Immature Elders Continue to Abuse Excommunication

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
George Orwell

“He insisted that I remove the post and that I apologize, confessing that I had sinned. Of course, I cannot confess to sinning without believing that I have sinned”
-Jacob Brunton, “Yesterday, I was Excommunicated.”

Dee and I, as well as many other bloggers, have written numerous articles on spiritually abusive church leaders. We have warned readers of the hazards of signing membership contracts. Dee has even provided a helpful article on how one can resign from a church that is attempting to apply “church discipline” to someone who has signed a membership contract. Personally, I would never sign a membership “covenant,” or, as I prefer to call it, a membership contract. I find no biblical basis for such a thing. Further, I would never even attend a church that requires a Christian to sign a covenant/contract to become a member. If you are searching for a church to attend, do your homework. Most churches have a website – check it out prior to attending. In the section concerning church membership, see if the church requires you to attend new member classes for 4-6 weeks. If so, they usually require you to attend these classes and then sign a membership contract. If you can’t find anything about membership classes or contracts search for affiliations. If the church is affiliated with 9Marks that is generally a good clue that they will require new members to sign a membership contract. You can also go to the 9Marks website and look on their church search page to see whether the church you are thinking of visiting is listed. If so, I would suggest crossing that church off your list of churches to visit.

Unfortunately, bloggers such as Dee and I will likely never run out of spiritual abuse stories to write about. Today I share yet another story of heavy-handed spiritual abuse by authoritarian “Elders” in an SBC church.

I led off with the video of Martin Luther because I believe that, like Luther, Jacob Brunton (the hero of today’s story) stood up to those in leadership positions who attempted to force him to compromise his own conscience. While Brunton’s stand is not equivalent to Luthers in terms of the radical change it brought about in Christianity, it is similar in that Brunton refused to bow to pressure and compromise his conscience.

Jacob Brunton is an intelligent, well educated, articulate, principled Christian man. He is active on social media and writes for a blog called For the New Christian Intellectual.”

Jacob Brunton was recently excommunicated from his church because he refused to repent of “sins” the church “elders” accused him of.  The sinful actions, according to the “elders,” were items Brunton had written about and posted on both his Facebook account and his blog.

The material in question has been reposted by Brunton on “Medium,” in a post titled, “Setting the Record Straight — The Original Post,” as well as on his blog, “For the New Christian Intellectual” in an article titled, “Renouncing Disgraceful & Underhanded Ways—A Plea to Southern Seminary & Its Defenders.”

As quoted at the top of this article, Brunton has stated that “He (an “elder”) insisted that I remove the post and that I apologize, confessing that I had sinned. Of course, I cannot confess to sinning without believing that I have sinned”

Below is a quote from Brunton’s article, “Renouncing Disgraceful & Underhanded Ways – A Plea to Southern Seminary & Its Defenders.” This should give you a good idea of the nature of the dispute between Brunton and his former church “elders.”

So the two issues in this controversy are the doctrine of inerrancy and postmodern hermeneutics. This is not a controversy over “the color of the carpet.” This is not even a controversy over some “secondary” or “non-essential” doctrinal issue by almost any model of “triage” one could find in conservative evangelicalism. This is a controversy over doctrinal convictions which our historical conservative heroes of the faith have waged theological and institutional wars over. This is not to say that Dr. Fuller’s charges about the teachings of these men is accurate. It is to say that the question of whether or not they are accurate is of profound significance.

Evasion at the Seminary

And now we are ready to evaluate the way some of Southern Seminary’s defenders have responded to Dr. Fuller’s charges. Did they carefully evaluate the writings of the professors which Dr. Fuller cited, in order to judge whether Dr. Fuller’s charges were accurate descriptions of their writings? Did they offer and argue for some other plausible readings of the texts which Dr. Fuller had cited—readings which were compatible with orthodoxy on the issues in question? Did they at least acknowledge that the writings in question were worded in such a way as to potentially cause confusion on those important issues, and that clarification would be forthcoming?

No.

They didn’t do any of that.

In fact, they did not acknowledge the concerns raised by Dr. Fuller at all.

Instead, the seminary released carefully tailored interviews with the professors in question (Dr. Hernandez and Dr. Pennington), wherein the professors were not asked a single question about the specific concerns raised regarding what they had written. They were asked about their current convictions on related topics, but never about how their professed orthodoxy squared with the writings in question.

This, in itself, is an outrage.

The lesson of the Conservative Resurgence—in particular, the lesson which Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. himself taught us about the Conservative Resurgence within the seminary—is that mere professions of orthodoxy must be tested against actual teachings which may contradict those professions. In fact, Dr. Mohler once explained that the reason the theologically liberal faculty were able to sign the conservative confessions of faith was because they had adopted a postmodern hermeneutic which allowed them to question and twist authorial intent—not only of the Scriptures, but of the confessions as well. This is the very concern raised by Dr. Fuller about one of the current faculty members. That the seminary, under Dr. Mohler’s leadership, thinks it is unnecessary to evaluate the actual writings in question is as strong an indication as any that the seminary’s doctrinal defenses have once again fallen.

That is a strong claim, so allow me to re-emphasize and to clarify. I am not saying that Dr. Hernandez and Dr. Pennington are actually teaching heterodoxy, and that this is evidence of the seminary’s defenses having fallen. It could be entirely true that Dr. Fuller is mistaken about the teachings of Hernandez and Pennington, and I would still claim that the seminary’s defenses have fallen. Why? Because the seminary has displayed no concern for examining whether Dr. Fuller’s charges are accurate or not. The seminary has communicated, through their hasty interviews with the professors in question, that it does not care to evaluate the specific teachings of those professors, and that it prefers to instead rely on their mere professions of orthodoxy. The seminary has publicly indicated that it has abandoned the policy once utilized by Dr. Mohler to guard against theological liberalism, and that it has adopted the policy which allowed theological liberalism to thrive prior to Mohler’s presidency.

Yesterday I was alerted to an article Jacob Brunton had published on September 14, 2020, titled, “Yesterday, I Was Excommunicated.”

I think it best to quote directly from Brunton’s account of events:

“Seventeen years ago today, I was baptized.

Yesterday, I was excommunicated.

Though, that is not entirely accurate.

It would be more precise to say that the elders of the church I used to attend declared that I was excommunicated, apart from any membership vote, apart from allowing the members to hear any counter-arguments, and apart from any biblical or legitimate process of discipline.

I have two aims in discussing this matter publicly:

The first is to “set the record straight,” so to speak, since the elders’ declaration has been made public to the members of the church, and will be made public to the extent that anyone inquires about my membership status.

The second is to be a warning, and an encouragement, to other brothers and sisters in the faith who might find themselves in the midst of such abusive actions by their elders. Based on numerous accounts which have been reported to me, along with my own personal experience, I have reason to believe that similar abuse, in the name of “discipline,” is something the Church needs to be discussing and warning about.

