the 1930s and 40s. People chose to believe in that – and in many other things – in order to commit genocide against 6 million.

    No excuses can ever begin to write that off!

  117. as a kind of aside, here’s an article (maybe biased, but it can serve as a springboard) on the Twelve Articles – the demands of those who were part of the Peasants’ Revolt.

    I think Luther handled it all very poorly, but hey – I’m sitting here in my 21st-c. house, surrounded by what was unimaginable luxury (electricity, stable central heating, etc. etc.), so my pov doesn’t exactly come without biases.

  118. Numo, I speak my mind, but I’m not throwing mud here. I like pushing people’s buttons? That is hardly fair. I’m not putting words in anybody’s mouth or calling names around here. If anything, I’ve not taken offense at insult, I’ve given benefit of the doubt, and I constantly recognize when other people have valid points. I’m also not being intolerant of dissenting opinions or reading comments in the worst possible light.

  119. Miguel, I was following through with something you said:

    like I said, I learn a lot here. Sometimes I push a few buttons to make it happen.

  120. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “I push a few buttons to make it happen,” especially because I equate “pushing buttons” with something like “deliberately hitting nerves.”

    That may well *not* be what you meant at all!

    See what I mean about text-only communication being tricky?

  121. numo & anyone else here at TWW,

    As numo has pointed out recently, there really is no heavy-handed disciplinary policy in the Lutheran (ELCA) Church, leastways not like the authoritarian calvinista regimes Dee & Deb expose here at TWW.

    Let me be clear by stating up front that my story (and i’m stickin’ to it) does NOT involve abuse on the part of the church or anything unsavory done to the church or its members by me. It was simply a mater of conscience and the things taught by the Pastor in adult Sunday School to which I no longer subscribe.

    After careful research over a decade, I could no longer believe in the following:

    a) the eucharist and baptism as hard & fast sacramental requirements

    b) the doctrine of original sin (total depravity)

    c) the doctrine of penal substitution

    d) the doctrine of hell as a literal place

    Things got uncomfortable in adult Sunday School when I posited counter arguments for the above. My fate really got sealed when I critiqued Luther’s “Bondage of the Will” and pointed out the places where I thought Erasmus’s arguments carried the day over Luther’s impetuous style. Like Roger Sherman and Anne Hutchinson, I couldn’t keep my trap shut, and so now I’m kinda’ sorta’ in my own Rhode Island so to speak. The bottom line take-away here is that I ejected myself rather than be a source of needless friction in a church with set beliefs and people who adhere to them. It was better for all parties concerned.

  122. Muff
    I would have loved to have you in my class! I would have learned so much being challenged. I find some classes terrible boring and I think someone like you makes it worthwhile! You would love my current pastor. He would have so much fun with you and even take you to lunch. Too bad you are on the west coast.

  123. Muff, I believe you can ditch a-d and still be a good episcopalian or some forms of eastern orthodox. I thought original sin was the Catholic doctrine and Total depravity was the reformed, though. We should visit the topic sometime, I’d like to hear a good reason to not believe I’m depraved, because all the existential data seems to support it.

  124. Miguel
    Could you distinguish for me the image of God and the concept of total depravity? Secondly, could you imagine any other option besides total depravity so that strict Calvinism might not be the only choice?

  125. Muff – I’m with you, though I think we differ on a lot of things (in your list) as well.

    I like Erasmus more than Luther, in many ways.

    Calvinists believe in original sin, but their interpretation hinges on total depravity.

  126. A few thoughts.

    First, it’s easy to get confused in all of the discipline discussion. Lots of groups seek to teach about and employ church discipline nowadays. Some do it well. Some do it poorly.

    Second, I can only speak from experience from the Baptist church, mainly SBC but also independent Baptists. The strong evangelism push of the 20th Century from large church revivals, to Graham and all of the various iterations within the SBC did lead to a large number of conversions and an influx of large numbers into Baptist churches. Dee, you mentioned Bellevue’s 30,000 members. That is replicated all over the SBC and in non-SBC places, as well.

    When you combine that very intentional and successful evangelism with a spirit of hyper-individualism, you have a real problem.

    Some of the leading lights in Baptist intellectual life in the 20th Century, Mullins, for example, and others promoted a “Priesthood of the Believer” doctrine beyond anything really taught in the Bible. If they did not teach it directly, their disciples by the 1950s and beyond certainly believed it.

    To many in lots of SBC churches, the “Priesthood of the Believer” literally believes a person can believe whatever that person wants to believe if the spirit of Jesus is telling him in his heart what is right. This even applies in face of what the Bible says.

    So, you end up with a Baptist leader like Cecil Sherman famously saying (this is as close to a quote as I can get) “If a person believes that Jesus is teaching him through the Scripture that Jesus was not born of a Virgin, that person should not be disqualified from teaching at an SBC seminary or being employed by the SBC as a missionary, etc.”

    This is further demonstrated in the split off from the SBC – the CBF. The CBF has never, and will never, adopt a doctrinal confession because it believes it is wrong to do so.

    This is further demonstrated at places like Southern Seminary where professors actually sign the Abstract of Principles (the Seminary’s founding confession, or “creed” as the original faculty called it.

    And we see this in other churches, too. The Catholic Church has been dealing with this for years. How can you call it anything other than dysfunctional when a church teaches one thing – e.g. no abortion, no contraception etc., and a large percentage of its membership not only simply ignores the teaching, but often outright rejects it publicly?

    This is especially true in the U.S. where members of many faiths really believe they can join and faith, but reject it’s teaching, or pick and choose from among the faith’s teachings.

    My point here is that the topic of discipline often is addressed in the broader context.

    Mohler and Dever are the first generation of SBC leaders to follow this in the wake of the hyper-individualist model. It is no surprise that they both have a desire to dust off some of the old Baptist teachings, and return to the Scripture, to recover a doctrine that really was for all intents and purposes lost.

