The Gospel Coalition Urges Don’t Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

"Doctrines can still be good, true, beautiful, and helpful despite the ways they've been abused or misconstrued in the past."

Derek Rishmawy

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=9920&picture=open-bibleOpen Bible

The Gospel Coalition recently featured an interesting post entitled Abuse Does Not Take Away Use written by Derek Rishmawy.  It begins with these words:

In my online forays, I've observed it's increasingly common for people to explicitly reject a doctrine, or the notion of orthodox teaching in general, on the basis of its abuse. You'll often read something along these lines: "I grew up in a church that had a heavy emphasis on doctrine X (depravity, judgment, sola scriptura, etc.). My pastors and elders used that doctrine to berate people, cow them into submission, or excuse horrible evils." So now, whenever they hear doctrine X, they can't accept it because they know (feel) it's a tool being used to control them or bring about another harmful result. In fact, some will go further and elevate this reaction into a principle of theological methodology: if a doctrine could be or has been used to hurt or damage, it must be rejected out of hand. If they don't preach against the doctrine being applied that way, then people will.

After reading the post, I immediately wondered two things. 

– Why was it necessary? 

– Why didn't one of the high-profile bloggers linked to TGC's website write it? 

It seems that those affiliated with The Gospel Coalition have been getting pushback, and we believe some of it is justified.  Rishmawy goes on to state: 

Any doctrine can be distorted or misused to harm others.

No one would dispute that statement.  Again, the issue is:  why is The Gospel Coalition taking a defensive position? 

What we have been witnessing from those whom we label as Calvinstas is that they appear to set themselves up as the ‘authority’ when it comes to interpreting and applying scripture.   This has been done systematically through the many conferences they hold, the plethora of books they generate, their version of the Bible (ESV), the networks they establish, etc.   They have been working diligently for at least a decade (probably much longer) to establish this ‘authority’.   To some degree they operated in a vacuum for quite a while, but it appears the internet has changed all that.

Getting back to the distortion of doctrine, Rishmawy writes:  

Or take the classic teaching on forgiveness. Christians are told God is a forgiving God, having forgiven all our sins in Christ at the cross. We're then told to forgive those who sin against us as Christ has commanded. Unfortunately some have taken this teaching on forgiveness and used it to force victims to "forgive" their abusers in ways that essentially brush over sin and ignore the reality of justice.
 
Pick almost any doctrine (creation, fall, grace, and so on) and you'll find some way it has been abused and applied improperly. Given this reality, if our main criterion for accepting or rejecting a doctrine is whether it can be used to harm others, we'll be left with a mere two-word creed: "I believe."

What is terribly upsetting about this example – forcing victims to “forgive” their abusers – is that quite a few ‘survivors’ have alleged that this happened in Sovereign Grace Ministries under the leadership of TGC Council Member C.J. Mahaney.  To make matters worse, we had three of Mahaney’s colleagues, namely Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung, and Justin Taylor, come to Mahaney’s defense in their controversial post Why We Have Been Silent About the SGM Lawsuit, featured on TGC’s website soon after the lawsuit was dismissed.  It is worth noting that after the post has been up for a while, it was amended to clarify that this was strictly the opinion of the signatories and not all those affiliated with The Gospel Coalition.

We certainly hope TGC leaders would not take the ‘forgive your abuser’ position described in Rishmawy’s post; however, there are some Christian leaders who do.   Perhaps those conferences and books can be used to instruct those leaders who have a tendency to take scripture beyond where God intended.

Rishmawy then states:

One of the most important rules I've learned in my theological studies is abusus non tollit usum—"abuse does not take away use."

In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! 

If high-profile leaders in The Gospel Coalition would speak up for those who have been hurt and stop protecting their own, then perhaps Rishmawy’s post would be unnecessary.  When there is a wall of silence on matters that many Christians believe should be addressed, the Calvinistas are only hurting their tribe. 

The initial response to any form of abuse in the church should show compassion for the alleged victims.  Furthermore, help should immediately be offered.  Please, please don't sweep it under the rug!  

Rishmawy concludes his post with this recommendation:

I'd encourage you to search the Scriptures, though, before rejecting something only on the basis of your negative experience. It may take some years of books, conversations, good churches, and perhaps a good biblical counselor, but it's worth it not to reject some key truth of the gospel just because some wicked teacher ruined it for you.

With a conclusion like that, we are left wondering whether Rishmawy has any compassion for those who have been abused in the church. 

Perhaps it was divine providence that the following story appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post.

New report finds that effects of child abuse and neglect, if untreated, can last a lifetime

The Post article begins as follows:

In the first major study of child abuse and neglect in 20 years, researchers with the National Academy of Sciences reported Thursday that the damaging consequences of abuse can not only reshape a child’s brain but also last a lifetime.

Untreated, the effects of child abuse and neglect, the researchers found, can profoundly influence victims’ physical and mental health, their ability to control emotions and impulses, their achievement in school, and the relationships they form as children and as adults.

The researchers recommended an “immediate, coordinated” national strategy to better understand, treat and prevent child abuse and neglect, noting that each year, abuse and neglect costs an estimated $80 billion in the direct costs of hospitalization, law enforcement and child welfare and the indirect costs of special education, juvenile and adult criminal justice, adult homelessness, and lost work productivity.

Since we began blogging, we have heard from MANY who have been hurt, and those comments and private e-mails have spurred us on in our endeavor to speak out against abuse of any kind. 

The Post article states:

 Child abuse and neglect is a serious public health problem which requires immediate, urgent attention,” said Anne Peter­sen, a professor at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan who chaired the research committee for the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of the National Academies. “The consequences can last into adulthood, with significant costs to the individual, to families, and to society.”

The report, produced at the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that while rates of physical and sexual child abuse have declined in the past 20 years, rates of emotional and psychological abuse, the kind that can produce the most serious long-lasting ­effects, have increased. Rates of neglect have held fairly steady. Researchers said they do not know why.

The article goes on to explain why it is so important to reach out to the victims and promptly get them the help they need.  It states:

 If we can intervene and change a child’s environment, we actually see plasticity in the brain. So, we see negative changes when a child is abused, but we also see positive brain changes when the abuse ends and they are more supported. Interventions can be very effective.

Finally, we find it curious that none of the TGC Council members who staunchly defended a certain pastor in ministry wrote this post.

If we continue to publicize abuse (particularly via the internet), then the Christian leaders who have been silent for far too long will only open themselves up to further scrutiny.  

It’s time for those who embrace the doctrines of grace to show grace and mercy to those who have been hurt.

Lydia's Corner:  Nehemiah 3:15-5:13   1 Corinthians 7:25-40   Psalm 32:1-11  Proverbs 21:5-7

Comments

The Gospel Coalition Urges Don’t Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater — 104 Comments

  1. Creedo Conundrum: “Shrink -Wrapped  ‘Religious’ Tyrannical Slavery, Perhaps?”

    hmmm…

    “Pick almost any doctrine (creation, fall, grace, and so on) and you’ll find some way it has been abused and applied improperly. Given this reality, if our main criterion for accepting or rejecting a doctrine is whether it can be used to harm others, we’ll be left with a mere two-word creed: ‘I believe.’ ” 

    Quack! Quack!