However, I want to be clear that my aim is not any form of retribution against the elders or against the church. I have entrusted them to Him who judges justly, and I will ask that you join me in earnestly praying for their repentance and renewal in the faith.

Because I do not want this to function in any way as retribution against the elders or the church, I will omit the names of both the elders and the church involved. The majority of those who already know the name of the church to which I refer are also members of that church, and they have been instructed not to communicate or associate with me at all. Therefore, this is the only manner in which they are able to learn the truth about what transpired.”

Jacob Brunton is correct when he stated that the Church needs to be discussing and warning about abusive (my word) “discipline.”  While I understand Brunton’s desire to not name the elders or church involved, I hope he understands my belief that the most effective way of putting an end to spiritually abusive church “leaders” is to expose them. Name names, name their church, and name their deeds. At a minimum, even if the abusive “leaders” do not reform their behavior, potential new church members may be warned off.

That said, here is the information on Brunton’s former church:

Here is what Redeemer Church refers to as “our affiliations.” I prefer to call them warning signs.

As I have previously stated, if a church affiliates with 9Marks, it’s almost a certainty that they will have a church covenant contract. Supplementing the church covenant contract is the church discipline form you must sign to become a member. I couldn’t locate the church bylaws on their website, but they are generally very vague as it relates to discipline.

Now back to Brunton’s narrative:

“From the beginning of this process of “church discipline” (which I intentionally put in scare quotes), the elders communicated disdain and contempt toward my honest attempts to be a “Berean” regarding the claims they were making. I repeatedly and earnestly sought to understand the biblical rationale for their claims against me, and I was repeatedly rebuked and punished for doing so. They made it clear, in several ways throughout this process, that it was not the Word of God to which they wanted me to submit, but their own arbitrary will, which they claimed was based in the Word of God, while refusing to substantiate that claim, and while penalizing me for requesting that they do so.”

Ah yes, abusive leaders never want any questions. I have encountered the exact same reaction when I dared question a senior pastor – they don’t like my “tone” or I am not “winsome” enough. While I admit I am not a butt-kisser (another word for winsome) Mr. Senior Pastor should take a look in the mirror. His face is flush with anger. He is seething that a lowly rock-throwing peasant would dare question him. It is my belief that this is a major reason we so frequently so the Big Eva celebrities ranting about the evils of social media. They want to control the conversation and have never been fans of a level playing field. This is why the 9Marks site quit allowing comments several years ago. Kevin DeYoung and Tim Challies have followed suit.

Brunton again:

“In May, I published a post on Facebook which was critical of some SBC pastors regarding their responses to the controversy at Southern Seminary. One of the elders of my church contacted me over FB Messenger, with another elder in the conversation. He told me he was contacting me “as a brother” (rather than as a representative of the elders), because this post was the first time he thought a formal call to repentance was warranted. (The accusation centered on “slander” but often included references to “uncharitableness,” etc…). He insisted that I remove the post and that I apologize, confessing that I had sinned. Of course, I cannot confess to sinning without believing that I have sinned, so I inquired as to his reasons for believing I was in sin.

After much discussion over the course of multiple days, wherein one of the elders defended the actions of Southern Seminary, the accusing elder was not able to substantiate his accusation of sinfulness against me. This was in spite of my ongoing attempts to help him clarify and identify exactly what he believed to be sinful and why. At each point where it seemed like he had communicated what he believed to be sinful about the post, I would repeat my understanding of his position and ask if I was correct, only to be told that I was incorrect.

Moreover, the accusing elder repeatedly cited my requests for substantiation (of his charges) as further evidence of my sinfulness, while insisting that it was my responsibility to demonstrate that I was not guilty of his charges. I explained that he was (likely unwittingly) employing a kafka trap (holding me as guilty until I proved myself innocent, and counting any attempt I made to defend myself as further evidence of my guilt). He finally became exasperated and volunteered to end the discussion until he could bring it to the other elders.”

This too is a common reaction. Abusive leaders are generally never questioned; when they are questioned, especially by someone with a sharp mind, they quickly fold. This guy ended the discussion and said he would bring it to the other elders. That’s kind of like having a couple Jehovah’s Witnessed come to your door and when you ask them a few questions they have no answer for they will show up the following week with their sharper brother.

Brunton again:

“I then met with the two other elders (who were not in the FB chat, but who were aware of it) in person. In spite of the fact that they had given only a few hours for the meeting, one of the elders kept attempting to bring up many other issues, instead of discussing the formal charge of sin which had been brought against me. He even attempted to claim that there was a sinful pattern of behavior on my part, which they had repeatedly addressed with me in the past. I responded in shock, explaining that to my recollection they had never communicated to me before that they thought I was in sin, and that to my knowledge, all of our past conversations had been aimed at resolving personal differences regarding matters of preference in tone and style of writing. The other elder even affirmed this, explaining that it would have been a failure to shepherd on their part if they had thought I was in sin in the past without communicating so to me.”

I have seen all this behavior myself. I have to wonder if maybe these abusive leaders have been taught this behavior at a 9Marks Weekender Conference, or maybe there’s a book called “Abusive Christian Leadership for Dummies.”

I could continue on and quote the entire article, but I encourage you to read it for yourself. Brunton’s experience was sadly typical. He relates how he went from his “First Official Warning” to his “Second Official Warning” in less than 24 hours. All I can say is Brunton has more patience than I. He stayed the course all the way to the inevitable ending of being excommunicated. I would have bailed when they first attempted to get me to delete my post. I don’t blame Brunton. He was correct, he had truth on his side so chose to make a principled stand. Below are screenshots of some of the email exchanges that Brunton had with his former “elders.”

Finally, here is a video clip from a sermon by one of the elders from Redeemer Church of Ft. Worth.

“Man, I could be off here, but this sure sounds like a sinful cult.” -Watch the video and you will understand.

I would have to say being excommunicated from this horrifying church is probably the best thing that could have happened to Jacob Brunton. Who would want to attend a church like this?

 


Comments

Immature Elders Continue to Abuse Excommunication — 124 Comments

  1. Thank you for the link to the 9Marks website.

    I was just looking up churches online trying to find a church home – hard to do in today’s environment.

    I came across one website that mentioned “Biblical” church discipline and membership classes on the same page. That set off warning bells immediately. Sure enough, they website confirmed it is indeed a 9Marks church. No further questions, your honor.

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  2. I don’t understand the disagreement here…to me disputing over what seminary professors say looks like a lot of classifying belly button lint. (Apologies to anyone who is offended but I’m feeling really stupid here for not understanding what’s going on.) That said, my first red flag was when the elder called it “slander.” Folks, when it’s in print, in writing, it is *not* slander. It is *libel*. Please use the right terminology or use different words, maybe ones that doesn’t have a long history of legal definitions and case law behind them. Besides, I just don’t think that what is essentially a doctrinal disagreement can be called libel or slander.