    When reading Mohler above or listening to Dever, it really is hard to criticize what they say about discipline. At least in most SBC churches, discipline is a topic that had been neglected for far too long.

    The SBC context is the one with which I am familiar. Mahaney and Driscoll’s situations are both socially and scripturally weird, and I gave up trying to understand them long ago.

    Which brings me to my last point.

    Third, even if we think and speak correctly about church discipline, there is so much room for error in the proper application.

    This area of church life probably requires more wisdom than any other area. Just to know the correct answers, or the desire to recover a neglected doctrine, does not guarantee a correct and healthy practice of discipline. Sometimes, ironically, it results in the exact opposite, which most of your readers astutely and intuitively seem to understand.

    We constantly see the overuse of discipline, the premature use of discipline, and the application of discipline to the wrong persons (the victim, not the perp).

    The unwise use of discipline can be just as damaging as neglecting it. Neither is good.

    I applaud Mohler and Dever for bringing back this topic that has long been neglected in SBC church life, but I fear for what can and may have been unleashed. I am hoping that this concept will be practiced with some godly wisdom and that our churches will be known for love more than anything else.

  127. Anonymous,

    I appreciate your sharing a historical perspective on the SBC regarding discipline (or a lack thereof), and I understand what you’re saying. I hope you will take the time to review the Membership Commitments I included in this post:

    Is Church Discipline Going Rogue?

    I highly encourage you to read through the 19 page LEGAL document.

    As I have expressed over and over again, I am deeply troubled by the associations of Dever, Mohler, and Mahaney. We have commenters here who have attended Dever’s church, and based on their testimonies, there isn’t much difference between Capitiol Hill Baptist Church an the family of churches under the banner “Sovereign Grace Ministries”. That is highly disturbing! I would love to see the membership agreement of Dever’s church. It in all likelihood is similar to this one from an SGM church.

    When Mahaney stepped down last summer, he abandoned Covenant Life Church where he served as pastor for 27 years, and started attending Dever’s church. From what I understand, he still may be worshiping there even after having been reinstalled as President of Sovereign Grace Ministries.

    I am deeply troubled by these “friendships”, and we will continue to focus on these topics throughout 2012. Far too many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have been hurt, and we will not stand idly by and let them be abused by power-hungry pastors. Enough!

  128. Anonymous

    As usual, you give us a wonderful insight into history. As you know, I do have problems with denial of essential doctrine. I was wondering- could you be talking more about “soul competency” as opposed to the priesthood of the believer? You know that i am a firm believer in the priesthood but I sometimes take issue with soul competency. Even Scripture is clear that men make bad decisions about the true faith.

    The other problem that i have with both Mohler and Dever is their endorsement of Driscoll and Mahaney. I believe that good theology should result in an understanding of both abuse and weirdness yet they seem to overlook so much. Could it be that their vision for discipline is the same as the two of these men? You do know the history of Dever and some issues on church discipline? His church, for example, is not some huge mega. He has had problems with church membership. Why? I am sure his defenders will say it is because he takes this all seriously. I am not so sure. My own pastor, Pete Briscoe, believed in discipline but never made a big deal about it.

    Also, Mohler has made some things primary issues-like his push to make everyone believe in YEC. Yet, divorce is rampant in the SBC and many of its members mouth adherence to pro-life but many, and I know them, have chosen abortion for their teens and just keep their mouths shut. I am not sure that the SBC is all that much different than the Catholic church in terms of the blatant hypocrisy of church standards versus actual practice of the members. In fact, that is why Jesus came because we are all hypocrites in one form or another.

    I guarantee you this Mohler will never, ever discipline people for greed or covetousness because the churches need income in order to build lovely 120 million additions with fountains that will draw the masses to Christ. (Sorry, I am a bt snarky today).

  129. Muff –

    As far as your a-d list above is concerned, where does scripture instruct us to believe those items if we are to be followers of Jesus and to partake of the salvation that Jesus offers?

  130. Anonymous. you put well what I was thinking: It’s one thing to have a good method, it’s another to use it consistently. That’s why, in the case of Dever, it seems to me that his mixup with Mahaney is just inconsistent with his own principles, but I could be wrong. I’d really like to hear from an insider how well the Dever or Mohler system works. Or doesn’t work. Or how consistent they actually are in the implementation of their theories.

  131. Miguel,

    Great comment! We do have a former member of Dever’s church in our midst. Maybe she will chime.

  132. Dee, I’ll take a stab at it. The imago dei: where you have 10 theologians it seems there will be 20 opinions as to what this means. But at its most basic, we were created to reflect what God is like; love, truth, etc… But to the extent we sin, we are not doing that. Since the fall, man has rejected his created order as an image bearer of God preferring instead to bear his own image and be his own god. We are not yet fully restored image bearers: we are certainly fully accepted by God for Jesus sake, but whenever we sin we are bearing God’s image imperfectly, which we always will, in this life. In other words, if we weren’t depraved, we would perfectly bear the image of God and the earth would be in its original edenic state. We are all fallen image bearers. But I don’t think this is a Reformed distinctive, I think even Catholicism includes this in their definition of original sin.

    Secondly, I believe in TD to the extent I understand it and I’m pretty convinced that I sin a lot, but you don’t have to be a Calvinist; I’m a Lutheran, and I believe we may have invented that doctrine. But as far as other options, I believe Rome and other synergistic traditions believe man is not totally depraved, but still has a remnant of good within him from which he can choose to cooperate with God’s plan of salvation and begin to do good works. This option is appealing because it might help me to believe in myself, that there is good in me. In his book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” John Paull II provides a rousing defense of this perspective. I’m not prepared to buy it because I’d have to redefine how I interpret a long list of verses to fit with this. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’m hesitant to jump into another paradigm shift right now. Plus, I don’t need a synergistic outlook to believe in myself that there is good in me: In Christ, I have all his righteousness imputed to me and the power of the Holy Spirit.