    He’s funny,

    he’s Soooooooooo close…

    -snicker-

    a mere three-word creed: 

    “I believe in Jesus!” 

    (grin)

    hmmm…

    “If you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Romans x:9)

    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John iii. 16)

    Plain n’ Simple.

    Whew!

    No theologian n’ his dubious in-ter-pre-tation re-quired, good ta go right outa da shrink-wrap!

    cheeeeeeese!

    Jesus loves me dis I know…

    hum, hum, hum…

    (grin)

    Beware of deze proverbial false 501c religious pernicious professors, who come to you in camo-sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are r.a.v.e.n.o.u.s wolves?

    “Oh! Captain, my  Captain…”

    too funny.

    Sopy

  2. “Rishmawy concludes his post with this recommendation:

    I’d encourage you to search the Scriptures, though, before rejecting something only on the basis of your negative experience. It may take some years of books, conversations, good churches, and perhaps a good biblical counselor, but it’s worth it not to reject some key truth of the gospel just because some wicked teacher ruined it for you.”

    Good article, don’t let Satan have you throw the baby out with the bathwater which is his basic game plan.

  3. Further down in the article, Rishmawy writes:

    “One of the most important rules I’ve learned in my theological studies is abusus non tollit usum—”abuse does not take away use.” Basically, fire can destroy, but it’s also good for cooking or keeping your home warm; an oxygen mask can still save your life, even if someone choked you with one; scalpels still cut out cancer, even if someone got injured with one. In the same way, doctrines can still be good, true, beautiful, and helpful despite the ways they’ve been abused or misconstrued in the past.”

    I don’t know Deb, the article came off to me as more a defense of Calvinism then one of concern about abuse. The emphasis still seems to be, defend the system of belief, rather then defend the victims of abuse.

  4. Lin

    Agreed. The apparent lack of concern for those abused within their circle of friends is astonishing!

     

  5. Comment Approval May Be Slow Today.

    Dee is helping at a retreat and ail not have internet access for most of the day. Deb will be keeping an eye on things but she is out of town as well.

  6. Often, articles from this quarter are based on what sort of feedback they are getting even though they do not respond directly to it. I wish they would, it would be more honest.

    Seriously, if a teaching has been used to abuse people then it deserves to be analyzed from all directions. It usually ends up that the real problem is the issue of authoritarianism that perverts such things as forgiveness, etc.

    But then he is really picking on the wrong people. He needs to be addressing those who abused said doctrine in the first place and how they were wrong. But then, that would be awkward, wouldn’t it? And a long article. :o)

  7. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where the baby ends and the bathwater begins. And some doctrines may in fact be abusive, full stop. For example, I will not argue that Calvinism is inherently abusive, but separation of the races inherently is. Fortunately, that particular belief is relatively rare, though I can’t say people aren’t trying to bring it back (like the League of the South, with their favorite “historian,” David Barton).

  8. It seems to me they are in the business of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    If people don’t accept their way of believing…poof!

    If people don’t accept you are to be very VERY afraid of feminists, and recognize their true authority…poof!

    If people question their positions of biblical roles, and ‘can not’ lists for women….poof!

    If people don’t stand down, and accept their double talk when they can’t admit they made an error….poof!

    Their positions on SGM, their silence or agreement with Piper’s statement on domestic violence, and their projecting of issues onto others when they point out problems in what they teach?

    They throw you out with the bath water all the time. Their elitist attitude that can’t even fathom that people can see from them? The use of the networks to make more money, place themselves in the best chair at the tables, and the constant come back of, ‘That’s not what I meant’…yet never questioning their communication skills.

    Their words are hallow, because they don’t have backbone to backup what they say. They enjoy the name calling, and attaching of motive and intentions to those not in their camp. At the same time almost create FEAR of the secular world, and want you isolated from it.

    They are so blind, and yet in so much denial of their own outlook on things. I guess they have to rely on God’s love only, because they have pretty much pushed away everyone else on earth.

    Yes, people throw the baby out with the bathwater when they show a clear lack of integrity, character, and basic honor for fellow humans.

    I truly feel sorry for them. I think they are incapable of realizing they do this all the time themselves.

  9. At least he does acknowledge that forcing a victim to “forgive” an abuser is wrong. I’ll give him that. And it is true that just about any doctrine can be distorted. Of course he should direct this to the abusers first. Sadly, the abusers are convinced that they are right, and would probably not listen to anything anyone has to say.

  10. To add: I do hope he understands why victims do reject the doctrines that abused them. People who have not been abused themselves find it too easy to dismiss such things.

  11. I never have to worry about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I just wait for Tim Challies to inform me how to think gospelly on any given subject.

    http://www.challies.com/articles/thinking-biblically-about-cj-mahaney-and-sovereign-grace-ministries

    Seriously, I think the whole TGC, T4G, 9Marks movement has outlived its shelf life. When the leaders of these groups provide cover for a man who conspires to cover up sexual abuse in his denomination and blackmails his co-founder it is impossible to grant them any credibility or relevance. Clearly they have become an institutionalized business intent on protecting their source of revenue. When there is no concern demonstrated for the hurt and wounded sheep in their midst they demonstrate they have become sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. I no longer read their websites – I don’t find them helpful or winsome, nor do they serve me well. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Perhaps. I prefer to look at it more as a cleansing of the temple.

  12. I agree with someone above who mentioned that the abusers are the ones that need to be addressed with instructive articles. I believe that this will be a difficult task as the abusers (leaders) believe they have God’s authority to “divide” the scripture as they do, and create the abusive situations (as ‘they’ have). Teachers of scripture need to teach and let the Holy Spirit bring life to the hearer. I don’t believe that forcing people to adhere to teaching was the original intention of the writers of scripture. Maybe it was the intention of some who came along shorly after the original writers (use it to force adherance)? I’ve certainly seen it used to force certain behavior and confirmity in my lifetime.

  13. I find it interesting that the left-wing WaPo writes an article apparently sympathetic to the concept of “child abuse” causing lifelong harm. Such harm is now being redefined by the Left, to include the education of children in traditional American values (e.g, Christian faith and moral values, gun ownership), and to exclude forcible sexual abuse by pedophiles.

    Whenever news media today discuss issues such as this, we must never assume their definition of a term matches that of a person holding the views of orthodox Christianity or America’s Constitutinal generation.

  14. @ TW: Excellent commentary! I, too, believe the shelf life of this crowd is about to expire. It's just that the young, restless and reformed wannabes don't realize that. They are too mesmerized with their leaders (Mohler, Dever, Piper, etc.). Time will tell…

  15. @ Hannah Thomas:
    Yep.

    Saying “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” is a last ditch defense attempt to salvage your position anyway, when it has failed in every other respect.

  16. @ Jodie B.:

    People who have not been abused themselves find it too easy to dismiss such things.

