We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ― Plato link.
Just a quick statement about Dee:
I wanted to let you all know that things are a bit busy around my house. My eldest daughter is getting married at the end of January. Also, about 5 years ago, I contracted an unusual virus. This caused a rapid onset of an unusual inflammatory arthritis which has resulted in quite a bit of joint damage. I have had one total knee replacement. Unfortunately, it appears I also need another partial knee replacement ASAP. I am trying to wait until after the wedding. However, I am having some pain which causes me some concentration problems. Please forgive me if I seem a bit distracted.
When we first started to talk with Becky, she sent us some emails. The following account, in her own words, jumped out at me.
Pastor Kevin Galloway then joined us to the Acts 29 /Mark Driscoll network shortly after. We were told that we HAD to plant a church in nearby Valparaiso Indiana in order to join this new and exciting network. Things began to change, money seemed to be spent on updating our look, and we started having a coffee bar. Our classes were now being taught from books published by Acts 29. One woman friend of mine who was a charter member of our church left one class in tears when she challenged the asst. pastor over the book being taught from. She like I could not believe that God predestined whether or not her newly born grandchild would go to heaven or hell.
It was evident to me that this church had not been distinctively Reformed when Galloway signed them up for Acts 29. It appears that Galloway did not clearly state his objective since so many people left. When the church members first heard about Acts 29, they should have asked the following question. "To what theology does Acts 29 subscribe?" The answer is clearly stated on their website.
To be a planter in Acts 29 you have to hold to a Reformed soteriology.
If you really understand this gospel, this message that “God saves sinners,” and really understand Reformed soteriology, then you should be known for your humility, not your pride. You know that everything you have is a gift of grace.
Why didn't the pastor announce his intention to shift the theological direction of the church?
I would expect that most people of good will would understand the distinct upside of leveling with one another. After all, Jesus did say that He was the Truth. That is why I was concerned about one paragraph within this document. In Chapter 4, here, Walking Without Slipping: Instructions for Local Church Reformation:
Clarity. In the pulpit, don't use theological language that is not found in the Bible. Avoid terms such as Calvinism, reformed, doctrines of grace, particular redemption, etc. Most people will not know what you are talking about. Many that do will become inflamed against you. Teach your people the biblical truth of these doctrines without providing distracting labels for them.
I could be wrong but I do believe the writers appear to be implying the following:
- Most people are too stupid to understand what theologians and pastors mean by Calvinism.
- The few, who know what they are talking about, will become distinctly displeased and ruin the pastor's day.
Their solution seems to be: "Don't tell them but still teach them the truth." Or one could revert to that old game called "20 Questions." (Freak out the next candidate who will not answer your questions. Ask this. "Are you supralapsarian?")
What is WWCNC?
Such statements can be misunderstood (or understood all too well) and this is what leads to WWCNC. This stands for World War Calvinist NonCalvinist. These wars can be prevented by being honest. In the above linked TWW post, I also said
Please understand that I have no beef with any church and their selection of primary and secondary doctrine. I may disagree with the doctrinal emphasis or even the core theology of a particular church but I would vociferously defend their right to express and celebrate their beliefs. I would also "elect" not to attend a church that subscribed to the set of beliefs that are described in TULIP, etc. I would be unhappy. Also, given my propensity to verbally emote, in excruciating detail, my disagreements and affirmations, it would stand to reason that the church leaders would be dispirited by my presence as well.
Here is an interesting "tell them…wait, maybe not" by a Calvinist.
Once again, this is from the linked TWW post.
Jason Allen's blog presents a "Tell them the truth. Wait, maybe not." approach. In Are you a Calvinist? Rethinking Theological Labels, link, he appears to stress the need for truthfulness.
One can be accurate without being forthright, and, the truth is, if one desires to be intentionally ambiguous, it’s not too difficult to be truthful—yet unclear. While this game might assuage the conscience, in the end it will help neither the church nor the minister that seeks to serve it.
Truth in advertising is a standard we expect of the world; let’s expect even more of ourselves. When it comes to a pastor’s rapport with his congregation, trust rides out of town on horseback, but returns on foot. The best way to get off to a good start is by being relentlessly biblical and forthright about one’s beliefs.