    All that to say I’m not completely clear on the difference between Rome’s original sin and Calvin’s total depravity, but I do believe in a monergistic salvation: I didn’t choose God, he gets 100% of the credit for my salvation, I did not choose to walk away from my sin because that is impossible. I was completely dead in my sin and God gave me life, the gift of faith, in and through Jesus. I guess Rome would say since you’re not totally depraved, you are capable of responding to God’s invitation to salvation. I’m gonna go with Robert Capon on this: “Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to teach the teachable; He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things works.”

  133. Thanks for the comments, Dee and Deb and Miguel.

    After that post, I slogged through my last 20 miler in preparation for the upcoming Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, NC.

    I am off to Alabama to watch my daughter’s boyfriend play hockey for Auburn. I will return and get back to your questions.

    Have a great day.

  134. Anonymous,

    Depending on how long you’ll be in our backyard, we’d be happy to make some recommendations on things to see and places to dine. Just let us know whether you’d like some suggestions for your upcoming visit to what we consider to be God’s country. 🙂 Just kidding of course.

    P.S. I gave Dee a framed saying several years ago which reads: I’m not from North Carolina, but I got here as fast as I could. We do love our state!

  135. Anonymous
    Hockey is my favorite sport! Enjoy. Wishing you well for the training. Spring has come early over here. Jonquils are blooming, and my bluebirds have made nests already!

  136. North Carolina sounds heavenly but an odd place to watch a hockey game.

    Particularly when you mention such lovely spring activities. I don’t quite know what to consider an early spring since we never had a proper winter here in Pennsylvania.

  137. DB
    You don’t know of our beloved Carolina Hurricanes who won the coveted Stanley Cup a round 6 or 7 years ago? That brought a smile to this Boston lass who grew up on the sport by watching the Bruins. I watched them beat my Bruins, and it was a bittersweet moment because I was actually pleased. Now if I could only get a decent cup of clam chowder, it would be perfect!

  138. Anonymous at 7:06 a.m.”

    You said:”or, you end up with a Baptist leader like Cecil Sherman famously saying (this is as close to a quote as I can get) “If a person believes that Jesus is teaching him through the Scripture that Jesus was not born of a Virgin, that person should not be disqualified from teaching at an SBC seminary or being employed by the SBC as a missionary, etc.”

    Can you point us to were you find this quote?

    You also said:”This is further demonstrated in the split off from the SBC – the CBF. The CBF has never, and will never, adopt a doctrinal confession because it believes it is wrong to do so.”

    And what do you see as the problem with this?

    My thanks in advance.

  139. Mot:

    Here is the citation to an article by Mohler. The CT article may be on the web, but most likely, you will need to search the CT archives. I doubt they go that far back on the web.

    “Years later, Dr. Sherman would tell Christianity Today that he would not want to see any professor removed from a teaching position in one of the seminaries simply because he denied the Virgin Birth. While affirming the Virgin Birth himself, he offered one of the most remarkable statements of recent Baptist history: “A teacher who might also be led by Scripture not to believe in the virgin birth should not be fired.” Led by the Scripture not to believe in the Virgin Birth? By then, Sherman was serving as Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a group of moderate Baptists who separated from the Southern Baptist Convention.”

  140. Mot:

    You ask why I see it is a bad thing for a denomination (or semi-denomination) not to have a doctrinal confession?

    Doesn’t this go into the category of “if you don’t already know, I can’t tell you”?

    Jesus’ teaching and the entire NT contains a treatise on what should be believed.

    Think of all the things that Jesus said about himself, his work, and other various matters that are the typical content of doctrinal confessions.

    And think about all of the Apostles writings to the churches in the NT about doctrinal matters, and the efforts they made to correct false teaching or understanding that had crept into the church.

    It is for those reasons that Christians have had doctrinal confessions as long as there have been Christians.

    Take the Virgin Birth, for example, which Dr. Sherman so famously said did not have to be believed.

    Think of what it means to deny that doctrine – both to the nature of the incarnation and to the testimony of the NT. Christians who believe different things about that are going to have significant relational problems when it comes to doing church together, running seminaries, sending missionaries etc.

    I can’t think of a major Christian faith group that does not have a doctrinal confession – Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists. Churches that are non-denominational also have their own doctrinal statements usually.

  141. Glad you guys are talking about “Doctrinal Statements.”
    Our Denomination/Church has never had one. I think I’ll “right one.”

    You see, my Uncle, who is Polish, and taught me everything I know, became a Pastor. He was a Polish Pastor, of the First church of the Pleasant Parables of The Presence of God. And he believed that – Proper – Preparation – Preceeds – Powerful – Performance…

    So he – Prayed – a lot.

    Then he started his own “Denomination.” Why? Because he was enjoying his – Power – Profit – and – Prestige. And figured he could rise to a – Place of Prominence – by being a – Pioneering Planner. Kinda like most “Denominations” today who continue to – Perpetrate – the myth – “we have the TRUTH” – started by – Paid – Professional – Pastors – Presuming – Properly -Parsing – Parables – Prepare – Poor (unedjumacated) People – *to follow* – Powerful – Pontificating – Prelates – and their – Pompously – Proposed – Prevailing – Programs. i.e. “Doctrinal Statements.”

    And NOT “Follow Jesus.” The Truth – And – The “ONE” Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

    And since ALL denominations have developed
    “Titles” and “Positions” NOT found in the Bible…

    My Uncle asked his loving nephew, me, to join him, as 2nd, second in command
    of this “Glorious Kingdom Building,” “Doing this ALL for God,” “Denomination.”
    And he gave me the most glory-seeking, un-biblical, “Title” and “Position” ever. 😉

    You can now call me by My Title, and My – Proper – Prevailing – Position…

    His Holiness, The Most Holy Right Reverend, Senior Pastor, Presiding Prophet, and
    Chief Executive Apostle… Father Amos.