    Always makes me think of this from Much Ado About Nothing.

    “…for, brother, men
    Can counsel and speak comfort to that grief
    Which they themselves not feel; but, tasting it,
    Their counsel turns to passion, which before
    Would give preceptial medicine to rage,
    Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,
    Charm ache with air and agony with words:
    No, no; ’tis all men’s office to speak patience
    To those that wring under the load of sorrow,
    But no man’s virtue nor sufficiency
    To be so moral when he shall endure
    The like himself. …
    For there was never yet philosopher
    That could endure the toothache patiently,
    However they have writ the style of gods
    And made a push at chance and sufferance.”

  17. Seneca wrote:

    Good article, don’t let Satan have you throw the baby out with the bathwater which is his basic game plan.

    Ah but Jimmy my man, who determines what the bathwater is?

  18. Don–good points.

    And I suppose a plea could validly be made that excesses of a doctrinal position, used to abuse, should not mean throwing it out.

    Otherwise, those fleeing the Reformed brand of the Christian faith are going to have nowhere to flee.

    Arminians have done their share of stupid hurtful stuff, Luther could be nutso at times, Pentecostals sometimes are great charlatans, and can anyone say “Inquisition?”

    Nah, as much as some want to make it evil evil theology, the truth is it is evil evil people. Which come in all stripes of theology, and no theology at all.

  19. Some “babies” need to be thrown out with the bath water. Unless one discerns what to keep and what to throw out, then one would end up keeping every heresy that came along, except only in a “cleaned up” version of it That is not OK. There is no way to wash off or clean up some things.

  20. Muff Potter wrote:

    Seneca wrote:
    Good article, don’t let Satan have you throw the baby out with the bathwater which is his basic game plan.
    Ah but Jimmy my man, who determines what the bathwater is?


    The words of Scripture of course.

  21. Don

    However, they are correct about pedophilia causing life long harm to children. And, unfortunately, the Christian church (to include all branches) has been notoriously silent on this sin when it affects one of their own. We deserve derision for our silence and coverup. And I am not a liberal.

  22. None of this particularly surprises me. When you are in an authoritarian system that is determined to protect itself, defense of doctrine is the only place you can go really. As others have pointed out, they can’t really direct the hard questions at those who committed and/or allowed the abuse, because some of them are leaders who, under that system, are protected at almost all costs. And they can’t apologize or humble themselves to outsiders who disagree with them because that would be seen as a form of surrender. So they do what they know: defend doctrines even to the point of absurdity.

    He’s wrong of course that you can always separate use from abuse. Some doctrines are so whacked that they are inherently abusive, and some are sufficiently slanted that they too easily lend themselves to abuse, particularly in an authoritarian system, and sometimes various combinations of doctrines work synergistically to create an environment where abuse is all but sure to happen.

    But they won’t admit this. Defense of doctrine is all to these types. Right doctrine and being “biblical” is more important than people.

  23. “They tie up heavy burdens for men’s backs and they will not lift a finger themselves.” The heavy burden is further blame and expectation in the abused to “keep on trusting” even when experience and common sense says to get out. If they want to truly “lift a finger” to help, they could start by actually naming names when they describe what was done to an SGM child and posting as the RBD’s instead of using this guy like a puppet.

  24. and I find the whole “search the Scriptures” thing either thoughtless or downright insulting. How dare he insinuate that those of us who question “pure doctrine” would be convinced if we just spent some time in the Bible? Do they not realize who they are dealing with?

  25. dee wrote:

    Don

    However, they are correct about pedophilia causing life long harm to children. And, unfortunately, the Christian church (to include all branches) has been notoriously silent on this sin when it affects one of their own. We deserve derision for our silence and coverup. And I am not a liberal.

    What should concern us is not how the left responds but how much ammunition Christianity gives them. TGC and T4G defending CJ Mahaney and how SGM dealt with molesters is case in point.

  26. Anon1

    We have met the enemy and it us. Those who have stayed silent have given those who hate the faith ammunition. And then we get the nonsense that those atheists are angry because they are not part of the chosen ones. One day we will answer for the pain that we caused children within our very churches.

  27. linda wrote:

    those fleeing the Reformed brand of the Christian faith are going to have nowhere to flee.

    The more I read of the Reformed faith, the more I realize that it is not monolithic. There are many variations on the theme. Today’s Neo-Calvinist types are a minority. From what I can tell, there are lots of churches for those with a Reformed bent. And not all Reformed people are as extreme in their thinking. So, for those wondering what to do, I say explore the alternatives. There are plenty.

  28. Mother wrote:

    he insinuate that those of us who question “pure doctrine” would be convinced if we just spent some time in the Bible?

    Let’s all studiously ignore the 5 gazillion denominations who all think they have “searched the Scriptures.”

  29. @ Bridget: It took nearly 300 years after Christ to decide what was scripture, so, in complete agreement with you. Those writers never knew they were writing the canon.

    The Apostle Paul would turn over in his grave if he knew we turned his letters into Torah.

  30. @ John:
    It starts with people believing the Bible is a “how to” book. Then, when they listen to a preacher telling them how to apply 2000-4000 year old advice it to all areas of their lives, including medicine, TVs and marriage they don’t see the immediate red flags.

    Some preachers, certainly not all by any stretch, take advantage of their gullibility, and set themselves up as the life-answer coach using the Bible (Driscoll does this with university aged guys, Mahaney did it with young families, Piper does it with his followers). The problem is, Paul didn’t write those letters to us or for us. He had powerful things to say, sometimes, some of it is banal, really. The letters were treasured because of who Paul was to them and what he meant to them, not the other way around. 200 years later, people made a selection of apostle’s writing – the Gospels were widely used and known, and agreed on at this point (although some claimed additional gospels), the letters were then included – Luther questioned what made the cut (James specifically) then chucked out scripture that Paul actually quotes from in his letters (the apocrypha). Anyone who doesn’t teach all this first, before declaring they have the true gospel is fooling people. Driscoll feels Greek studies are a waste of time, Piper ignorantly preaches a heresy the Nicene creed addressed (eternal subordination of the Son – complete church heresy) and Mahaney idolized his view of lordship over family that he sent abused children back to their pedophile fathers.

    No, they don’t have pure doctrine. They haven’t raised anyone one form the dead or been thrown in jail for their beliefs. They aren’t apostle enough to claim that title. They make huge blunders and freak out at people who point it out (Rachel Held Evens vs. Jared quoting Doug Wilson fiasco). In 300 years, God willing, they will be used as an example, of how not to be a Christian pastor.

  31. Tikatu wrote:

    “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”

    That’s one of fifteen things not to say to a recovering fundamentalist–mostly for the same reasons you describe here!

    When somebody says “Chew the meat and spit out the bones”, they’re usually pushing a bag of bones on you.

  32. John wrote:

    But they won’t admit this. Defense of doctrine is all to these types. Right doctrine and being “biblical” is more important than people.

    Purity of Ideology, Comrade.
    Citizen Robespierre and Comrade Pol Pot would agree.