    The second red flag was the fact that the elders basically hustled this guy out of the church within 24 hours of the “first notice.”

    The third red flag was this video. Holy moly. It’s as if these elders hadn’t considered that maybe the brother calling you out is so scrupulous that everything looks like a sin to him! The idea that someone telling you you’re sinning, that person is always right and you are always wrong, that just does not sit well with me. I was also annoyed with the “oh we are all just wretched horrible rotten evil sinners” language. I *know* that. I don’t need to be hit over the head with it every Sunday. It’s as if these guys always hammer at the whole we are sinners at the foot of the cross, but we sinners are never really forgiven and can’t seem to get up in the newness of life and the power of the Holy Spirit to go on and serve God and others.

    Yeah, probably a cult. So many little cults everywhere.

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  3. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: I don’t understand the disagreement here…to me disputing over what seminary professors say looks like a lot of classifying belly button lint.

    This is a minor issue, but it involves The Vatican of the SBC (SBTS) and the Firing of Dr. Fuller by Pope Albert I of Louisville. I wouldn’t be surprised if Al Mohler himself called the elders in question to request the excommunication of Brunton.

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  4. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: I don’t understand the disagreement here…to me disputing over what seminary professors say looks like a lot of classifying belly button lint. (Apologies to anyone who is offended but I’m feeling really stupid here for not understanding what’s going on.)

    I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I read the articles and the links and I think the issue is being intentionally obfuscated. But maybe Brunton expected his readers to know all about it already.

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  5. Ken P.: This is a minor issue, but it involves The Vatican of the SBC (SBTS) and the Firing of Dr. Fuller by Pope Albert I of Louisville. I wouldn’t be surprised if Al Mohler himself called the elders in question to request the excommunication of Brunton.

    So Fuller offended Mohler’s buddies and Mohler fired him? Then suspiciously, someone who questioned this was excommunicated?

    I mean, it sounds par for the course. They protected Mahaney, JMac, and Driscoll and went after the critics. It’s what I saw at SEBTS. The rush to excommunicate is a bit surprising, since New Cals are usually so in love with their process, so somebody must have been really scared by something. But they do that sometimes, like during the takeovers.

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  6. Abusive teachings ahoy! From the sermon video:

    “Look, your heart was so riddled with sin, so full of hate, that you deserved a brutal execution. So when you admitted your sin, and ran to Christ for redemption, you gave up your right to be offended when people suggest that you’ve got problems.”

    No no no no no no no. The crucifixion does not mean that I deserve a brutal execution. These guys need to stop threatening their flocks.

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  7. Friend: No no no no no no no. The crucifixion does not mean that I deserve a brutal execution. These guys need to stop threatening their flocks.

    You have obviously not heard the hardcore Neo-Calvinists talk. They will tell you that you deserve the worst that God can throw at you, but if you’re one of the elect, God is going to save you (and maybe not hate you quite so much). I’ve been told this by Neo-Cals and I’m all, “then what on earth is Jesus about then?” Again, so much for the new life in the spirit of God. /sarcasm

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  8. hmmm … so in a 9Marks church, the “9 Marks of a Healthy Church Member” would go something like this:

    1) sign the contract
    2) blind loyalty to pastor/elders
    3) fully embrace the leaders’ theology
    4) never question church belief & practice
    5) submit everything in your life to us
    6) sit down
    7) shut up
    8) pay up
    9) don’t read watchblogs!

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  9. ishy,

    What breaks my heart about this sermon is that it’s like the suggestions of a fortune teller. Many in the pews will be earnestly asking themselves things like, “Which of my sins makes me deserve a brutal execution? Oh yes, I felt resentful when my husband yelled at me for spending too much at the supermarket.”

    And of course the point of the sermon is to encourage people to point out one another’s quirks and small sins, because otherwise they will become monstrous.

    We should never be that afraid of ourselves, or of God.

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  10. Friend: We should never be that afraid of ourselves, or of God.

    I know. It breaks my heart, too. It’s to break people down and make them dependent on their church. Exactly what a cult would do. It’s a big lie that the New Calvinists are all about theology. They aren’t. They’re about gaining and holding power. They prattle this stuff to manipulate people, but they don’t actually believe it for themselves. Which means they don’t believe it at all, because the essence of the theology is about the nature of humanity. Unless they have a theology that hasn’t come out that they are super human or something (they have a theology that women are subhuman, so I guess it’s possible), then they are just snake oil salesmen.

    The worst thing about it is that so many people have bought their lies, even their enemies. It leads to people being kicked out like this when they find the holes. It leads to people like me who don’t want to go anywhere near a church even though I still believe in God. It leads to people who are terrified of God and their church and who fear that their whole world will collapse so they live a lie.

    All these things are exactly what happens with a cult. More people need to be calling them that. Forget “conservative” or “liberal”, they are a cult.

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  11. Phoenix: That set off warning bells immediately. Sure enough, they website confirmed it is indeed a 9Marks church. No further questions, your honor.

    And be aware that a lot of churches follow 9Marks or similar practices WITHOUT mentioning 9Marks explicitly. It has been called a “stealth takeover” of evangelicalism because the cards are not always on the table.

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  12. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: I was also annoyed with the “oh we are all just wretched horrible rotten evil sinners” language. I *know* that. I don’t need to be hit over the head with it every Sunday. It’s as if these guys always hammer at the whole we are sinners at the foot of the cross, but we sinners are never really forgiven and can’t seem to get up in the newness of life and the power of the Holy Spirit to go on and serve God and others.

    I had an epiphany the other day after a Bible study in which the usual suspect AGAIN brought up how sinful she is and how in need of accountability she is and don’t any of the rest of us ladies long for an accountability partner? I flat out told her “no.” As a recovering perfectionist, I am already keenly aware of where I fall short, and having someone else point it out to me repeatedly would only put me in a very dark place.

    It struck me that all of the focus on how sinful we are takes our eyes OFF of Jesus and instead puts focus onto OURSELVES. And whether you believe in the devil metaphorically or literally, isn’t that just what he would want?

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  13. Ted,

    According to the 9 Marks Church search link above, my church is 9 Marks. However, I look over my church’s website; and find nothing about 9 Marks.

    I will say this though. A few Sundays ago, I was bothered (especially during these times of financial instability for so many) by the assertion, in the sermon, that we have to tithe even if money if tight; and then go to the church to ask for financial help.
    ————
    Of course, not that I have typed that out – that is controlling, bullying behaviour. Think I’ll wait until the annual meeting in January to make a decision; see if anyone else feels the same.

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  14. I took a 10-week membership course before formally joining my church, but I signed no membership covenant or contract. Instead, I publicly professed my faith in Jesus Christ and allowed a bishop to lay hands on me.

