Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Modus Operandi — De-Gifting Pastors

"Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can't really get rid of it." CS Lewis



Church discipline is on the rise in the conservative corners of Christendom, and it’s not just limited to the average parishioner. Pastors are being disciplined as well, particularly within Sovereign Grace Ministries. Those who have noticed and/or been affected by this trend call it “de-gifting”.


We have been following two websites — SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge — over the last couple of years, and it has amazed us how commenters, many of whom have been SGM members, have expressed frustration at the de-gifting of their pastors. Based on what they have shared, pastors in SGM churches are suddenly removed, usually without their congregation’s knowledge. Then another SGM pastor is tapped to fill the void without any input from the church members whatsoever.

Perhaps the first major de-gifting in the organization occurred during the “People of Destiny International” days. Here is an interesting excerpt from Larry Tomczak’s Wikipedia article describing his departure from PDI. 

Tomczak eventually left the leadership of PDI in 1998 and has subsequently suggested that the increasingly Calvinistic theology of PDI was a major factor in this parting of the ways. Some of this period's tensions also arose because Tomczak's fitness as a father was called into question by church leadership over what Tomczak described as the "teenage rebellion" of his son. Tomczak declared that this time "…seemed like an unbelievable nightmare" during which he, his wife Doris, and their son Justin "were threatened in various ways if we did not cooperate with the ministry that we were leaving… A letter was circulated in an attempt to discredit me and to distort the events surrounding my departure. Our own family members were divided.". Tomczak claims never to have received an apology for the events of this period.”


Has this manuveur become the modus operandi for the powers that be in Sovereign Grace Ministries?

You may be wondering how such heartbreaking news gets relayed to those in SGM. Gene Emerson provided an excellent demonstration during the 2001 Family Meeting at KingsWay. Here’s how he broke the news to the congregation, which sent one of its own to serve as Senior Pastor at the new church plant in of all places Raleigh, North Carolina, where Dee and I live. Small world…

Gene Emerson said:

“Just to let you know some information that would probably be news to many of you and some of you would be less familiar with these folks than others but Dan and (his wife’s name) who were here in the early days of our church and who really contributed to our beginnings and we had the privilege of sending to Raleigh where Dan has been the senior pastor of the church there, and a few weeks ago I can’t remember the exact date but Dan stepped down as senior pastor because of some issues revolving around their oldest son (name), who has been in some rebellion, and so though he is at home and there is not severe difficulty as you might think when I say he stepped down, we just want you to understand that really for a leader, certainly an elder or a deacon, to lead, his home has to be in order, his family has to be an example.


Now thank God that doesn’t mean a perfect example alright because some of you are thinking “Oh boy!” But there were some significant issues with (son’s name). And I share that with you for two reasons. One is because I know those of you that know Dan would want to really love and pray for him and just ask God’s help and so I would want you to know that so you can do that and secondly because I would rather you find out from me than rather through the grapevine and wondering what happened. Dan believed it was the Lord’s will for him to step back and has done that with gladness. He is now functioning as the administrator… We are working toward praying toward that day that Dan will be restored as a pastor, so please pray for Dan…”

Gene concluded this portion of his talk with these words:

“It’s important for you to know that we’re serious about these matters, and Dan is not by any means the first pastor or first senior pastor in our family of churches to step down for that reason, and it is because we honor the Scriptures and who we are as a movement and what we are as leaders is more important than any one person’s comfort or reputation. And yet in the process we are able to love and care for people, and I know if Dan were here he would say he has been genuinely loved and cared for, so please pray for Dan and please pray for his family as they walk through this process.”



Sadly, Dan’s wife died prematurely in December 2006 and the age of 47, and as far as we can tell, Dan, like Steve, has never been restored as a pastor in Sovereign Grace Ministries. Please keep them in your prayers as they seek to glorify God in their lives.

Remember that Gene made his statement way back in 2001. How many de-giftings have occurred since them? From what we can tell from commenters on the blogs, they have been happening coast to coast because, as Gene put it, “it is because we honor the Scriptures and who we are as a movement and what we are as leaders is more important than any one person’s comfort or reputation.”