    Oh how I love the “Idols” of my heart. Ezek 14:1-11.

  142. Job 32:21-22 KJV
    Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
    neither let me give **flattering titles** unto man.
    For I know not to give **flattering titles;**
    in so doing my maker would soon take me away.

    John 7:18 KJV
    He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory…

  143. Anonymous –

    You said:
    “Jesus’ teaching and the entire NT contains a treatise if what should be believed.”

    Excuse me for interrupting. If you believe your above quote, then why do Christians try to reduce these beliefs to a confessional? Why do we want to present a list of items that must be believed to be a member of a certain denomination? Why not point people to the NT and walk “with them” through the scriptures as the Holy Spirit leads them? Why do force feed believers to get them to certain outcomes? It seems we have little faith that God will mature people through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Why don’t lead people to read what scripture says about say “baptism” and let them and the HS have time to work? Our society wants instant everything AND that everything wrapped up in a pretty package. Jesus didn’t work or live this way. How does a confessional sound to a new believer – either overwhelming because they don’t have a clue? Or, maybe a wonderful list that they will get accomplish to be accepted to this lovely group of people that is so neat, tidy, and fun to be with? There are other scenarios. These are just examples. The church has become a place for the churched and not a place for the new believer or nonbeliever or the everyday guy off the street and THEY know it. Why do we have to add to what Jesus told his followers?

  144. Bridget2

    Good stuff – Yea!
    “Why not point people to the NT and walk “with them” through the scriptures as the Holy Spirit leads them? Why do force feed believers to get them to certain outcomes?”

    But – That’s too simple – Having the Holy Spirit – teach them ALL truth.

    Could the scriptures be “Truth?” When the record…

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be ALL taught of God.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to *hear His voice,*
    that *He might instruct thee:*

    Psalms 32:8
    I will instruct thee and teach thee
    in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

    Ephesians 4:20:21
    But ye have not so learned Christ;
    If so be that *ye have heard him,*
    and *have been taught by him,* as the truth is in Jesus:

    Yea! Much to simple. Trusting in Jesus to teach His Kids.

  145. Anonymous:

    You said:”You ask why I see it is a bad thing for a denomination (or semi-denomination) not to have a doctrinal confession?

    Doesn’t this go into the category of “if you don’t already know, I can’t tell you”?

    Thanks for the Christian response–NOT!

  146. Anonymous:

    You said about Cecil Sherman:”Take the Virgin Birth, for example, which Dr. Sherman so famously said did not have to be believed.”

    I just refuse to believe that he said that. I really believe you have misquoted him. BTW it is not very nice to speak ill of the dead.

  147. Mot:

    Despite my teasing quote about the nature of your question, I tried to answer your question, and went to look for information.

    It is disappointing that having done so, that you now just pronounce that you are going to refuse to believe the information.

    Or worse yet, accuse me of speaking ill of Dr. Sherman.

    I am glad that you agree that anyone who would say something about not needing to believe in the Virgin Birth has said something that reflects badly on them.

    But all I did was use the quote. That is not speaking ill of someone.

    I was around when Dr. Sherman led the group in the Baptist Church that did not want any doctrinal standards for seminary professors because they believed that to have doctrinal standards is not correct. This is not news to anybody who was around then. It is apparently a surprise and shock to you, which is the natural and correct response, in my opinion.

    Moreover, I know Cecil Sherman’s family well, and have friendly relations with them, despite our differences over the need for confessional theology in the church.

    I would encourage you to not just refuse to believe this information because it’s uncomfortable for you to contemplate it.

    If you find this is not accurate, I would be happy to issue a retraction and join with you in correcting the record.

    I do not believe you will see any arguments disputing the quote on the internet, however, because it was in CT, and the Christian world read it at the time. And it truly reflected how Dr. Sherman felt. Dr. Sherman made many statements in his lifetime along this line.

    I had a friend who did his masters work at Duke and a PhD at Oxford. He interviewed and published a paper on his interviews with several SBC leaders at the time. Dr. Sherman told him it was just wrong for the denomination to have a doctrinal confessional standard for seminary professors or denominational employees. That’ so well known, I find it really hard to believe that you did not know that.

    Dr. Sherman, and other Christians are certainly free to believe as you feel is right.

    And people in the first century (gnostics, legalists and others) were free to believe as they desired. But that’s what prompted Paul, Peter, John and others to write letters correcting their doctrine.

    Also, churches are equally free to organize and operate around a doctrinal confession.

  148. A. Amos Love and Bridget2:

    Thanks for your interest in confessional theology.

    The Apostles Creed might be the oldest confession, but I am sure some theology students on here might know of an older one.

    The reason doctrinal confessions have proven to be so useful is that they help the church.

    I would ask you both if you think it is within the proper bounds of Christian belief to deny the Virgin Birth?

    There is a small minority of Christians who would deny the Virgin Birth.

    I agree with you that if we read the Bible and took it at face value that should be enough for fellowship.

    Take the Virgin Birth, for example. It is clearly taught in the pages of scripture. I know of no new believers who deny the Virgin Birth. The people whom I know that deny the Virgin Birth are typically older who have studied for years, and do not see the Bible as very reliable on that score.

    2000 years of Christian history have shown that saying “I believe the Bible” or “I believe in Jesus” without some sort of dialogue or explanation as to what those statements mean can lead to great misunderstandings and hurt.

    For example, two people may say, “I believe in Jesus”, but they may mean completely different things about Jesus.

    One may believe Jesus is eternal, one of the three persons of the Trinity, who created and rules the world and provides for salvation through his death and resurrection.

    Another may mean Jesus is a great moral teacher who had great things to say about God, but not that Jesus was eternal, part of the Trinity or God in the flesh etc.