  33. Seneca wrote:

    Muff Potter wrote:

    Seneca wrote:

    Good article, don’t let Satan have you throw the baby out with the bathwater which is his basic game plan.

    Ah but Jimmy my man, who determines what the bathwater is?


    The words of Scripture of course.

    Scripture(TM)?
    You mean The Party Line?
    Used as a weapon against all outside the Elect clique?

  34. Val wrote:

    @ John:
    It starts with people believing the Bible is a “how to” book. Then, when they listen to a preacher telling them how to apply 2000-4000 year old advice it to all areas of their lives, including medicine, TVs and marriage they don’t see the immediate red flags.
    Some preachers, certainly not all by any stretch, take advantage of their gullibility, and set themselves up as the life-answer coach using the Bible

    Oh yes, I’m well aware of all this. Bibliolatry is where it ends up usually. John MacArthur trends this way. Very literalist and uncompromising even on very secondary issues. And then he ended up teaching lordship salvation and never really fully repudiated that little mistake.

    You can write books about humility, but it doesn’t mean squat unless you’re willing to admit that you were wrong, ask forgiveness, and truly act humble. Still waiting for that to happen with some of these so-called leaders.

    No one’s doctrine is perfect. Never will be. But if doctrine drowns out grace and the love of Jesus, and it too often does, we have a real problem.

  35. “Count ta three: One, Two, Three…I’m Div’in In!”

    huh?

    People believe da Bible is a ‘how to’ book?

    A ‘how to’ book?

    huh?

    God gave his people, the Israelites, COMMANDS, which He expected them to follow. Gump!

    They didn’t.      (sorta…)

    (sadface)

    They suffered a divided and later a lost land, and at far times much, much worse.

    They dis-re-gard-ed  just about every messenger, He ever sent them, including His own Son.

    (tear)

    (…forward á  bit) 

    Jesus summed up the Old Testament law, 

    Love God with all,
    Love your neighbor as yourself.

    hmmm…

    He encouraged folk to accept what He had done fer dem: He removed da separation that existed between Man, and his creator-since the Garden, inviting all men drawn to Him, ‘as he said He would’, to believe on Him, and accept this grand effort on their behalf.

    Simple.

    In return, He offered Restoration to Himself, & ‘Eternity’ in His presence.

    Whoa!

    eternal life, eternal life, eternal life, eternal life, eternal life, eternal life, eternal life, eternal life, eternal life, 

    hmmm…

    (fast forward)

    This generous offer still stands.

    What?

    “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1)

     The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.  (Rev. 22:17)

    …what say ye?

    Let the One Who is Thirsty Come?

    🙂

    Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
    Whoa oh oh oh oh 
    …I’m diving in!

    (grin)

    hahahahahaha

    Sopy
    ___
    Comic relief: 
    Steven Curtis Chapman, “Dive”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8-N7dYgscU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  36. ♥*´¨)
    ¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•`  ¤ “Prendre la main de Jésus ! “*´¨)

    huh?

    “There is a supernatural power,
    In this mighty rivers flow,
    It can bring the dead to life,
    It can fill an empty soul,
    And give a ‘heart’ ♥ the only thing,
    Worth living and worth dying for!

    Yeah!

    But we will never know,
    The awesome power of the grace of God,
    Until we let ourselves get swept away into this holy flood…”

    ~Steven Curtis Chapman

    *

    So if you’ll “take Jesus’ hand”
    close your eyes and count ta three,
    un deux trois !

    And take the leap of faith, come on, let’s go!

    Sweeeeeeeeeeeeet !

    🙂

  37. The thing that amazes me about the comments on this article is the willingness to accept liberal interpretations of what scripture is and what constitutes the essentials of the faith. Maybe I’m missing something but many times in these comments I’ve seen the defense of Roman Catholics and liberal christians over the eccumenical embrace of Calvinists, just what is an essential? The trinity? Faith alone? Substitutionary atonement? I don’t mean to be inflammatory but when people complain about the Calvinist claiming to be preaching the “pure doctrine” it strikes me as a hollow complaint what should they say? Perhaps it would be better if they said “I dont know what the bible says or teaches.” And I have heard many Calvinists who do not claim “pure doctrine” but instead focus on what they consider to be “essentials.” So again I ask what do the people that write and those that frequent this blog believe the essentials to be?

  38. Rob,

    I won’t speak for anyone else but I believe the “Image of God” includes our free will. If that is the case then it drastically changes the “essentials” when it comes to Calvinism (determinism).

    Without free will it becomes a cosmic puppet show that is cruel and meaningless.

  39. Rob wrote:

    The thing that amazes me about the comments on this article is the willingness to accept liberal interpretations of what scripture is and what constitutes the essentials of the faith.

    Rob, Iike Anon I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think you need to distinguish between classical calvinism and what this blog terms the calvinistas. There is a difference. I grew up in the reformed tradition so I know a lot of faithful calvinists with whom you can actually carry on a conversation and who are aware of and accept that there is a wide range of interpretations within Christendom, many of which differ from theirs. But with the calvinistas, they make secondary issues into litmus tests of faith and are quick to exclude anyone who disagrees with them. I remember exchanges on another blog where a believer who stated their belief aligned with the Nicene Creed, yet their faith was called into serious question by these types. When that kind of thing happens, clearly there is a real problem.

  40. Inquiry: “What Is An Essential?”

    @ Rob

    hmmm…

    in a word: ‘Jesus’.

    Spelled out in plain language, so a three year old child could understand and respond: (…and they have!)

    “If you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Romans x:9)

    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John iii. 16)

    Plain n’ Simple.

    Spelled out further in plain language:

    “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” ~ Jesus

    🙂

    Jesus: “Before John Calvin, I Am!”

    (grin)

    hahahahahaha

    Sopy

  41. Its funny how many things regarded as essentials are not things out of the bible but theological constructs made from a bunch of bishops arguing about stuff.

    Like, I don’t know, the trinity concept.

  42. Rob wrote:

    Maybe I’m missing something but many times in these comments I’ve seen the defense of Roman Catholics and liberal christians over the eccumenical embrace of Calvinists, just what is an essential?

    I’m not sure if you were directing this to every one, or only the ladies who own the blog.

    If you go through older threads, you can see that some of us here do have conservative theological views.

    I have been a Christian my entire life but am having a pretty big faith crisis the last few years, where I’ve been questioning the faith. I’m a little on the agnostic side these days, but not fully.

    My problems with the Christian faith have less to do with intellectual objections and more with things like the fact that many Christians don’t live up to the God they claim to follow, and as far as I can tell, God Himself is not keeping all of His promises to every one as outlined in the Bible, etc.

    In so much as I retain the Christian faith, I am very conservative.

    I do not agree with Calvinism, but I don’t consider myself an Arminian, either.

    I don’t see how someone can really claim to be a Christian, yet claim Jesus was not God, did not literally rise from the dead, or that the Bible is filled to the brim with error.

    I don’t agree with new beliefs, such as open theology (that God is a really great guesser but cannot know the future).