    The Anglican church to which I belong isn’t affiliated with 9Marks but is affiliated with The Gospel Coalition. However, I joined the church prior to TGC’s founding in 2005 and when the congregation was still affiliated with the Episcopal Church. (For an explanation of what happened, please check out one of my comments in the previous post.)

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  15. I struggled to write a comment when there were only two comments posted, but was unable to find the words to express my thoughts without risking causing misunderstanding and / or offence to anyone.

    I am truly grateful I did not post my comment, as you TWW commenters have written my thoughts more clearly than I could have written them myself. 🙂

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  16. Not just 9Marks and/or SBC, this sickening treatment seems pervasive throughout any church affiliated with Calvinism. When we asked legitimate questions at our former church simply trying to understand, the backlash was truly unbelievable. The letters from the elders were like nothing we had ever seen from a church before. For asking questions. I grew up in the Evangelical Covenant Church, where asking questions was ecc XCpected and even m encouraged. But at this church, where we were respectfully seeking to understand, we were actually called evil. For asking questions about the Book of Order. To understand why the church did what they did. Our questions, by the way, were never answered, but we were accused of “personally attacking” the elder we posed the question to. Lesson learned: if it’s a Calvinistic church…questions might not welcome, and those who ask anything the elders don’t have an answer for rub the risk of being tarred and feathered.

    When one of the elders told my husband he had to renounce his beliefs,align with their confession, and repent of his sin, they made the decision easy for us. What surprised us is that they seemed genuinely shocked that we left. It’s like they thought we would roll over and really allow our family to be treated horribly and that we would be okay with it and stay at the church.

    I am praying for Jacob Brunton. He is right that there will come a day when these “elders” will be judged for their actions.

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  17. MKR: any church affiliated with Calvinism

    In some parts of the RCC one doesn’t get excommunicated, one gets sabotaged. The ambiguous slogans are similar though. Everything means what someone who things they “have something on” you finds convenient at any moment. Some processes only, are honoured for show.

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  18. The word that gives away the game, not just behavior control but thought control, is the word ‘inerrancy.’ It’s not really about the origin state of various New Testament Scriptures, it’s an ecclesiological moat to protect an exclusive class of infallibles who alone may determine the ‘original intent’ of any passage (and how ‘it applies to you, but not me’). That moat became, at one time facility with a separate language (Latin) that the churchgoer couldn’t comprehend – but you had better be in church or you’re going to you know where. Today, the secret language is made up of a highly coded theological lexikon that looks like English to you and me, in the same was physicists use a language of English loan words. The point is not about inerrancy itself, but what they mean by it as you may have some authentic thoughts on the matter, but those that weaponize a word or a concept that is not in the Scriptures are not concerned at all with what those Scriptures are telling them, as their behavior betrays.

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  19. Wild Honey: I had an epiphany the other day after a Bible study in which the usual suspect AGAIN brought up how sinful she is and how in need of accountability she is and don’t any of the rest of us ladies long for an accountability partner?

    You did well. There is no biblical basis for this type of accountability. We don’t need accountability, we need encouragement.

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  20. MKR,
    Your churches behavior, and this type of behavior, really demonstrates insecurity. Maybe it is caused by something else, but if you understand what you believe, and willing admit what you do not believe, why would one react so strongly to questions?
    The older I get, and the more I learn, the more I realize what I do not understand….. And guess what, I am OK with that…

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  21. Ted: “stealth takeover” … the cards are not always on the table

    Modus operandi of many young SBC “pastors” is to lie their way past a search committee to gain control of a traditional (non-Calvinist) church before slowly revealing who they really are. They somehow justify such behavior for the good of the reformed movement. Many SBC churches have felt their sting, resulting in splits. The new reformers who operate this way transgress most of the things God hates as listed in Proverbs 6:16-19.

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  22. Jeffrey Chalmers,

    I might add, readily admit what you do not believe, nor readily understand…
    Unfortunately, my fundamentalist training, which I think is consistent with most/all extremist teaching, considers admitting you do”understand/Believe” is a sign of weakness…. I reality, I would argue, brutal honesty is a sign of “strength”…
    for example, there is strong scriptural evidence for free will AND predestination… My limited human mind can not, truly comprehend this.. I also believe The Universe is old, and sound evidence exists that has in the past, and continues to evolve…
    If you think I am weak, luckwarm, carnel, lack backbone,etc, compromiser, excetra, excetra…. good for you!

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  23. Iw,

    Tithing bullying: This is another abuse in evangelicalism. There is no tithe in the New Testament. We are to cheerfully give as we are able. For a long time I’ve wished TWW would do a post or two on the whole erroneous notion of tithing. Many congregants are manipulated by this false teaching.As a result they and their families suffer financially.

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  24. This is an excellent post, revealing the hearts of these elders and pastors. They have a serously mistaken view of sin. Everyone sins, every day. The problem comes when the church leaders decided to pick and choose what they will prosecute.

    They use language that is discussed in the book *The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.* Take the word *inflammatory.* For what I see, their definition of inflammatory is *Anything that upsets me orappears to be negative of Southern Seminary.* It now appears that SBTS and Papa Bear Mohler should only be discussed in a reverential manner.

    The controlling nature of Reformed Baptists is what caused me to leave my Baptist church and move to a liturgical church which beleives in the *freedome of conscience.* I loved the clip on Luther.

    I am so grateful for your documentation of this nonsense. The crazies at that church are abusive.

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  25. Max:
    hmmm … so in a 9Marks church, the “9 Marks of a Healthy Church Member” would go something like this:

    1)sign the contract
    2)blind loyalty to pastor/elders
    3)fully embrace the leaders’ theology
    4)never question church belief & practice
    5)submit everything in your life to us
    6)sit down
    7)shut up
    8)pay up
    9)don’t read watchblogs!

    Excellent observation, Max!

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  26. I hate to be the minority report here, and am by no means defending Redeemer, but the interactions I’ve had and have observed with Brunton online have been completely less than positive. Until such time that I muted him, he was a rather ardent defender of JD Hall, Doug Wilson, John Harris, etc.

    For those who are interested.

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  27. d4v1d: Today, the secret language is made up of a highly coded theological lexikon that looks like English to you and me, in the same was physicists use a language of English loan words.

    A Technical Language that has become a Mystery Language, known only to an Inner Ring of Illuminati.

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  28. I understand this post and issue is about excommunication. However, after reading some of Jacob Brunton’s posts on the Christian Intellectual, I have no sympathy for him.
    For example, he calls the minimum wage a “glaring example” of injustice. Not that the minimum wage is too low, but that it exists at all. Another example of injustice is public education. Yes, PUBLIC EDUCATION.

    From his post, True Justice https://christianintellectual.com/true-justice/ :
    One more systemic injustice is public education, which unjustly takes wealth away from those who produce it in order to “educate” other people’s children—in addition to (often) forcibly taking children away from their parents, in order to “educate” in ways highly disagreeable to their parents. These are just some of the true systemic injustices in society, for which the Church ought to be heartbroken, and against which we ought to fight.