Some of these commenters were/are members of churches adopted into the SGM “family of churches”, and they have been stunned when their mature pastor (who probably has adolescent or teenage children) are suddenly de-gifted due to the indwelling sin of family members. We are speculating, but there does seem to be a pattern of getting rid of middle-aged pastors and replacing them with younger, inexperienced guys who have graduated from the NINE MONTH Pastors College.

Based on testimonies we have read, there appears to be a lack of uniformity in the de-gifting of pastors in SGM, due to favoritism. If SGM “honors the Scriptures as a movement”, then how could this inconsistency in the treatment of pastors be possible? Sadly, it’s not just a simple removal. There appears to be some degree of shame involved when pastors are removed. If they are never restored to the pastorate, how do they support their families?


We would love to hear personal testimonies of how your SGM pastor was de-gifted. Please enlighten us with your own experiences.

If SGM were its own little fringe group (like it used to be), we wouldn’t be nearly as vocal; however, in 2002 PDI shape-shifted into Sovereign Grace Ministries and was quickly embraced by Christian leaders, such as: John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Ligon Duncan, and the newly formed Gospel Coalition crowd. C.J. Mahaney appears to be the shining star at all the major reformed conferences. He even addressed attendees at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastors Conference last June. What does all of this mean?

Our message to those in the mainstream – be careful what you wish for because you very well may get it! Perhaps the hyper-authoritarian, de-gifting tactics of Sovereign Grace Ministries will be coming to a church near you, or possibly even your own church. SGM is busily planting churches, and in recent months has ventured into Charlottesville and Charleston. Apparently, Mahaney and Company can do no wrong in the eyes of mainstream leaders. Therefore, we leave you with this word of warning:

“A word to the wise if sufficient. Fools have to be convinced.” 


Lydia's Corner: Exodus 28:1-43 Matthew 25:31-26:13 Psalm 31:9-18 Proverbs 8:12-13




Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Modus Operandi — De-Gifting Pastors — 62 Comments

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    WW/Deb –

    I am a former SG pastor who has posted in the past on Refuge and Survivors but I don’t think that I’ve posted here; if I did, it was so long ago that I don’t remember.

    I was NOT degifted at the church I served, but my understanding is that church and SG leadership may have spun it that way to some of the church members. I stayed around for 6+ months after I stepped out of leadership, believing that frayed relationships would mend; I was wrong. The church staff, sr pastor, and SG corporate leadership did little toward or worked against reconciliation.

    I left SG a couple of years ago and my only regret is that I didn’t leave sooner. It would have been better for me and my family.

    Keep up the good work,
    Former SG Pastor

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    I have a question about the Larry T. ousting. I was a member of CLC at the time. I recall CJ and the Pastors seeming on edge before the Sunday meeting where his exit was announced. From the pulpit, CJ waved a letter in his hand, and stated that Larry had confessed to all the sins that they had brought to his attention, and was in full agreement with the decision to separate from SGM.

    Even if the truth lies in the middle between Larry’s and CJ’s stories, what CJ
    proclaimed from the pulpit was far from truthful.

    My question is do any former CLC’ers recall the meeting? If so, what are your recollections, and was that letter that CJ waved supposed to have been from Larry?

    In regard to de-gifting, I would imagine it would be bad for SGM reputation to sever a Pastor, only to see him flourish with another congregation or denomination. Funny thing is, neither Lou Engle or Che Ahn’s “success” in their
    post SGM ministries has seemed to do any real damage to SGM.

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    It will be curious to watch the events unfold at KingsWay. Yesterday one of the pastors, Aaron, announced that he was moving to part time and most likely will step down completely by March. This man has been on staff since 1999 and people really like him. Many people were upset a few years ago when Gene pushed Matthew out ahead of Aaron and made the then recent PC graduate the Executive Pastor. Many people felt it was a slap in the face to Aaron.

    Aaron, in his statement to the church assured everyone that he was not being forced out, nor was he fleeing the situation. I believe that he truly believes that God is calling him to step down. But this is the cruel subtlety that the SGM twisted view of leadership pushes upon people.

    You see, in the real world, if a person was passed over for a promotion after devoting a decade of his life to an organization, for a young newly hired young man that just a few years earlier called the boss “Uncle Gene”, then you’d taken the hint and leave. But in SGM’s distorted super spirituality, you take hint as God speaking that you should leave. And so you “hear” God telling you to leave.