    I believe in the Trinity, that there is one God who expresses Himself as three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).

    But there are other people on this blog who do accept open theology, and others who reject that God exists as a Trinity.

    If you read older threads on this blog from about three months ago where a guy who seemed to be Roman Catholic went on (what I perceived to be) a Protestant- church – bashing, or Protestant- doctrine bashing, spree, I critiqued several Roman Catholic views in return.

    I have had close friends who are Roman Catholic, so I do not dislike Roman Catholics on a personal level or anything like that, and my goal for participating at this blog is not to debate Roman Catholicism itself (or YEC and a few other views), so I normally leave those topics alone.

    There are a lot of aspects of liberal theology, or a liberal view of the Scripture, I don’t agree with.

    I wrote over at the “Spiritual Sounding Board” blog that I while I do appreciate the sensitivity to people of faith who have been hurt by churches/ Christians, that I am troubled by some of the questioning of the Bible that I see.

    I’m fine to a point with some questioning of it, as there are parts of the Bible that are hard to understand or to accept, but I pretty much still subscribe to that views that the Bible is inerrant, should be taken literally (not read as one big allegory), and I believe that it’s based in actual historical events.

    If I ever return to a church for weekly services and involvement, and I have no idea if I will or not, while I am turned off with how those with conservative theology tend to (mis)treat people, I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable attending a church with more liberal theology, where the people are more warm and fuzzy to people (which is wonderful), but who teach beliefs that I don’t see as being true or biblical.

    So when you visit this blog, you are seeing a variety of beliefs expressed.

    I don’t always speak up to debate with every opinion I see that I disagree with. So don’t assume that every one is in total agreement with every one else on every last issue that is brought up.

    For myself, I normally choose to simply remain silent if I see a comment I disagree with, depending on the topic.

    I will sometimes disagree, but it depends on the topic and my mood. I prefer letting to live and let live rather than argue with every one on every thread. 🙂

  43. I found two articles about changing trends in churches and church buildings.

    I can’t find the first one yet, but here’s the second one:

    Three Changing Trends in American Churches

    I thought the first item on the list was strange. I don’t remember, based on my childhood experiences, attending a church or becoming a member of one being so complicated, what with having to attend ‘membership classes’ and signing membership papers.

    The main points from the list:

    Changing Trend #1: Entry Point or New Member Classes
    Changing Trend #2: Churches with Multiple Venues
    Changing Trend #3: The Growth of the Executive Pastor Role

  44. Rob wrote:

    many times in these comments I’ve seen the defense of Roman Catholics and liberal christians over the eccumenical embrace of Calvinists,

    Just to note that there are a fair number of Calvinists who are liberal.

  45. John wrote:

    Bibliolatry is where it ends up usually.

    I do love a quote attributed to the much-maligned (in respectable circles) Bill Johnson, to the effect of: We will never replicate the success of the early church while we value a book they didn’t have over the Holy Spirit they did have.

    I agree. And I can only sigh at reaction of many here in the UK to anyone who says anything similar. That is, if I reject the deification of the Biblescriptures™ as the Fourth Person of the Inaccurately-Named Trinity, then I am rejecting the Biblescriptures™ altogether. Even sadder is the fact that to many, the Biblescriptures™ are actually the third Person of the Trinity – it is they who are the living and present manifestation of God with humanity today. The Holy Spirit has never figured materially in their experience or teaching at all.

  46. P.S. On re-reading that (it’s late here in Blighty, we’ve done a lot of travelling etc this weekend and I’m about to go to bed), I suspect it may be a bit ambiguous. The penultimate sentence would be clearer if it said “it is the Biblescriptures™ who are the living and present manifestation of God with humanity today”. This is not something I myself believe, needless to say.

  47. Patrice wrote:

    Rob wrote:

    many times in these comments I’ve seen the defense of Roman Catholics and liberal christians over the eccumenical embrace of Calvinists,

    Just to note that there are a fair number of Calvinists who are liberal.

    Thank you, Patrice. I know that to be true for example the PCUSA headquarters is in my city.

  48. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    John wrote:

    Bibliolatry is where it ends up usually.

    I do love a quote attributed to the much-maligned (in respectable circles) Bill Johnson, to the effect of: We will never replicate the success of the early church while we value a book they didn’t have over the Holy Spirit they did have.

    I agree. And I can only sigh at reaction of many here in the UK to anyone who says anything similar. That is, if I reject the deification of the Biblescriptures™ as the Fourth Person of the Inaccurately-Named Trinity, then I am rejecting the Biblescriptures™ altogether. Even sadder is the fact that to many, the Biblescriptures™ are actually the third Person of the Trinity – it is they who are the living and present manifestation of God with humanity today. The Holy Spirit has never figured materially in their experience or teaching at all.

    Exactly! The Promised One usually gets relegated to the back bench.

  49. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    John wrote:
    Bibliolatry is where it ends up usually.
    I do love a quote attributed to the much-maligned (in respectable circles) Bill Johnson, to the effect of: We will never replicate the success of the early church while we value a book they didn’t have over the Holy Spirit they did have.
    I agree. And I can only sigh at reaction of many here in the UK to anyone who says anything similar. That is, if I reject the deification of the Biblescriptures™ as the Fourth Person of the Inaccurately-Named Trinity, then I am rejecting the Biblescriptures™ altogether. Even sadder is the fact that to many, the Biblescriptures™ are actually the third Person of the Trinity – it is they who are the living and present manifestation of God with humanity today. The Holy Spirit has never figured materially in their experience or teaching at all.

    ……………
    So very well expressed Nick. The holy spirit has left the building. 🙁

  50. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    John wrote:

    Bibliolatry is where it ends up usually.

    I do love a quote attributed to the much-maligned (in respectable circles) Bill Johnson, to the effect of: We will never replicate the success of the early church while we value a book they didn’t have over the Holy Spirit they did have.

    And when that happens, “the Book they didn’t have” ends up as The Party Line, Comrades. Regulations to be quoted chapter-and-verse, rewordgitated without ever activating a single neuron above the brainstem. “Ees Party Line, Comrade!”

  51. Seneca wrote:

    “Rishmawy concludes his post with this recommendation:
    I’d encourage you to search the Scriptures, though, before rejecting something only on the basis of your negative experience. It may take some years of books, conversations, good churches, and perhaps a good biblical counselor, but it’s worth it not to reject some key truth of the gospel just because some wicked teacher ruined it for you.”

    In other words “Don’t mind the pain and suffering of trying to fit the square peg of a deterministic God into the round hole of the person and work of Christ. Keep coming back for regular indoctrination and the pain will subside.”

    That’s rich. LOL
    Good article, don’t let Satan have you throw the baby out with the bathwater which is his basic game plan.

  52. Anon 1 wrote:

    Patrice wrote:
    Rob wrote:
    many times in these comments I’ve seen the defense of Roman Catholics and liberal christians over the eccumenical embrace of Calvinists,
    Just to note that there are a fair number of Calvinists who are liberal.
    Thank you, Patrice. I know that to be true for example the PCUSA headquarters is in my city.