    Ugh!!! It’s tough for me to think that this guy has ever read the Bible or truly knows the love of Christ.

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  29. Burwell Stark:
    I hate to be the minority report here, and am by no means defending Redeemer, but the interactions I’ve had and have observed with Brunton online have been completely less than positive. Until such time that I muted him, he was a rather ardent defender of JD Hall, Doug Wilson, John Harris, etc.

    For those who are interested.

    SBTS in my mind is hardly a healthy place.i wiuld strongly discourage any student from enrolling there.

    The issue (again) however is excommunication. Can a faction, or leader with sufficient support, declare an individual’s salvation null and void.

    If it takes place in this life, these individuals will attempt it in the next. In this life, elders might rule over an insignificant 501(c-3). Effectively acting as defacto hall monitors. In the life to come, they will sit in judgement over angels, having been given power to become the Sons of God.

    That is a terrifying thing.

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  30. Burwell Stark: I hate to be the minority report here, and am by no means defending Redeemer, but the interactions I’ve had and have observed with Brunton online have been completely less than positive. Until such time that I muted him, he was a rather ardent defender of JD Hall, Doug Wilson, John Harris, etc.

    The first YRR I knew was just like that. Went to SBTS. He’s no longer a fan, because of stuff like this. These kinds of actions are exactly what New Calvinism is all about. A lot of people become enamored with these people because of the theology and eventually find out theology isn’t really what drives this group. And then they have to decide if they really want to keep following it.

    That’s why many of us are here. We’ve been kicked out of churches and seminaries and groups because we started to see cracks and that’s not allowed because it disrupts the power structure of this cult. Individual thoughts are not allowed.

    This will continue to happen until the leaders die or everybody figures out what a crock this all is.

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  31. Burwell Stark:
    I hate to be the minority report here, and am by no means defending Redeemer, but the interactions I’ve had and have observed with Brunton online have been completely less than positive. Until such time that I muted him, he was a rather ardent defender of JD Hall, Doug Wilson, John Harris, etc.

    For those who are interested.

    Yeah, just looking through Brunton’s twitter shows he’s more aligned with Apologia/Moscow/Calvinistas than the church that excommunicated him. It really looks like they’ve made the right call, the more I read from him.

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  32. Friend: Translation from Elderese to English: “You’re obnoxious, but not about the right topics.”

    It does seem a bit like there might be a bigwig in the background that just waved their hand and said, “Get rid of him” like a gangster. But that’s really what goes on in their circles.

    I only hope that this ends up as a wake-up call for somebody, whether it be Brunton or one of the elders. The system is inherently abusive.

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  33. Missing Shrub: I understand this post and issue is about excommunication. However, after reading some of Jacob Brunton’s posts on the Christian Intellectual, I have no sympathy for him.
    For example, he calls the minimum wage a “glaring example” of injustice. Not that the minimum wage is too low, but that it exists at all. Another example of injustice is public education. Yes, PUBLIC EDUCATION.

    I guess since you don’t like his opinions, Brunton is not allowed to have due process.

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  34. Lara: Yeah, just looking through Brunton’s twitter shows he’s more aligned with Apologia/Moscow/Calvinistas than the church that excommunicated him. It really looks like they’ve made the right call, the more I read from him.

    It seems to me that this a case gray had vs gray hat – there’s no good guys here.

    It highlights what to watch for when picking a church. And what to look for when it all goes bad.

    It’s probably a good idea read the blogs and social media of some of your prospective church mates – and any pastors or teachers. Often the website is all sunshine and lollipops. Never hurts to dig deeper.

    Someone a while back suggested a visit to the church library to see what’s on the shelves. I did that at my wife’s church and found Wayne Grudem and John Piper’s masterpiece on gender roles – never even heard of these clowns until this blog.

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  35. Lara: Yeah, just looking through Brunton’s twitter shows he’s more aligned with Apologia/Moscow/Calvinistas than the church that excommunicated him. It really looks like they’ve made the right call, the more I read from him.

    Some of the leaders and followers at Apologia are scary. They’re stereotypical uber-Calvinists and yes, I get serious Handmaid’s Tale vibes from that bunch. (Why yes, they’re 1.5 miles ftom my house and why yes, before the pandemic, I protested them. And, Why Yes, I’ve thought about getting a Handmaid costume and mask to protest them again, but I consider it still too risky. And it’s still entirely too hot for a full Handmaid rig.)

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  36. Ken P.: I guess since you don’t like his opinions, Brunton is not allowed to have due process.

    It just means that I’m not inclined to believe he didn’t get due process, particularly since his linked first post genuinely was offensive and deserved a call to repentance by his elders. Something stinks in his story, but I don’t think it’s the elders.

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  37. Michael in UK: In some parts of the RCC one doesn’t get excommunicated, one gets sabotaged.The ambiguous slogans are similar though.Everything means what someone who things they “have something on” you finds convenient at any moment.Some processes only, are honoured for show.

    As has beChristian Industrial Complex is often modeling that participants:

    — sign up for agreements which can be used against them later on, complete with attorneys for them that their own donated money may finance (though they may not be clear about that upfront)

    — identify sinful behavior in their life that can then be mined and used against them as part of a pattern and so forth if there is any dispute about anything, especially $$$ and control;

    — cede oversight, accountability, transparency and decision making to the tender mercies and judgment of those also ceded “authority” by everyone, often supplemented by significant financing by those not in authority (and none of which are often sufficiently highlighted or prioritized as applied beyond the sheep)

    — accept the former because of their take on Scripture (too often proof-texted erroneously), augmented by degrees, seminary supper club affiliations, and / or their vision / calling and so forth (despite Biblical standards of conduct related to being above reproach and exposing deeds of darkness, especially as hirelings and vicious wolves are highlighted as issues)

    Add book sales and other ideological and financial pushes that may be more in line with the priorities of the moneychangers at the temple than of those about the Father’s work, and the similarities to various sects and cults on key bottom line areas too often appear inescapable.

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  38. Lara: It just means that I’m not inclined to believe he didn’t get due process, particularly since his linked first post genuinely was offensive and deserved a call to repentance by his elders. Something stinks in his story, but I don’t think it’s the elders.

    They all do the same things to each other – it’s only a problem when it happens to them.

    They’re all problematic.

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  39. Lara: his linked first post genuinely was offensive and deserved a call to repentance by his elders.

    I found this (maybe this is what you meant):

    “These are current ‘pastors’ and professors in the SBC.

    “Observe the evasive, effeminate, and subjective way they respond to doctrinal concerns.

    “They do not address the concerns, themselves. …”

    That is certainly an obnoxious message. But what makes you think that elders should call him to repentance?

    If I put this online, probably my words would be ignored (plenty of people have said worse about my denomination). My church does not have elder rule, so there is not a group of authorities to gang up on me. If someone went to clergy to complain about me, probably clergy would tell them to contact me directly.