    John, for example, addresses that in I John, and rebukes gnostic teaching about Christ that said Jesus did not come in the flesh. The gnostics “believed” in Jesus, but did not believe he came in the flesh.

    The formulation of Jesus being fully God and fully man, for example, is another development of confessional theology. It confronted the twin heresies that Jesus either was not man or he was not God.

    The Trinity, another theological absolute, was a development of confessional theology. The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible.

    I believe that these things help us understand more about God.

    I would hope that you would too, upon reflection.

    I also hope that you would see how unworkable it would be to have in the same church body some who believed Jesus was just a good man and moral teacher and others who believed in the diety of Jesus.

    I have only lived a few years on earth, but 2000 years of Christian teaching and history regarding confessional theology really does account for something, and we would be better off, not worse, learning about the benefits of that.

  149. Anonymous:

    The CR is over. Please let’s not try to relive it.

    I say one last time that I do not believe you are giving the full context of Cecil Sherman’s statement and are attempting to make this man appear to be this Radical Liberal. He was not!

    I do not know why you have a problem with the CBF, but I will let you have the last word if you care to.

  150. A Amos Love
    My dad was from a Russian immigrant family and could not speak English until 1st grade. Unlike your family, he never heard the gospel until very late in life and converted on his deathbed. He spoke fluent Russian, Polish and Ukrainian.

  151. Bridget
    i became a Christian during an episode of Star Trek. I had not even heard the sinner’s prayer but, at that moment, I believed in a Jesus who wanted to be my Friend (I was 17) and He had the power to save me. I’m not sure i even knew what saved actually meant. But, oh how the Spirit moved in my life, transforming me and helping me to read my Bible. No confession, no specific prayer, just a simple trust and belief in Jesus.

  152. Anonymous
    I agree that the Virgin birth is an essential. When I became a Christian, however, I did not understand the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was coming again, etc. As a 17 year old, almost unchurched kid I believed simply in a God that wanted to be my Friend and that He sent Jesus to save me. I don’t think I even understood what exactly he saved me from but I knew I needed saving. I know I believed at that moment (during an episode of Star trek, mind you). But something changed. I felt it. That week, as i picked up my Bible, for the first time I understood all of the words and began to educate myself about my new life. But, I did not know most of the confessions when i first believed. So, when does that all occur?

    Over time, etc. I have often said that I would love to take a microphone down to the local Baptist church and interview the attendees to see how much they understand such concepts as the Trinity, etc. I think it might be a bit startling.

  153. Dee:

    No doubt it would be startling.

    I had absolutely no understanding of these things when I became a Christian. And the things I thought I understood, I did not.

    So, God saves us despite our lack of understanding.

  154. Mot:

    You asked me two questions on Saturday at 9:43 p.m.

    1. Where did I find the quote from Cecil Sherman?

    I answered. You have said that you just refuse to believe that Dr. Sherman said that. I have told you how to follow up and check for yourself. You can let me know if you ever do that.

    2. Do I see a problem with a denomination not having a doctrinal confessional statement?

    I have told you why I see a problem with that.

    I have tried my best to answer the questions that you asked me.

    I can tell that you don’t care for my answers, which is o.k.

    I hope that we will get to dialogue again sometime, and maybe we’ll find some area of agreement.

  155. Anonymous –

    There are several beliefs that I feel are central to the Christian faith. I was not saying otherwise. I did not reference Sherman, as I know nothing about that issue. My concern is with denoms, movements, family of churches, or any church introducing people to their set of doctrines and membership agreements (some that are 20 pages long?) without the person really knowing (from scripture) and the work of the HP what these things mean.

    For one, there are no membership agreements in scripture. Believers had relationship with one another and were brought along in the faith via conversation together about the faith. They were not handed agreements and books to read and told to sign on a dotted line.

    Secondly, many churches today are more concerned about their membership numbers than they are about the actual human beings and their maturity in God (not maturity in denom. beliefs). Within every different sect of Christianity, the goal seems to be to make sure the person is brought up in that sect’s (I know some won’t like this term, but it is really starting to fit Christianity) beliefs and taught that the other denoms have it wrong.

    I don’t believe that this is what Jesus had in mind. And please don’t refer to church history. We can learn from it, but most if it was a bloody mess. The model I would look at is Jesus Christ and what he said about his followers.

  156. dee

    Thanks for the short Bio of your family background. I’m actually more Russian than Polish.
    But, there are NOT many Russian Jokes. 😉

    And my Polish Uncle, also my Russian Orthodox God Father, never showed an interest in Jesus. In fact, he would accuse me of being a Holy Roller and wrote me “Out of his will.” So now I tell Polish Uncle Jokes in his honor. 🙂

    The closet I ever came to speaking to him about Jesus was when I asked him…

    “Hey Unc, do you ever think about the *Hereafter?*“
    …… He replied; “Well, lately, I’ve been thinking about the *Hereafter* a lot.
    That got my attention, and my hopes up. But I didn’t want to overwhelm him.
    So I just asked him; ”So Unc, what have you been thinking about the *Hereafter?*
    …… He answered ”Well, sometimes I’m in the bedroom, then I walk into the kitchen and
    …… stand there looking around, and I wonder… Gee, What am I here after?

    The above comment about my Polish Uncle was told with ‘tongue’ firmly placed in cheek. And is put forth when confronting – errr – speaking lovingly – to so-called “Titled Leaders” who are using their “Title” and “Position” to impress, control, or to try and gain an advantage. Which is what they are taught to do.

    When one of these guys introduce themselves as “Pastor Jones.”
    I’ll tell them the story about my Uncle, and my “Title.” And say…
    “You can call me – His Holiness, the most Holy Right Reverend, Father Amos.”

    Jesus loves me this I know…

  157. A Amos Love
    Since we are both of Eastern European extraction, I hereby give you leave to tell such jokes. My father would have laughed. He used to tell a lot of them with his Polish and Russian buddies on Sunday afternoons whilst consuming vodka and watching football.