    In any case, it will soon be the Gene and Matthew show. Personally, I’d rather have Aaron.

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    Ah yes. Alan Redrup, the kind and compassionate family life pastor, helper of so many people, genuine gifted and called shepherd, had four kids, and when they got older, at least one or two of them were not perfect yet.

    But, instead of reading “Come Back Barbara” by Jack Miller and realizing that even the best of men can have well behaved young kids that go through a difficult period as late teens/young adults- a period that God works for good and uses to teach them some lessons- Alan got dumped. We were told his gifts did not fit in the church.

    1998 I think…or maybe 97, or was it 99?

    Yup, middle age, no job, no offer to put him through job skill training. Thank God he did get a job though.

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    Back in the early days of Covenant Life Church (CLC), the SGM mothership, I remember two pastors being “de-gifted” and making tearful statements in front of us on Sunday mornings. Neither one was removed for any real “sin” such as adultery or illegal activity — it was all very hard to understand why they were suddenly no longer pastor material. Each of them was and is a solid Christian. Neither has ever been “re-gifted” as pastors, though they continued as CLC members and served in various ways.

    RE Larry Tomczak, I remember the Sunday when Mahaney waved Larry’s letter around and read it to us, in typical Mahaney no-nonsense fashion. If I also remember correctly, Larry later claimed he’d been forced to write that letter under duress, and retracted his agreement to remain under “discipline” for what would’ve been a never-ending period of time.

    (When degifting-with-prejudice, SGM usually requires a pastor to move away from his current location to another city, and remain there for a period of “discipline” while under the supervision of other SGM pastors. The demands for reinstatement are usually impossible to meet without totally agreeing with the charges of “sinful” behavior made against him, so the degifted pastor must either leave SGM or place his manhood in an SGM-owned lockbox.)

    Larry finally left SGM, joined the staff of the Brownsville School of Ministry, and now, I believe, is pastoring in Tennessee.

    Larry’s experience of receiving what he’d previously dished out to others led him (and Che Ahn) to reconcile in 1997 with Charles Schmitt, whom Larry, Mahaney and the other leaders of Gathering of Believers (the first of several names for Covenant Life Church) expelled in 1981 and who went on (with other GOB refugees) to build the *other* large charismatic congregation in Montgomery County, MD. Schmitt and Mahaney have not resolved their difference to this day.

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    covfel past-

    Alan Redrup was no angel….he taught Ezzo parenting seminars and even helped disfellowship a member of my care group when she dared to challenge the wisdom of the Ezzo’s. Of course, his own family did not avoid the sort of family problems that it supposedly helped Christian Families avoid.

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    I’ve heard speculation that Dever, who pastors in DC, reached out to Mahaney in order to help SGM shed some of the more extreme charismatic beliefs and practices, and bring them closer to the center of traditional evangelicalism. I think there is much Dever would disagree with, but the cooperation is very much in the same vein as the trans-denominational alliances seen during the Fundamentalist controversy of the 1920’s and later in the New Evangelical movement in the 1940’s and 1950’s. George Marsden’s Fundamentalism and New Evangelicalism is a good introductory history of this.

    In the 30’s Fundamentalism contained staid, well-educated men like J. Gresham Machen, and scoundrels like J. Frank Norris. Machen despised what Norris was but felt the alliance was necessary to save orthodox Christianity from the liberals. For the record, I see no evidence that Mark Dever would condone any of the behavior that is alleged on SGM Survivors. He may see an alliance against perceived liberalism as more important, and the scandals as something that can be worked on.

    I also think that calling Mahaney the “shining star” of T4G and the Gospel Coalition is overstating it a little. He certainly has more charisma than someone like Dever or Mohler does, and for that reason is probably a somewhat welcome addition because he provides color. He also appeals to folks who are more emotionally-driven, and as such provides a balance to Mohler, Dever, and MacArthur.

    For the record, I think one of the great failures of mainstream American evangelicalism over the last century is that we’ve elevated abstract ideas over and above real people and real behavior. Theological zeal is a form of escapism for many people.

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    Welcome FSGP!