    And I would speculate this is because the eccumenical embrace of Calvinists might be more aptly compared to one’s receiving a choke-hold with shackles.

  53. linda wrote:

    Don–good points.
    And I suppose a plea could validly be made that excesses of a doctrinal position, used to abuse, should not mean throwing it out.
    Otherwise, those fleeing the Reformed brand of the Christian faith are going to have nowhere to flee.
    Arminians have done their share of stupid hurtful stuff, Luther could be nutso at times, Pentecostals sometimes are great charlatans, and can anyone say “Inquisition?”
    Nah, as much as some want to make it evil evil theology, the truth is it is evil evil people. Which come in all stripes of theology, and no theology at all.

    All have sinned (Calvinists, Arminians, etc) and fallen short of the glory of God is not a good argument for the defense of a theological model (hyper calvinism) that presents the nature and character of God differently than was presented in the incarnation of God himself.

    If we’re talking about neo-Calvinism in the language of babies and bathwater, best course of action would be to throw out both. Then scrub, clean and disinfect the house.

  54. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Nick Bulbeck wrote:
    John wrote:
    Bibliolatry is where it ends up usually.
    I do love a quote attributed to the much-maligned (in respectable circles) Bill Johnson, to the effect of: We will never replicate the success of the early church while we value a book they didn’t have over the Holy Spirit they did have.
    And when that happens, “the Book they didn’t have” ends up as The Party Line, Comrades. Regulations to be quoted chapter-and-verse, rewordgitated without ever activating a single neuron above the brainstem. “Ees Party Line, Comrade!”

    Funny, I went back through the New Testament and didn’t find any examples of those early Christians adopting “party lines” “regulations” or “comrades”. I do see them following the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

    Guess your theory about the dissolution of faith in the absence of canonized scripture doesn’t apply to this particular historical example.

  55. Scott Shaver wrote:

    And I would speculate this is because the eccumenical embrace of Calvinists might be more aptly compared to one’s receiving a choke-hold with shackles.

    Your spec forgets that there are many streams in Calvinism. Moreover, it is those Calvinists who are least choke-holdish that are socially/politically liberal whereas the Calvinistas are almost invariably socially/politically conservative.

  56. Patrice wrote:

    Your spec forgets that there are many streams in Calvinism. Moreover, it is those Calvinists who are least choke-holdish that are socially/politically liberal whereas the Calvinistas are almost invariably socially/politically conservative.

    All of that is changing with the YRR resurgence. It is hard to label anymore. I know many who voted for Obama and are very much into environmental issues and for socialized medicine. Some did not vote because Romney was a Mormon. The leaders are having a hard time keeping up so they mainly focus on authority issues as in micromanaging people in the church which they agree with and like. They are pretty much fed up with the culture war as many others are. In other words, many of them like totalitarianism, too, and understand it well.

    basic self deternminism is dead. The government wants to micromanage all aspects of my physical life and the church wants to micromanage my spiritual life. Freedom with responsibility are things of the past.

    It is an unbrave new world.

  57. Re : “Throwing the baby out….”

    A friend and long time Gothard critic used to always ask, “But what if it’s Rosemary’s baby?”

  58. Anon 1 wrote:

    Patrice wrote:
    Your spec forgets that there are many streams in Calvinism. Moreover, it is those Calvinists who are least choke-holdish that are socially/politically liberal whereas the Calvinistas are almost invariably socially/politically conservative.
    All of that is changing with the YRR resurgence. It is hard to label anymore. I know many who voted for Obama and are very much into environmental issues and for socialized medicine. Some did not vote because Romney was a Mormon. The leaders are having a hard time keeping up so they mainly focus on authority issues as in micromanaging people in the church which they agree with and like. They are pretty much fed up with the culture war as many others are. In other words, many of them like totalitarianism, too, and understand it well.
    basic self deternminism is dead. The government wants to micromanage all aspects of my physical life and the church wants to micromanage my spiritual life. Freedom with responsibility are things of the past.
    It is an unbrave new world.

    That hasn’t been my experience at all. The churches I have attended attempted to teach Biblical truths. I was, at times, in leadership. Other then encouraging members not to make huge mistakes, we let them live their lives the way they saw fit and encouraged them to be guided by Scripture with what ever decisions they made.
    _
    _

  59. Brian wrote:

    Re : “Throwing the baby out….”
    A friend and long time Gothard critic used to always ask, “But what if it’s Rosemary’s baby?”

    Met, right? I do miss Metochoi. He had a profound affect on my life! And I always wonder if I am getting the formatting right!

  60. “Give Me A Moment Ta Catch Ma Breath?”

    Whew!

    @ Anon 1

    Something totalitarianly wick’d this way cometh?

    hmmm…

    could have fool’d me…

    (grin)

    hahahahahaha

    no carez, no worries?

    ‘They’ dump’d the books of Daniel and Revelations in da proverbial trash, so no worries here, rightz?

    The rest of da bible is next on da proverbial short list?

    What?!?

    …don’t turn on da lightz sucker, cuz I don’t wanna see?

    hmmm…

    Mamma told me not ta come…

    She said dat ain’t no way ta have fun? Son!!!!!!!

    Mamma told me, Mamma told me, Mamma told me, Mamma told me, Mamma told me…   🙂

    (sadface)

    Sopy

  61. @ Anon 1:
    There are many responsible people in our country, from both sides of the political aisle. But yes, I agree that we are all being made subject to increasing authoritarianism and we need to fight against it. That’s one of the reasons why I like Deb/Dee so much.

    What’s interesting is that there are not all that many people who are running the shows. They are small cadres of greedy power-hungry people who have shoe-horned themselves into positions of power and twisted the systems so that it pleases them and their friends, and who will fight tooth/nail to remain there. So while it is becoming rather dreadful everywhere, there is hope in that.

    I think it is important that we shed both our denominational and political divisions and come together against the power-hungry and the systems they have birthed. Divisions can easily become ways to divert and weaken ourselves away from the this fundamental problem.

  62. Seneca wrote:

    Other then encouraging members not to make huge mistakes, we let them live their lives the way they saw fit

    And there’s the problem right there, Seneca. You, as a leader, have no business “letting” anyone do anything. It was not your job; you carried no authority over another. That you write that belies your idea that the churches you attended taught Biblical truths.

  63. @ Patrice:

    I agree with this. When you get into a very high stratosphere it is often shocking to find both sides of the aisle are in agreement on certain things not good for us plebes.

    A perfect example would be congress exempt from paying back student loans their children take out and exemption from Obamacare. Or both sides of the aisle benefitting from Wall Street shenanigans. They like it when the populace is busy following the Kardashians.

  64. Patrice wrote:

    Seneca wrote:
    Other then encouraging members not to make huge mistakes, we let them live their lives the way they saw fit
    And there’s the problem right there, Seneca. You, as a leader, have no business “letting” anyone do anything. It was not your job; you carried no authority over another. That you write that belies your idea that the churches you attended taught Biblical truths.