  158. Anonymous

    I don’t think I have any interest in “Confessional Theology.”

    Can’t seem to find “Confessional Theology” in the Bible. But I could have missed it. 😉

    Most likely these are words made up by them edjumacated cemeteryians
    so they can speak, and teach, in a language hardly no one understands, so they can
    sound important, impress people with their linguistic skills, and guarrantee their jobs,
    interpreting these big words for folks.

    Sounds like “Lawyer Speak” to me – And you know how Jesus talked to the Lawyers…
    All that Gnat and Camel stuff.

    I’m glad Jesus didn’t use all these big words. 😉
    And taught His Disciples, Over and Over Again, That we would ALL be taught of God.
    And we could “Hear His Voice” and follow Jesus.

    In fact, I know I have NO interest in “Confessional Theology.”

    Seems wikapedia says there are over 30,000, thirty thousand, denominations.

    Even if they overstated by 90% – that’s still over 3,000, three thousand denominations.
    ALL 3,000 denominations, with a *different* “Confessional Theology.” Oy Vey!

    Most will say – the Bible is the word of God – But – they All disagree about something.
    That sure gives the un-believer a lot of confidence in Christianty being the “ONE” way.

    No thanks – Think I’ll stick with Jesus, the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul…

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  159. Anonymous

    “You write…
    “The reason doctrinal confessions have proven to be so useful is that they help the church.”

    Depends on which church we’re talking about. 😉

    1 – “The Church of God?” Where Jesus is the head of the body,
    (The ekklesia, the called out ones), The Church? 🙂

    2 – the church of man? Where the 501 (c) 3, non-profit,
    tax $ deductible, Religious $ Corporation? Is called the church? 🙁

    Seems, in the Bible, “The Church” The Ekklesia, the called out ones,
    refers to people, individual’s, sometimes assembled, and now the house of God. People. 😉

    Did Jesus shed “His Blood” for – An organization? An institution?
    A building? A denomination? Or a $ Corporation?

    Do you think “Disciples of Christ” should call a Corporation – “The Church of God?” 😉

    Did anyone in the Bible – Go To Church? Do you ever – Go To Church?

    Is that in your “Doctrinal Confessions” or your “Confessional Theology?”

    NO, I don’t think, denominational “Doctrinal Confessions” or ““Confessional Theology”
    has any benefit at all to “the Church of God” ‘The Body of Christ” “Servants of Christ,”
    and “Disciples of Christ.”

    I like the idea of Jesus being the best teacher.

  160. Thank you to the miracle paragraph maker! Smart phones aren’t helpful for editing, so I usually let errors and clumpy comments go as is. I might lose the bits of sanity I am trying to maintain if I shoot for the stars 🙂

  161. dee, I’m saying thousands of things can change in the course of fifteen years. Community groups at Mars Hill six years ago were not the same thing they seem to be now. The church seems so committed to growth and recycling sermon points nobody would know now that seven and eight years ago the goal was that community group leaders knew enough Scripture to talk about whatever they felt the group would benefit from. I knew a CG leader in 2007 who decided that even though Driscoll was preaching Phillipians it made more sense for his group to focus on Proverbs, so that’s what he did. It seems evident that kind of freedom on the part of CG leaders wouldn’t happen now.

  162. Bridget2, Miguel, numo, et al.,

    There are three things that I believe without reservation:

    1) Jesus’ virgin conception & birth

    2) Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead

    3) Jesus’ bodily return to earth at some point in future

    The rest in my opinion is the result of spin and conjecture. For example, when I no longer presupposed an angry God in Scripture at the fall of humankind, but rather a horrified parent as Dee was when she couldn’t find her baby son, the whole game changed.

    Calvin and Luther were masters of spin and Hellenist rhetoric. So long as one starts off with an angry God in Scripture, their doctrines mesh perfectly, like the clockwork gears and escapement mechanism of Harrison’s chronometer.

    I could no longer acquiesce. My conscience (Imageo Dei) could no longer accept the old model. It made God both cruel & vindictive, little different than Chemosh and Molech of he Canaanites.

  163. Dee,
    Oh, No! @echurch already has 3 popes, just like in the 1300’s! I was referring to the right rev father Amos, but forgot that you mother cardinals might have elected yourselves since last I checked! Should have said Amen Amen and Amen to appease all holinesses.
    Now I’ll need to check out Harrison’s Chronometer. Hope it can’t potentially swallow planet Earth….
    I agree with your comment, BTW, to a greater extent than my acquiescence will allow to be expressed. Does that make me a semisoshalist? Closet soshalist?

  164. Dave,

    I picture Dee as a full on Reverend Mother like in Herbert’s Bene Gesserit sisterhood. ===> (smiley face goes here)

  165. I think she wants to be fully reverend indeed, just not fully “right” so as not to alienate the few followers she has “left”.

  166. Apostle Dave
    There are no wars between the three of us so there will be peace in the kingdom, I have been fooling around with the Mother Superior title recently. I have always wanted to be superior to something.

  167. Well, it’s official… C.J. Mahaney is transferring his church membership from the church he pastored for almost three decades (Covenant Life Church) to Solid Rock Church. That is the SGM church mentioned in this post.

    C.J. Mahaney’s Church Membership Officially (Though Temporarily) Transferred

    Yes, the move is TEMPORARY, and Mahaney will purportedly be starting his own church soon.

    I can’t for the life of me understand why pastors and Christian leaders, especially those who will be attending Together for the Gospel, listen to Mahaney. What a CHARADE!

    And women are accused of being gullible and easily deceived?!

  168. Bridget:

    Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t disagree. I originally brought up the history of the lack of theological discipline in the SBC in Mohler’s and Dever’s formative years as one reason for their addressing it. It really is pretty wild to think about a seminary, for example, that would have professors who did not believe in the Virgin Birth, and yet, that is what was going on in some quarters.