    Online insults should not lead to excommunication. If churches start excommunicating people for what they post, churches will empty out forever.

    Note that excommunication is not just striking someone from the rolls of their congregation. It lies somewhere between expelling them from a denomination (with shunning), and consigning them to Hell.

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  40. ishy: It does seem a bit like there might be a bigwig in the background that just waved their hand and said, “Get rid of him” like a gangster. But that’s really what goes on in their circles.

    Doesn’t need to be a “bigwig in the background”/Cult Leader at the top.
    Groupthink can serve as a Cult Leader in absentia.

    “A circle of snakes eating each others’ tails. Look up at the picture of Glorious Leader on the wall. Everyone bite harder.”
    — James Lileks illustrating this phenomenon in a long-ago blog post

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  41. Friend,

    Yes, that’s the post to which I’m referring. Calling pastors effeminate for disagreeing with him on his pet cause would definitely go against what the LBCF says about the ninth commandment. It alone wouldn’t warrant excommunication but just looking at his comments towards Keller and others does seem to show a pattern of issues–not to mention, excommunication isn’t necessarily the goal when discipline is first begun. While I would likewise be ignored if I said something like this, Brunton contributes to Pulpit & Pen and probably has a bigger audience than either of us.

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  42. Listening to Dr Fuller I had a thought that, I think, would help them out. I personally believe in reading out of Scripture and all communications and not into them. Pennington had cited a “rule for reading” which he claims should be under the control of what he calls “community”.

    Communicating comes from persons and it comes from Nature. These need respecting and minds need respecting. This is in writings of E Corazza, M A K Halliday, and H Noonan, drawing on Quine, Shannon, Wheeler, Peirce et al. Kant was good in some parts and bad in some.

    Churches that have Tradition in its best sense use a rule to read out, while the kind of postmodernists that one should be wary of have a rule to read in. Each side accuses the other of being like the RCC often typically has been. I am with Dr Fuller but he doesn’t put it well.

    The reason Adam is the first historical man (which isn’t to say we can date him easily) is because he is the first that was remembered in rather later times. Oppenheimer, Rohl and many others have touched on this based on huge amounts of prior scholarship. The understanding of history and sciences, not to mention the wide scope of logic, unfortunately got hugely dumbed down meantime. Aristotle is largely underrated and Aquinas often good but the latter is weak around individuation or identity.

    A subtext in the discussions in the US is around the “idealism” of Edwards and the equally false reactions. Guattari, Deleuze, Foucault weren’t really “postmodern” in the slippery sense, to my mind: they were critiquing constructs not that soundly put together before, which is what critique was always meant to be for. It seems to me the seminary re-recorded the interviews to glide over the issues that had been highlighted.

    I would incidentally be delighted to study in Hebrew in detail with Hernandez provided he didn’t use his authority to try to insist on meanings being bent otherwise than I wanted to take them. In a verse cited my Amplified states that a disease or bodily condition is meant. It might even mean “death throes”. I expect Hernandez is genuinely enthusiastic in investigating the culture of the period 1000-500 BC (as am I) and in highlighting that when God communicated through the heroes of old he “spoke their language”.

    “You can have what you say” and the literalism of religion and politics have the same origin in Spinoza or Hume. How can I help the seminary out? Would they notice a random e-mail from an Englishman of unpolished phrases & not used to citing my sources in a proper manner? Is there a forum for this? I’m a beginner with flashes of inspiration but lack a research & writing assistant. Brunton’s church were of course very silly indeed: if he had a position in it they could have merely asked him to clarify that he wasn’t expressing a church position. I sense moralising and lack of Holy Spirit belief come in large measure through Edwards.

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  43. If Ayn Rand – another literalist – had lived a bit later she could have been a Joyce Meyer type. I also think Brunton has an overly literalist streak in him, himself. The other side are unsure of their ground through lack of information which I have. This makes them prone to either slide or to dig their heels in irrationally – and both those things can be with either good or bad motives.

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  44. Lara: excommunication isn’t necessarily the goal when discipline is first begun.

    Very thoughtful observation, thanks.

    What if excommunication were not available for settling disputes? Maybe people would be forced to do the highly uncomfortable work of listening and finding reconciliation.

    My own congregation has been through far harder disputes within the past decade. Some people left over painful social questions that the elders of Brunton’s former church would never take on. NOBODY was disciplined. I miss my old friends who disagreed with me about certain issues.

    There is more to people than their opinions. There is more to friendship than disagreement. There should be more to church than forced agreement.

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  45. “Immature Elders” is an oxymoron of sorts. Therein lies a problem with many of the SBC-YRR church plants in my area … pastors in their 20s-30s with “elder” boards of same age. The youth group is running the church!! I know that age doesn’t necessarily indicate maturity in Christ, but in the New Calvinist movement it appears to. Heck, they don’t even talk about Jesus much!

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  46. Friend: Very thoughtful observation, thanks.

    What if excommunication were not available for settling disputes? Maybe people would be forced to do the highly uncomfortable work of listening and finding reconciliation.

    My own congregation has been through far harder disputes within the past decade. Some people left over painful social questions that the elders of Brunton’s former church would never take on. NOBODY was disciplined. I miss my old friends who disagreed with me about certain issues.

    There is more to people than their opinions. There is more to friendship than disagreement. There should be more to church than forced agreement.

    If people had to have hard conversations without using a formula and eventually pushing a button trap door, there might be complications. Feelings might get hurt in the breakfast club. Revenues might go down if someone did something untoward without proper distancing (often including legal protections for the club). Those who didn’t check the grievous wolf or wolves in the club or devouring sheep might have to live up to their duties of accountability and oversight, especially if those mauled bleat too loudly outside the club and the sheepfold.

    Take out the hard conversations and institute a paint-by-numbers system where one side loses automatically (with the other able to deem any discouraging word divisive, gossiping etc.), and the system and $$$ flow more consistently and securely, especially as further opportunities open up for status elevation and personal enrichment for them and theirs. This assembly line approach appears tailor-made for industrial complexes.

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  47. Max:
    “Immature Elders” is an oxymoron of sorts.Therein lies a problem with many of the SBC-YRR church plants in my area … pastors in their 20s-30s with “elder” boards of same age.The youth group is running the church!!I know that age doesn’t necessarily indicate maturity in Christ, but in the New Calvinist movement it appears to.Heck, they don’t even talk about Jesus much!

    Wait, coming straight out of college and seminary into a youth pastor or associate pastor or internship position doesn’t automatically equate to being ready when the next upper level slot in the paid pastorate construct opens up? What if they blog a lot and talk about radical love?

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  48. Friend: My own congregation has been through far harder disputes within the past decade. Some people left over painful social questions that the elders of Brunton’s former church would never take on. NOBODY was disciplined. I miss my old friends who disagreed with me about certain issues.