    Thanks for sharing your own experience as a former pastor in SGM. I have appreciated your candid comments about Sovereign Grace Miinistries over at the websites I referenced, and in some ways you inspired this post.

    I have been through the experience of having your pastor suddenly resign (not in SGM), and it can be extremely painful. My heart goes out to you and others whose lives have been disrupted through these “de-giftings”.

    I’m all for sanctification, but just how perfect does a pastor and his family have to be in SGM?

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    I’m still trying to understand what really happened to Larry Tomczak 12 years ago when he was ousted by Mahaney & Co. If I’m not mistaken, I believe Larry T.’s rebellious son graduated from Harvard University and has moved on with his life.

    Dan, the de-gifted pastor whom Gene Emerson mentioned, wrote a resignation letter similar to Tomczak’s, stating that he was in agreement with the decision for him to step down. Do they write these letters under duress?

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    Free from KWCC said,
    “a young newly hired young man that just a few years earlier called the boss “Uncle Gene”

    I keep reading about the special bond between Gene and Matthew. Are they actually related?

    There appears to be a great deal of nepotism in SGM, especially with Mahaney’s relatives. It seems all of them are in the “family business”.

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    keepinstep said:
    “Larry’s experience of receiving what he’d previously dished out to others”

    I have always wondered whether C.J. learned this de-gifting technique from his mentor, Larry T. Is that what happened in your opinion?

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    Some more grist for the mill ….

    According to Larry’s bio on his website ” he is turning over leadership responsibilities at Christ the King Church of Atlanta to his son and relocating to Nashville to serve as director of I.C.E.C.A.P.”

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    I always appreciate your insights about these guys. Dever gets all the credit for bringing C.J. Mahaney into the mainstream since he’s the one who introduced C.J. to Mohler, Duncan, etc.

    Do you know when Mahaney became vice-chairman of the board of directors for CBMW?

    By “shining star”, I meant that Mahaney has speaking gigs at all the big reformed conferences. We have documented this in previous posts.

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    Thanks for bringing up the Ezzos who were once revered by this “family of churches”. We have written about the dangers of their teachings, which can be found at this link.

    If you have babies or toddlers, BEWARE! This teaching is harmful to your children’s health and may result in death!

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    I have heard a lot of different stories on why/how Tomczak was forced down and out of PDI/SGM. It wouldn’t surprise me if the bottom line was that PDI/SGM was just too small for two head strong individuals.

    As someone said earlier, there is a lot of nepotism within SGM especially those related to C.J. Mahaney. This nepotism extends beyond hiring them to join the “family business” including whether a pastor is “degifted” or not.

    People report that Mahaney’s brother in law, Grant, one of the pastors at CLC’, had some significant family problems especially with his teenage daughter. Unlike other SGM pastors with similar problems, this didn’t result in Grant having to step down. Sadly another example of how the rules are different for different pastors including if they are related to Mahaney.

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    Off Topic Comment to Dee,

    Because of your excellent post on the infringement of Tom Rich’s first amendment rights, the Jacksonville state atorney’s office has now linked to our blog as a reputable summary on this matter. Congratulations!

    “Jacksonville state attorney office – Jacksonville state – State attorney office says:
    Mon, Dec 13 2010 at 11:57 pm
    […] FBC Jacksonville Blogger Wins Round One! » The Wartburg Watch 22 Oct 2010… suit against the city of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville’s Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Assistant State Attorney’s office. FBC Jacksonville Blogger Wins Round One! » The Wartburg Watch […]”

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    Deb wrote: “I have always wondered whether C.J. learned this de-gifting technique from his mentor, Larry T. Is that what happened in your opinion?”

    I think they learned it together. They were the first-among-equals of leadership in 1981, when GOB (then renamed Silver Spring Christian Community, I think) expelled Charles Schmitt.

    They had contact with the Fort Lauderdale 5, Bryn Jones’s group in the UK, and many other leaders that they’d met in their conference-speaking and -attending trips since the mid-70s. They could’ve learned these tactics from any number of sources.

    One particularly interesting tactic was the insistence that a pastor undergoing a discipline process move to another city, which would cut the pastor off from any base of support in his home city. I heard that Schmitt refused to move from the DC area as part of his correction process. When he left GOB/SSCC, he took a significant number of members with him to start his own congregation further east in Montgomery County. This did not go unnoticed by GOB leadership, to say the least.