    I agree with much of what you have written, however, and believe those are good things to remember.

  169. Anonymous,

    I keep hearing about professors at SBC institutions who did not believe in the Virgin Birth. Exactly how many many were there? I’d really like to know.

  170. Has anybody else noted that in all these church confessions, manifestos, & mission statements there is not word one on how we treat each other?

  171. Deb:

    How many professors believed exactly what at SBC seminaries can never be determined directly down to a person.

    No survey was ever taken, and none could have been taken.

    The primary reason for that was that the professoriate and the seminary administrations objected to that type of question being asked on the basis of the Priesthood of the Believer and academic freedom.

    Southern Seminary had a creed that all of the full professors had to teach in accordance with and not contrary to, but that came to be seen as a historical document that was signed with lots of private reservations.

    When Dr. Mohler announced to the faculty that his administration would no longer allow for private reservations with regard to the creed, the faculty revolted. They first tried to jeopardize the accreditation of their own institution, and they tried to get Mohler fired. Billy Graham and his friends stepped in and saved the day. To my knowledge, Mohler only had to threaten to terminate, and then accept the resignation of, one professor over that issue. When the plans to oust Mohler failed, the rest began to take early retirement or transferred to the Baptist and other religiou colleges or other religious seminaries, and they were replaced by orthodox teachers and professors.

    Seminaries also varied in the SBC. Southwestern was always regarded as conservative, along with New Orleans. Southern, Southeastern and Midwestern were seen as the more liberal.

    I did not attend an SBC seminary, but I did attend a Baptist college.

    I can remember 5 professors in the religion department. I took classes from 3, and had good friends who took classes from the other 2. I believe that they all were from Southern.

    At that college, there was 1 of the 5 that held to an orthodox view of scripture. No one ever came out and said “I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth.” The classes that I had addressed it by saying that the NT writers relied on the Septuagint (sp?) and thus, misinterpreted the passage in Isaiah that “a virgin shall conceive…” They said the text merely says, “A young woman shall conceive…” And that the early church took this prophecy and applied it to Jesus so as to bolster the claims they were making about Jesus’ diety.

    What made Southern Baptists so concerned about the state of their seminaries was the negative experiences so many pastors had when they attended seminary.

    So, there was no survey of belief, per se, but there was a generation of pastors who had listened to their profs when they were in seminary, and they definitely believed their was a problem that needed to be corrected.

    There is a survey of belief of the students at Southern that was approved for a doctoral dissertation by a guy named Hollyfield in the early 1970s, I believe. On the Virgin Birth question, nearly 100% of the students believed that when entering Southern. By their final year in seminary less than a 1/3 believed in that.

    Again, I brought all of this up merely to show the backgrounds of Mohler and Dever, and how that growing up in a denomination which had very little theological accountability at the insitutional or church level, that they would both see a need for that.

  172. Anonymous,

    Based on your comment, you seem quite content with Mohler and Dever. Am I correct in my assessment based on your comment?

  173. Anon:

    You said:There is a survey of belief of the students at Southern that was approved for a doctoral dissertation by a guy named Hollyfield in the early 1970s, I believe. On the Virgin Birth question, nearly 100% of the students believed that when entering Southern. By their final year in seminary less than a 1/3 believed in that.”

    I know I said I would give you the final word but what you say above unless you can do a better job of proving it I will not believe it.

  174. Anonymous
    I find this history fascinating. i am currently reading a couple of books which offer differing perspectives. What concerns me, presently, is the extreme to which this movement is moving. It has gone waaaay beyond the affirmations of the Nicene Creed and has fallen down the rabbit hole of raising secondary issues to urgent and primary status. Mohler considers YE creationism of primary importance, saying last year that it is his number one priority for the coming year. His buddy, Billy Graham would not have ridden to his rescue in this one since Billy believes in an old earth.Out of SBTS has arisen the Eternal Subordination of the Son and the patriarchal movement.

    I admit I may not be as well read in this area but it sure seems to me that the Virgin Birth, etc was not the end point and that, in fact, the agenda went way further than that. Now Dever’s group is pushing “keys to authority” type power for churches along with heavy handed discipline contracts. And just wait til today’s post. Now Mohler is meddling in the affairs of other “denominations.” I don’t know, Anonymous, this whole thing doesn’t add up for me. And I am one who professes the orthodox confessions.

  175. Deb:

    I do like Mohler and Dever and much of what they have done.

    The profs at Southern are much better. There is no question about Southern’s orthodoxy now in the Christian community.

    And I believe Dever’s 9 marks of a healthy church is a good book.

    I do not agree with everything they say and do, however, but we agree on the big picture/large scale issues.

  176. Eagle:

    I assume that you know what I mean, or you would not have added the last sentence.

    I am sure that I would accept what most would say constitutes orthodoxy in the Christian faith.

  177. Mot:

    If you are interested, I am sure that you can obtain a copy of the thesis from Southern.

  178. Dee:

    I do not disagree with what you have said here.

    Remember that the struggle for the future of the SBC theologically occurred from about 1935 or so until 1992, with the actual political battles being joined from 1979 through 1992.

    It is hard for anyone who was not involved then, or not astute enough to have followed the issues, to truly grasp what was going on.

    The real difference is between those Baptists who believe that a theoloigcal confession is central to churches working together to do missions and education, and those Baptists who believe that it is unchristian to have a theological confession in the first place because it violates the principle of the priesthood of the believer.

    Some of the differences are about WHAT should be in the confession.

    But the real difference in the SBC was whether to have one at all.

    If you will look at the founders of the CBF and what really is important to them, you will see very clearly that the idea of having no governing theological confession is central to their existence.