    We honestly taught what the Bible says; in difficult passages, we acknowledge the difficulty. We encouraged people to apply Biblical truths to their lives, choices and desires. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t. (That was also true of the leadership.) At the churches I attended we prayed for the people a lot. Some members left, others joined, this is the USA where people are free to leave and they do. I found being an elder to be quite stressful myself.
    _
    _

  65. @ Rob:

    As others have pointed out, this blog has a very diverse readership; many regulars here don’t profess to follow Jesus in any case, so for them I suppose “the essentials” would be some variation on the theme of: get on with your life.

    As for a liberal interpretation on what scripture is… I don’t know, of course, what goes through your mind when you write the word “liberal” in this context. But as often as not, it is used to create a false antithesis between 1) those who believe scripture replaces the Holy Spirit as the ever-present manifestation of God among humanity (people even exist who believe it is God’s ultimate revelation of himself to humanity) and 2) those who regard it as a historical source like any other ancient text and no more reliable.

    Those are not the only two alternatives. A “high view of scripture”, as it has been described, often masks a decidedly low view of the resurrection, of the incarnation, and therefore ultimately of God himself. It is quite possible to draw on scripture as god-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, without becoming a slave once again to law. When doctrine takes precedence over love, a slave is ruling over princes, which Proverbs 19 does not exactly celebrate.

    Most regulars here agree that the role of women is not an essential of the Christian faith. Deebs never started this blog to set out perfect doctrine or define once and for all the essential doctrines of Christianity (I personally think the Nicene Creed is quite long enough), nor are we regulars joined by a common doctrine. The blog exists to give a voice to the voiceless, and the thing that links us as regulars here for the most part is a common concern for the oppressed and the downtrodden.

  66. Anon 1 wrote:

    They like it when the populace is busy following the Kardashians.

    Yes, they do. Unfortunately this is also state-of-being inside much of the church (the busy work of complete obedience to scriptures and pastor). This surprised me when I came back to the church community via the interwebs this past year.

    It makes me sad to see how the US organized church, although it believes it is separate from the world, has been caught in the same corruption as broader culture. The ideology of “culture wars” is shown to be a fiasco, because the real culture war was to deny the hierarchical systems that allowed some to have power over others. And they missed that completely. ARG!

    I suspect that I am different from you politically (although I’ll bet we are both third partiers), but I much respect your sense of who God is, and am glad to have met you online!

  67. @ Seneca:
    Yeah, it is hard work being an elder in a church no matter which way one cuts it. It is volunteer labor, too.

    Maybe the problem is that many strains of Christianity these days believe that the Bible is nearly the same as God. When that is believed, leaders take on vocabulary such as “letting people” because they think that correct interpretation of the Bible is the voice of God to his people. This raises them above the “sheep”, even if unconsciously, and it creates a lack of empathy and belonging that is destructive to the church. It is much better to look to the Holy Spirit as our primary source, and He/She resides in each of us

  68. Patrice wrote:

    @ Seneca:

    Yeah, it is hard work being an elder in a church no matter which way one cuts it. It is volunteer labor, too.
    Maybe the problem is that many strains of Christianity these days believe that the Bible is nearly the same as God. When that is believed, leaders take on vocabulary such as “letting people” because they think that correct interpretation of the Bible is the voice of God to his people. This raises them above the “sheep”, even if unconsciously, and it creates a lack of empathy and belonging that is destructive to the church. It is much better to look to the Holy Spirit as our primary source, and He/She resides in each of us


    Patrice, the Holy Spirit is never going to disagree with Scripture.
    _
    _

  69. @ Rob: Rob
    Although Deb and I are evangelicals in our faith, this blog is open to those of any persuasion. It was a dream of mine to have a blog in which all are welcome.

    It is in dialogue that we grow and understand. So many of our churches as basically closed clubs. Oh, we try to say all are welcome but the reality is that many do not feel the love. I want to hear what the atheist has to say. I want to understand why people leave the church.

    I have no problem with those who are Calvinist in their theology. I disagree with some points. I would be happy to join them in communion, etc. Yet, some Calvinists will not allow others to join in their communion. Mark Dever will not let his friend Ligon Duncan take communion because Ligon is a paedobaptist. I would be happy to join in communion with both.

  70. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    As for a liberal interpretation on what scripture is…

    Liberal….I hate that word. What does it mean? Is it political, theological, social or a mix. I have given up using those terms.

  71. Seneca wrote:

    Patrice, the Holy Spirit is never going to disagree with Scripture.
    _

    I didn’t say the Holy Spirit would disagree with scriptures. I’m talking about fundamental priorities. In fact, that you didn’t say, “Scripture is never going to disagree with the Holy Spirit” reveals some enthrallment to doctrine on your part.

    The Holy Spirit is alive and guides/guards us through our days. The Bible is words on pages and not alive. It is deeply limited by its very nature. Its authority comes via the Holy Spirit, not the other way around. The Bible has little to say about many things, and what it says is problematic in some places. If the latter were not so, we would not have thousands of denominations inside our religion.

    “Love God above all and your neighbor as yourself; scriptures are merely an extrapolation of these two commands.” Jesus said that and then sent us the Holy Spirit to show us how. Eventually a NT was added to the OT and it became an additional tool for us to use in our endeavor to love more perfectly.

  72. @ Dee:

    Liberal….I hate that word. What does it mean? Is it political, theological, social or a mix.

    Anything to the left of the speaker.

  73. @ Patrice: Seconded.

    You might well say, in fact, that the Holy Spirit is always going to disagree with scripture, for the simple reason that almost any phrase from scripture can be contradicted from elsewhere within scripture if you pick the context cleverly enough. By extension, anything the Holy Spirit does or says can be “shown” to be “unbiblical” if we want to. It could not possibly have been the Holy Spirit commanding Peter to kill and eat unclean animals, for instance, because that plainly contradicted the scripture they then had. The assumption that the addition of a few more short books cleared up all possible misunderstandings sits uneasily alongside the available evidence.

  74. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    (Sshhh, don’t confuse matters.) Actually, it does simplify the whole thing quite a bit, yes? Anytime an interpretation of scripture breaks away from the two greatest commandments as brought to life by the Holy Spirit inside of us, we can know that the scripture-as-read is wrong. Whoop!

    As far as complexity goes, I looked at the link Seneca posted in latest thread, of the “distinctives” of MacArthur’s Faith Community. The word “love” occurs four times in that lengthy doc. And FWIW, “The Holy Scriptures” are placed before “God”. Astonishing! But I am delighted they are open about it.

    http://www.gracechurch.org/distinctives/

  75. Thank goodness Mr. Rishmawy clarified that he has (a) studied theology and (b) can quote Latin. Now I can be awed by his intellectual prowess and accept whatever he says as authoritative.

  76. Patrice wrote:

    (Sshhh, don’t confuse matters.)

    Yeah… sorry! Your original comment was really good, btw – “scripture never disagrees with the Holy Spirit” is a really good thought-provoker.