    Most of the things I think really deserve church discipline are now a part of our countries’ criminal justice systems and our criminal justice systems are a lot more equipped to handle such situations. Like child molestation, domestic violence, etc.

    The New Cals use church discipline and excommunication to exert control, not to make people better Christians. They don’t even believe people can be better Christians. And when their worst, most destructive people are their leaders, and their leaders are not subject to any kind of discipline, what is church discipline really going to solve anyway? It ends up being a tool to keep people quiet about the abuse they face.

    I have yet to meet a die-hard New Calvinist who can have a reasonable and honest discussion with any viewpoint that opposes theirs, unless they are afraid of the other person. They lecture; they won’t truly engage. To engage means to bring in questions, and to question could mean excommunication.

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  49. I hesitate to wade into the debate, so I’ll just dive in.

    My mantra as an adult has become “Life is high school. So many teenagers in adult bodies.”

    Just like high school, everyone is expected to know their place in the social order. I mean, really band geeks and chess nerds, what are you thinking calling out the quarterback and the rest of his team? Keep this up, we’ll stuff you in a locker, and you can forget the prom. Oh, by the way, as a reward for being allowed to attend the prom, you have to vote for the QB and head cheerleader for Prom King and Queen because they are so worthy of your adulation.

    Pay no attention to that exchange student, Jesus. He has all these weird ideas about the least of these; not shoving to the front of the line; and being kind to others. What a chump!

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  50. 9Mark Dever twittering this month about the completion of the five townhouses build onto the church to house all his interns…also will be digs for select 9Marksist elders from across the country & world to come spend their sabbaticals. How exciting.

    https://twitter.com/MarkDever/status/1300781579908808704
    “Completed. Thankful.” (pics)

    https://twitter.com/MarkDever/status/1240076543285768193
    will house “staff, interns” & “friends doing sabbaticals”

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  51. Jeffrey Chalmers,

    Yes, we were astonished at the insecurities we found when we turned the elder rock over. The rock looked nice from the top…but when we lifted it up, there were only ugly creepy-crawlies underneath.

    I was silly to think we’d find an agate, or at the very least plain old dirt.

    This particular elder was so insecure he hid his behavior from the other elders. Hmm.

    It all came out in the end. And that church is barely hanging on now.

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  52. JDV: coming straight out of college and seminary

    In it’s scurry to plant thousands of reformed churches in SBC ranks, New Calvinist leaders are tapping fresh graduates to become “lead pastors” before their diplomas cool off. Reformed theology is being reintroduced into SBC (after 150 years as an non-Calvinist denomination) by an army of young reformers who are either church planters or church splitters. God is not pleased by this strategy … He hates lies and deceit.

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  53. Max: Manipulation, intimidation, and domination comprise their fuel. Discipline is their motivator not disciple.

    “ORDER! DISCIPLINE!
    ORDER! DISCIPLINE!
    ORDER! DISCIPLINE!”
    — line from some 1940s movie where a guy comes back from a fishing trip to find out the Nazis have taken over America from within

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  54. Max: The Holy Spirit is hardly mentioned at all.

    If they believed in the Holy Spirit, they wouldn’t need to suggest (like in the sermon clip) that we all need nitpicky people pointing out our sins to us (as a ‘favor’ and in love, of course) instead of relying on the Holy Spirit for conviction!

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  55. Max: “Immature Elders” is an oxymoron of sorts.

    Agreed on principle; “elders” should not be appointed or elected from among young, unproved candidates.

    The thought also occurs that this title might be something of a mis-analysis of the problem.

    “Controlling” might be a more appropriate description of the described behavior.

    “Regeneration” is supposed to “make people new”, but it doesn’t in many cases seem to have a whole lot of effect on what people want (which presumably would be expressed
    in how they lead as church leaders). I’m granting the judgment of charity that these controlling elders and pastors are indeed regenerate.

    One of the arguments for not choosing church leaders from among the young, but rather from among older candidates whose character is better understood, is that it is hard to fake who one “really is” over a lifetime. If a person is domineering, that will be evident in their life history, if they actually have a life history. Young seminary graduates are simply unknown and perhaps unknowable at the level of certainty that one ought to have for candidates for leadership roles.

    It would be a very different model of church leadership if elders and pastors had to be older people who were already well known to the congregations they led. Probably would require a switch to bivocational forms of support, if “professional ministry” were simply not open to the young. Or later-in-life career changes with training regimens adjusted to accommodate this.

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  56. Headless Unicorn Guy: Just as long as nobody interferes with church potlucks, they could be sacrificing children to Moloch every Sunday and the church members would A-Men.

    I haven’t known the New Cals to be a potluck sort of group. They’re more the local brewery sort while the peons have to be at a 3 hour Bible study. But, like with everything else, they often hide that until they have full control over the church

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  57. ishy: The New Cals use church discipline and excommunication to exert control, not to make people better Christians.

    This is rather like how excommunication was used during the Middle Ages by popes to bring secular rulers under control. There’s a list in this article of what are pretty clearly political moves by popes against cities, countries and rulers.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interdict

    Calvin himself set up the Consistory as a *court* in Geneva to judge on excommunications. It was not a thing done by elders within a church body. But the result was the same, still used as a mostly political instrument to go after the enemies du jour.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consistory_(Protestantism)#Reformed_usage

    Blergh.

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  58. ishy: they often hide that until they have full control over the church

    They must be frustrated as hell too that they can’t impose a present day version of Calvin’s theocratic dictatorship of Geneva here in America.
    I bless Providence daily that the Founders of our Nation made sure that they can’t.

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  59. Max: hmmm … so in a 9Marks church, the “9 Marks of a Healthy Church Member” would go something like this:

    1) sign the contract
    2) blind loyalty to pastor/elders
    3) fully embrace the leaders’ theology
    4) never question church belief & practice
    5) submit everything in your life to us
    6) sit down
    7) shut up
    8) pay up
    9) don’t read watchblogs!

    Max, let me add a ‘9.1’–Memorize Hebrews 13:17, so we can clobber you with it constantly!

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  60. Root 66: Memorize Hebrews 13:17, so we can clobber you with it constantly!

    Yeah gee whiz heckers, how times have changed. I was clobbered so much by Matthew 27:35 that I still can’t buy a Lotto ticket.

    Nobody ever mentioned Acts 1:26.

    (For those who don’t care to look it up, the verse in Matthew says that “they parted lots” to divide up the raiment of the crucified Jesus. The anti-gambling crusaders never noticed that the bereaved apostles later “parted lots” to select Matthias to join them.)

    Same clobber, different verse.