Then he says something which could be considered, by some, to be contradictory
WHAT IS MOST WISE
When dialoguing about theological convictions, one owes it to others to be honest and forthright, but one also owes it to himself to be wise. To sign on to a label that has morphed in meaning beyond one’s own comfort zone, or has been hijacked by others altogether, may be unwise and, in its own way, misrepresentative.
To conceal one’s theological convictions is at once disingenuous and cowardly, and no self-respecting minister should be either. Rather, let’s be Bereans, studying the Scriptures and articulating our convictions in ways that are most biblical, most forthright, and most wise.
But the example he gives at the beginning of the post is confusing to me. I think he should have answered the question. I certainly would have because I do not like playing games. It might have taken a little more time to convey the nuances but the man asking the question deserved both the time and effort.
(ed. note-Person in the church to the pastor) I am so glad you are here to preach for us today. I have looked forward to meeting you. Before you preach, though, I have one question for you. Are you a Calvinist?”
That question is not an uncommon one, but it’s a question that might be more difficult to answer than first thought. To this gentleman, I reflexively replied, “To be honest, sir, I have no idea what you mean by that question.” He smiled and responded, “I have no have idea what I meant by the question either.”
We both chuckled, then I retorted, “I’ll be happy to discuss this as much as you’d like after the service, but know that I believe in preaching the gospel to all people and that anyone who repents of their sins and embraces Christ as Lord and Savior can be saved.” Reassured, he smiled and said “that is all I wanted to hear.”
So, it appears that the member and the pastor can now join hands and skip merrily through life; that is until the member does some reading. If that occurs, there could be some negative feelings.
Here is another Calvinist pastor expressing his hesitation in *fessing up* to his beliefs link.
I want every person that God has “put under my charge” to embrace the doctrines of grace. But even if they do not I still hope to graciously and lovingly provide for them safe pasture. And that “safe pasture” is found in embracing Jesus not the doctrines of grace.
This is why if asked in an interview whether I want to “change the church into Calvinist” I’d struggle with how to answer. Not because I want to be deceptive, but because it’s partially true, but not because I want to serve Calvin. I would want them to embrace the doctrines of grace because I believe it will provide them more joy and God more glory.
Roger Olson, a non-Calvinist, says there is no place for dishonesty link.
Finally, the real issue should be full disclosure by pastoral candidates and congregations seeking pastors. Knowing how controversial it is, Calvinist pastoral candidates should be completely “up front” about their Calvinism with churches interviewing them. And churches seeking a pastor should lay all their cards on the table, so to speak, and tell pastoral candidates what theologies they cannot tolerate.
I, for one, have no problem with Calvinist Baptist churches and Calvinist pastors in Baptist churches. There have always been some. The only time it becomes a problem is when Calvinists or Arminians sneak into pulpits hiding their theologies and then “come out of the closet” with them, surprising the congregation by attempting to enforce their distinctive view of God’s sovereignty on an unsuspecting and unprepared congregation. This is happening a lot these days. For the most part it is Calvinists doing it. I have heard no reports of Arminians sneaking into pulpits hiding their Arminianism and then attempting to enforce it on a largely Calvinist (or “Calminian”) congregation. So far as I know this never happens.
Within denominations that lack a clear confessional stance on God’s sovereignty in salvation, there should be tolerance and mutual respect combined with complete transparency. This would solve most, if not all, of the controversies over this matter.
Dee's personal experience with dishonesty in this matter.
I have told this story a number of times but now I want to reveal that I am the person who asked the question in this story. This is from the same TWW post linked above.
I personally vouch for the truthfulness of the following story. A pastoral candidate visited a church which was not a Calvinist church. There was a Q&A and people were asked to submit questions. All questions were answered except one, hers. That question was:
Are you a Calvinist?
When asked why her question was not answered, she was told there was not enough time. The rest of the questions centered around a People Magazine approach. "How many kids do you have?" Yes, the pastor was a Neo-Calvinist and changed the direction of the church.
So what would I have done if they had leveled with me at he very beginning? It is really quite simple. I would have gone to the elders and asked them if the direction of the church was changing. If they had said yes, my husband and I would have left. Instead, we hung around for awhile, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. He waxed eloquent about John Piper and recommended books by CJ Mahaney, which is definitely not my cup of tea. We eventually left, anyway. Why play this game? It is this sort of thing that breeds distrust and contributes to an unnecessary escalation of WWCNC.