    I too looked at Grace Community Church’s distinctives – if they mean by this, what distinguishes them from other churches, then to my mind the whole document is an exercise in “I follow Paul/Apollos/Cephas/Christ” and has no place in the body of Christ. To nitpick, I found all of five references to “love”. But no reference to loving one another, and no statement that they actually do love God.

    The Jerusalem apostles thought it necessary to urge Paul to remember the poor, something that was also close to his heart in any case. So I looked for the word “poor”.

    Nope.

    Which is a challenge to me as well, if I’m honest (and why be otherwise!? 🙂 ). In my zeal to think about Jesus, am I actually like him? Most church doctrinal statements claim that God is triune; few claim that he is trustworthy. But do I trust him? Good question…

  77. The usual argument against that is that God never changes, so everything he said yesterday he will say the exact same today, etc etc. You’ve probably heard it plenty of times.

    Or will he?

    Because the bible is full of instances where God changes his mind. Even, in fact, several instances where a HUMAN CONVINCES GOD to change his mind about something (Moses convinced God not to destroy Israel, the most one immediate that springs to mind). Think about that for a moment. That is amazing.

    God being unchanging doesn’t mean he can’t change his mind. That would make him simple automata. A robot. There would be no difference between God and gravity.

    It just means his personality doesn’t change, even if his decisions do. And what is his personality? Jesus.

  78. @ Heather:

    Yes! Small world… I miss him too. Even the formatting tirades he used to go on. And those silly songs he made up. I haven’t participated in the discussion forum in a while but I may have to pop over there now.

  79. It seems that for many people in this community there really are no essentials. I am well aware of the fact that there are different points of view expressed within the comment section of this blog, my question was merely to gauge what the individuals who participate in the discussions consider to be essentials. Often people will say what are not essentials (complementarianism for example, of which I would agree that it is not essential, and would say that I do not completely agree with it.) but I still am not sure what many of those who participate in these conversations actually believe are essentials. Of the few people who offered any response to my question about essentials only one mentioned the trinity as a possible essential (I’m not really sure if they think it is or not) and another merely said that Jesus was necessary. Only Jesus really? so then are Muslims who claim to love the prophet Jesus part of the fold? Are Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe that Jesus is Michael the archangel part of the fold? There was no mention of faith alone on which the “evangelical church” seems to have been pretty adamant over the years regardless of their soteriology. If faith alone doesn’t matter then do Paul’s words in Galations 1 have meaning?

    6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

    I don’t bring up these things to cause dissention but only to question the dynamic of criticizing people for claiming to teach “pure doctrine.” why is it a bad thing to believe you are telling the truth? why shouldn’t a pastor who believes that what he is saying is true present it as the truth?

    And to Anon1 who said the Calvinism represents a cosmic puppet show I would ask what does lamentations 3:37-38 mean in light of your understanding of man’s free will?
    37 Who can speak and have it happen
    if the Lord has not decreed it?
    38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that both calamities and good things come?

  80. @ Rob:

    There are some from all walks of life on this blog. It’s not closed to anyone (well, a few naughty boys are in time out). You’ll find Christians, atheists, and agnostics, depending on the day. So, no Christian essentials necessary to participate here 😉

  81. Rob wrote:

    I still am not sure what many of those who participate in these conversations actually believe are essentials. Of the few people who offered any response to my question about essentials only one mentioned the trinity as a possible essential (I’m not really sure if they think it is or not) and another merely said that Jesus was necessary. Only Jesus really?

    Deb and I subscribe to the Nicene Creed, etc. We both believe in the Trinity, as stated in the creed, but contend that few easily understand it

    .Rob wrote:

    I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

    I would watch that conclusion Rob. i love the Gospel so you better tell me if you think i am deserting the gospel and why. I want proof, not “feelings.”

    Finally, I do not think that throwing Bible verses around to “prove” a secondary issue will get you anywhere. There are better theologians than both you and I who are on all sides of the coin. Please understand that this is a busy blog. If you want your question answered and it has been ignored, repeat your question on a more current thread.

    This is a blog which is open to all people, regardless of faith. Your two adorable blog queens are decidedly Christian and our posts represent our thinking on the matter. I would challenge you to find anything which is not in keeping with a broad orthodox thinking on the matter.

    Many churches pretend that they are open to seekers and dissenters but few achieve that goal. This blog is trying to do just that.

  82. @ Rob:

    Rob, Wow! Very few ever quote Lamentations. Usually I find some Lamentations in old hymns though. Thanks!

    The reason you might not get a lot of feedback on the “essentials” is because it is thought to be a sort of trick question anymore.

    I do not believe in a determinist god so my “essentials” might be a bit different than others. Some think an essential is their definition of a Sovereign God or a limited grace.

    I also think the essentials are much more than simply believing that Jesus is the Christ, resurrected and having faith. I believe we must live the Kingdom life now and I believe we are equipped by the Holy Spirit to do so if we are truly seeking wisdom. (I disagree about what is perfection/Holiness than some dualists/determinists)

    You might call that works and I am ok with that. I just call it sanctification and believe it is synergistic. I believe the atonement was for everyone but not all will accept it. I most definitely believe in free will and our responsibility before Christ and to others.

  83. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    You might well say, in fact, that the Holy Spirit is always going to disagree with scripture, for the simple reason that almost any phrase from scripture can be contradicted from elsewhere within scripture if you pick the context cleverly enough

    Bingo.

  84. First off, let me say that there’s a grain of truth to what he’s saying. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a common symptom of being human 🙂 Many people turn to that simplistic method (about MANY things, not just religion) instead of having a more complex conversation and sorting through ambiguities. I think we can all agree on that, and he and I could probably shake hands on it.

    Having said that, I’d offer a little push-back to his article. Much of the doctrinal rejection we’re seeing right now in the wake of the SBC scandal etc. is the rejection of authoritarian methods of running the church. That is not just some doctrine that was used once by one leader to harm someone, and is now being unfairly maligned. We’re talking about a doctrine/church organizational method that has proven time and time AGAIN, with MANY different people, that it has bad consequences. No, you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but at what point do continually repeated results warrant an alarmed reaction? And what if a doctrine hurts people in many different facets of their lives, as has been the case here?

    Second, let’s give hurt people a little credit for being able to sort through what happened to them and identify what the real problem was. His example of the doctrine of “forgiveness” being misused sounds like a good example on the surface; people forced to forgive their abusers might decide that forgiveness is a bad doctrine, ergo, proof of baby-with-bathwater syndrome. But let’s take a look at the people who actually were in those situations. Most of them (who have come forward, anyway) did not come forward claiming that the doctrine of forgiveness was what hurt them. They had, by contrast, directly identified the doctrine of unquestioning authority to church leaders as the culprit behind what was done to them. And I haven’t heard any of them saying that the concept of forgiveness is now a taboo subject that no human should ever implement again. They’re not blindly throwing out any doctrine connected with what happened to them. They’re focusing like a magnifying glass on the incident and finding out what the problem really WAS.

    People are not stupid.