    For example, I think it was Walter Shurden, one of their leaders who lead the Baptist Center (I think at Mercer), who advised that altough the CBF will be tempted to put down in writing what it believes, it should never do so, because to do so would not be correct.

    And the CBF has not done so.

    I am not picking on them here. I am simply trying to demonstrate that as denomination of churches (or fellowship, as they call themselves) they are committed to not having a common theological confession.

    So it is not one interpretation here or there, or one emphasis here or there, but whether to have any agreed upon theological consensus at all, that is the issue.

    Again, seeing the need for a common theological confession is part of what motivates guys of the age of Mohler and Dever.

    I agree with the need for a theological confession and believe that the recovery of the seminaries was very important. But that, also, does not mean that I agree with every emphasis or idea that has come down the pike since 1992. I clearly do not.

    I agree that Billy Graham would not intervene to try and save Dr. Mohler in any and every controversy that might pop up.

    But Graham understood the importance of biblical orthodoxy, and that is why he intervened to assist Dr. Mohler in the early days with the Board of Trustees, and that’s why Graham intervened in the SBC presidential election in 1985.

  179. Anonymous
    How much do you know of Dever’s church? Theology is usually seen lived out in practice. Do you know how difficult it is to live under hyper-authoritarian rule? Do you know why his church, after all the hoopla has not significantly grown?I believe in good theology but theology which results in punishing atmospheres is a theology which is deficient. As you will read today, Dever actively interfered with another denomination’s leader, allowing him to hide out in his church when his churches were investigating him. This is the same Dever who believes you must have the “permission” of the pastors to leave your church.

    I believe that both of these men have contributed to a severe form of faith that is based in serious discipline of the dumb flock who cannot be trusted and pastoral privilege. As you know, I do not make my claims lightly. Today you will read about Dever; tomorrow about Mohler. This is not the faith that i came to so many years ago and I am a true believer when it comes to those doctrinal principles that you hold dear. The SBC is starting to meddle in other denominations. get ready for the invasion of SGM into the SBC.

  180. I think it odd that Graham got involved with this, considering his own Evangelistic outreaches were pan-denominational. In other words, Graham consistently worked with a multiplicity of Christians that did not have a common theological confession. How could he be seen as a mediator for such an issue?

  181. Anon:

    You said:”If you are interested, I am sure that you can obtain a copy of the thesis from Southern.”

    No, why don’t you provide us with this thesis.

  182. Anonymous
    And that is why Graham would not be accepted by today’s authoritarian legalists. Thank heavens he is elderly or the purists would have gone after him as well.

  183. Dee:

    The fact that these folks would have gone after the Senior Billy Graham shows how these folks operate. I often wonder do these folks ever think about what they are really doing to the Kingdom.

  184. Dee and Deb –

    Invasion might be an understatement, as it appears that the troops are on the move and some have even arrived on SBC’s doorstep.

    Why? They must all be getting something out of it. Enablers do what they do because they, too, are getting something out of the relationship.

  185. Dee:

    Again, historically, I don’t like the idea of a church having 20,000 members and 2,000 showing up. Something is wrong there. I, too, don’t like the idea of having a denomination with no common theological confession so that you have professors denying orthodox Christian convictions.

    So, I believe in the need for church discipline, and I believe that a recovery of that was necessary in the average baptist church.

    But that is not a license to be weird!

    I know NOTHING about the practice at Dever’s church. I have never been there. I don’t know what it was like when he arrived, how big it was, or how big it is now. I am not sure that would be a determinative factor anyway.

    I, also, don’t care for Mahaney, as you know.

  186. Doubtful:

    I obviously never spoke to Dr. Graham about this.

    But Graham joined First Baptist under Dr. Criswell in about 1948 or so, and kept his membership there for years. It may still be there for all I know.

    I know (or knew) some of Graham’s close confidants.

    I believe that Graham held a very high view of the Bible and I suspect that he was sophisticated enough to know the score at Southern and in the SBC, and when he could, used his influence to assist those in favor of biblical orthodoxy. I think he was very careful about public statements and such, but was still active in subtle ways on these issues.

  187. Anon:

    Oh, yes you do. The burden is on yet when you make such outrageous claims. I think your just looking for trouble.

  188. Anonymous
    I find it very odd that Dever is considered the big church expert. Things are not exactly as you would expect at his church. There could be a lot of smoke and mirrors. I, too, believe in church discipline, when it is warranted. But church discipline for the sin of asking questions and not having a teachable spirit? These guys are into that sort of thing. They do not necessarily mean the same thing you and I might in this area. But, I’ll leave that up to you to discover since we will be doing some writing on this in the coming weeks.

  189. “Theology is usually seen lived out in practice. Do you know how difficult it is to live under hyper-authoritarian rule”

    Dee, My guess is that Anonymous is an “authority” in his church. probably an elder. I would also venture to say he is on an SBC board. Probably the SBTS Foundation board.

    To say that having a “confession” was a big part of the CR….let us go back and read the BFM 1963. After reading it, ask yourself why THERE WERE STILL LIBERALS DENYING THE VIRGIN BIRTH TEACHING IN SEMINARIES. Because confessions are just words on paper. They don’t change hearts.

    Now read the BFM2000. What is the really big difference? They added more concerning women and their role in the church and marriage. There is your big “confession”.

    Anonymous is painting a mountain out of a molehill. But it sounds good. And Billy Graham is on the record saying that a person can be saved and never heard of Jesus Christ. Not sure his siding with Mohler means much in the scheme of things. He also sided with Nixon and was on the watergate tapes.

  190. mot
    Actually, he is pretty well versed in his subject and is not a troll. Now, he and I disagree on some things but he definitely knows his side of the story. Trouble is, there has been quite a bit of controversy and definitely two sides to the issues raised.

  191. Dee:

    Thanks for clarifying that he is not a troll. On the other hand at least for me he makes outrageous claims without supporting documentation. For that I’m just not able to take him seriously.