PS- I know precisely what Calvinism means, including the nuances, and I do not appreciate being blown off as if I was either stupid or unimportant.
The role of women at Countryside church appeared to change as well.
Becky also wrote the following.
Some left because of Driscoll's attitudes about women in the church and how denigrated we women began to feel when our new leaders began adopting Marc's bigotry towards women
Once again, here is what it says on the Acts 29 website link.
4. We are deeply committed both to the fundamental spiritual and moral equality of male and female as well as the principle of male headship in the church and home.
Both men and women are together created in the divine image and are therefore equal before God as persons, possessing the same moral dignity and value, and have equal access to God through faith in Christ.
Men and women are together the recipients of spiritual gifts designed to empower them for ministry in the local church and beyond. Therefore, women are to be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to utilize their gifting in ministry, in service to the body of Christ, and through teaching in ways that are consistent with the Word of God.
Both husbands and wives are responsible to God for spiritual nurture and vitality in the home, but God has given to the man primary responsibility to lead his wife and family in accordance with the servant leadership and sacrificial love modeled by Jesus Christ.
The Elders/Pastors of each local church have been granted authority under the headship of Jesus Christ to provide oversight and to teach/preach the Word of God in corporate assembly for the building up of the body. The office of Elder/Pastor is restricted to men.
(Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18; Acts 18:24-26; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7)
Obviously, the people of the church were taken aback and had not been adequately prepared for the change. Or, better yet, had unnecessary change forced on them.
The Economic Realities of Ill-Defined Rules of the Game
Once again, there was a restructuring of how the church functioned. It appears obvious to me that the congregation in the church was not prepared, or even asked, about the change. We will discuss this in more depth next week. However, it is considered poor form to "take over" and expect people to follow a pastor without carefully defining what is going on. In fact, it is my opinion that this is probably the real reason that Countryside failed.
Many went to the leaders and tried to warn them, stop them, or just make them see, those folks did not stay long after that. It was and is still heartbreaking. We began to lose our day to day ministries. Our missionaries we had supported for YEARS were now told sorry we have no money, meanwhile our pastor went on trips to meet with Mr. Driscoll and his ilk.
Our elderly began to see the problems right off and got disgusted and left. MANY were forced out.
When our older members left they took the checkbook with them. Bet that surprised Kevin…lol. Money that had been spent in the pursuit of relevance was not being replenished. And while he had built a brainwashed army of young adults they certainly did not have the money to keep our lights on. We began to hear almost weekly how broke we were, how behind we were
Our savings was gone, our credit card was up and he had ran off all the regular tithers. So we were sunk, and many of us knew it.
In the end, it appears that every misstep that could be made, was made. Yet, this pastor is one of the church planting faces of the Acts 29 website. In fact, as you will see next week, this pastor now runs a leadership institute and is a trainer for other church planters.
This past week, Kevin De Young wrote a post titled What Do You Think of When You Think of the New Calvinism? Imagine asking this question of the people who lost Countryside Church. One of our readers, May, left the following comment at DeYoung blog. I commend him for having the guts to allow it to stand. In light of this story, can you understand how she might have arrived at this place?
I think of an incredibly divisive movement that seems to celebrate Calvin more than Christ (just look at Piper’s latest poem) and which has led many a young person I know down blind alleys of predestination and limited atonement. They spend their time more concerned about which Puritan to quote than actually reading the Bible and keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.
I think of a movement that has marginalized women and given them non-biblical prescribed roles. A movement that has removed from women opportunities to use their gifts for the church. In Piper’s church, to take an example from ‘the main man’, women cannot read from Scripture publicly. In my own denomination I have seen the influence of New Calvinism relegate women and remove them from leadership positions – after all, it’s is a movement which believes the church should have a ‘masculine feel’.
I think a movement wherein the leaders spend massive amounts of time and money promoting each other’s books, conferences, blog-posts and generally engaging in back-slapping.
I think of a movement that rallies round Christian leaders accused of heinous behaviour just because ‘they’re in the club’ or have the so-called right doctrine, even if this support undermines the most helpless and vulnerable in the Kingdom.
I think of a movement that has shaken my Christian faith to the core because as a highly educated woman I do not see that there is a place for me in it.
I think of a movement that to my mind has done irrevocable damage to the Church.
Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 22:1-24:23 Galatians 2:17-3:9 Psalm 60:1-12 Proverbs 23:15-16