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  61. I’ve been aquatinted with Jacob for about 13 years, and I’m pretty sure back then he signed the same membership covenant as I did at our 9Marks church. He would have long conversations with the pastor about Ayn Rand which I confess were perplexing to me and a bit over my head. It wasn’t until after Jacob had moved away that those elders excommunicated someone, but I’m sure he heard about it. The whole church discipline process lasted about 2 weeks. A man (who’d been a worship leader) had stopped attending, and an elder checked up on him. The man told the elder he was never coming back, and his reason for leaving was unacceptable. Then followed about a week of 2-3 elders (following 9Marks teachings on Matt 18) failing to get any response to calls, texts, door knocking, and certified mail demanding a meeting. The man could have died, for all they knew. After church a special “members” meeting was called to “tell it to the church”. One week more with no response whatsoever and the excommunication ceremony was held, to turn the man over to Satan. It was very solemn and the lights were down low. It was the last time I darkened their doors.

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  62. Muff Potter: They must be frustrated as hell too that they can’t impose a present day version of Calvin’s theocratic dictatorship of Geneva here in America.

    “Oh! Lord! Do you think a Protestant Popedom is annihilated in America? Do you recollect, or have you ever attended to the ecclesiastical Strifes in Maryland Pennsilvania, New York, and every part of New England? What a mercy it is that these People cannot whip and crop, and pillory and roast, as yet in the U.S.! If they could they would.”
    — John Adams

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  63. Samuel Conner: Or later-in-life career changes with training regimens adjusted to accommodate this.

    The RCC calls this “Second Vocation”, i.e. entering the clergy after time in a secular profession/life. Some examples I’ve run across are:

    * A rabbi who was a retired lawyer.
    * The pastor where I took RCIA catechism; he’d done four years in the Navy during WW2, then a couple years (and one broken engagement) in civilian life before entering seminary.
    * One pastor at my parish a couple years ago; Mexican immigrant who worked in construction for 10 years or so before entering seminary; said when he entered he knew only two dozen words of English — all cusswords. Guy was as blue-collar as they come.
    * A number of Jesuits are ex-military. They view entering the order as exchanging one uniform for another.

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  64. Samuel Conner: Agreed on principle; “elders” should not be appointed or elected from among young, unproved candidates.

    Mormon “Elders” are usually 18 years old or so, but that’s because “Elder” is a rank title in their Priesthood (“Second Order, First Rank”). It’s the LOWEST rank in their “Melchizidek” Priesthood. My LDS informant on this said “Just like [early] D&D. Joseph Smith was really into Gygaxian level names.”

    And 18-year-old Mormon Elders have a sense of humor about this absurdity.
    (ding-dong!)
    “Hello! My name is Elder Young!”

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  65. Dave A A: I suspect the enforcers of church discipline don’t even expect God to honor prayers about it — it’s all designed to use infrequently and speedily to make examples of those who won’t cooperate.

    Unfortunately they will scare the heck out of a good many people, especially youngsters. “Doesn’t God listen to prayers? Doesn’t God answer them? If these men are saying those prayers, God will send that guy to Hell!”

    It’s prayer abuse.

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  66. Friend: “Doesn’t God listen to prayers? Doesn’t God answer them? If these men are saying those prayers, God will send that guy to Hell!”

    It was Nick B (do we have any news of him? Wondering how he is doing, and TS00 too) who first noted the analogy one could make between Jesus’ demonstration of authority — “which is harder, to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ or ‘get up, take your cot and go’, but that you many know …” — and corresponding situations today in which church leaders make unverifiable claims of spiritual authority.

    Until they can “pray in Jesus’ name” for discernibly miraculous outcomes and have it done for them by the Father, I am not going to assume that there is any basis to their claims of authority. If this attitude were to become more widespread among the laity, which I think is something earnestly to be desired, it would greatly weaken the power of these leaders — which is granted to them simply by the consent of the followers — and perhaps compel them to lead in humbler ways.

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  67. dee: The youth group is running the church along with the men who dress like students doing a year off from college backpacking across Europe, wearing very expensive sneakers bought by their adoring parents.

    The youth group (immature pastors/elders) wouldn’t be running the church if they didn’t have a church full of spiritually immature folks who love it so.

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  68. Samuel Conner: “which is harder, to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ or ‘get up, take your cot and go’, but that you many know …”

    Jesus was showing that the outcome of His impact on us is that our faculties get in a row i.e we gain in integrity (which we shall need for difficult times); if the congregation don’t manifest that they haven’t got Jesus nor what he wants for their help

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  69. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    I was just reading Jim Spiegel’s brief item on his debate with a “universal darwinist” (a relatively unsound avenue in speculation) and thought that, even if properly nuancing Berkeley, looking at God through stern Edwards / Whitfield spectacles, he risks getting a bit “panentheist” (the God that squashes – jagganauth even), such that a debate of that kind can become two almost identical straw men (Hegel-like manifest destiny versions) having it out with each other. A panentheist god that obsesses about our alleged inverted victim mentality (as per Girard) is scary, hence summary sacking for that stupid “song”.

    It’s no wonder conservative evangelicals are sliding into Keller style social teachings and that they have accountability problems because they don’t even have an objective idea of their own existence. They either think they are God or, like the fool, that there is no God that sees them. (The latest trendy RCC which Galli is teaming up with is pure Teilhard: Hegel yet again. The otherwise good Aquinas had contradicted himself about transubstantiation, implying a squashing god – read: man squashing man in the name of God.) Indeed I’ve known churches whose members have no objective idea of my existence such that I lost any myself.

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  70. Michael in UK: My god is meaner than your god

    The average churchgoer has lost contact with the nature and character of God. Theology of one flavor or another have painted diverse portraits of the Creator of the Universe. You can pick a squishy one or a mean one to develop a faith in. In all the religious noise, the living Jesus has been relegated to the back pew.

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  71. Max,

    I remember years ago reading the book Your God is Too Small.

    Your God is Too Small is a groundbreaking work of faith, which challenges the constraints of traditional religion. In his discussion of God, author J.B. Phillips encourages Christians to redefine their understanding of a creator without labels or earthly constraints and instead search for a meaningful concept of God.

    https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Your-God-Is-Too-Small/J-B-Phillips/9780743255097

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  72. Victorious: the book Your God is Too Small (J.B. Phillips)

    Thanks Victorious for reminding me about this book. I started to look for it a few years ago and got distracted by other things at the time. I’ll read it.

    The J.B. Phillips translation of the New Testament is one of my favorite versions of Scripture. I have most translations in my library, but pick up Phillips a lot. I located a complete set of his New Testament books (1950s first edition) at a garage sale … one of my best finds yet! (I frequent garage sales in my area for vintage fishing gear)

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  73. Friend: (For those who don’t care to look it up, the verse in Matthew says that “they parted lots” to divide up the raiment of the crucified Jesus. The anti-gambling crusaders never noticed that the bereaved apostles later “parted lots” to select Matthias to join them.)

    Casting Lots was the usual way to determine such matters in that place and time.
    A cultural thing.
    Similar to its current descendant, “flipping a coin”.

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