    (Schmitt’s Immanuel’s Church was for years the landing zone (along with charismatic Halpine Baptist Church, led by erstwhile Tomczak/Mahaney mentor Richard Kline) for disaffected GOBers.)

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    Deb commented: “I keep reading about the special bond between Gene and Matthew. Are they actually related?”

    No they are not actually related, Matthew’s dad and Gene were friends in college. His mom and dad are long time members of the church and Matthew grew up in the church. To be honest, Matthew is a very smart guy. His is gifted in many ways, but he lacks life experience. I think in some ways, Gene has robbed Matthew of things he himself has, such as church planting experience, living away from home, working at a real job, etc. This will come back and bite him in the future, in my opinion.

    Regarding pastors that step down and write letters agreeing with the decision, I think that it is all part of the SGM indoctrination. If your leaders (i.e. CJ or the Senior Pastor) believe it is God’s will for you to step down, then you truly believe that God is speaking through them and so you will write a letter that shows that you agree with the decision to reflect that you also are walking in God’s will and hearing from God. Sometimes people do it before actually being asked to step down because the “writing is on the wall” so to speak.

    The logic is this:
    I am picking up subtle cues from my leader that I am no longer needed, on the way out, being replaced…pick one.
    I believe that God speaks through my leaders and my heart is wicked.
    Therefore, God is telling me to step down.

    I do not disagree that God can speak to us through other people, but the flaw is believing that their voice is a clearer indication of God’s will than God’s own voice speaking in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The other flaw is forgetting that the leader’s hearts are just as wicked and they do things out of selfish ambition and pride too.

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    Thanks for the history lesson. I am absolutely fascinated by what happened in the fellowship that eventually morphed into Sovereign Grace Ministries. I’m beginning to understand more clearly the necessity to change the organization’s identity and theological position.

    “Change is here to stay…” as they say.

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    I’d like to repeat a question I asked in a previous article but got left hanging as we all jumped here. I think it is important for Christians to have a valid answer to thise questions especially in light of the fact that many leaders apparently are using the gifts of the Spirit as a way to manipulate members and gain control.

    Without religion, people are free to look at each other’s actions and call a spade a are being selfish, arrogant, hateful or whatever is appropriate, but with religion and specifically a belief in prophetic utterances, it becomes much more difficult to know, doesn’t it?

    Maybe God did tell them to go to war, or did tell them to launch a nuclear strike or did tell them that they should not support a one world government because it is from the Antichrist, or did tell them that so and so should be or not be a leader…I mean, really…if God talks to people on what basis can you be the arbiter of what He said or didn’t say?

    Just curious 🙂

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    Yes..the power of a Mystical Incantation really does keep critical thinking a football field distance away from actually judging the merits of an actual teaching or behaviors.

    I have recently laid down my faith, because I’ve realized that the Bible can be used to justify anything….it really ends up being the source for moral relativism in the worst sense of the phrase.

    To answer your direct question…you can’t be the arbiter, because you can’t examine the evidence. It always means you have to trust a human declaration as being God’s, since God does not manifest himself. In other words, it’s always hearsay and never God himself speaking… least, that’s my take on the subject.

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    Excellent comments, per usual.Back when I was in my 20s, I had a long and good conversation with a pastor about the issue of God’s will for my life. I had so many interests that I couldn’t decide what I should be doing so I asked him to give me a definitive answer. Thankfully, he was not a controlling nut job and gave me a far better answer.

    What he said surprised me. He told me that I was putting God into a box by expecting HIm to tell me what to do with my life. He told me that God is so big that there could be many directions that I could go in my life and still be within God’s will. He said too many Christians get bogged down trying to find one answer when the answer could include any and all.

    He said that God wants us to seek grace and love in all that we do and we should reject rigidity while, at the same time, staying within the parameters set forth in Scripture.

    My current pastor recently built on this theme. He said that this question of “what is God’s will” (meaning one and only path) can be looked at when it comes to marriage. So many people try to find the “one and only” that God wants us to marry.

    However, he pointed out, it just takes one person to screw up the entire paradigm. For example, if Ted was supposed to marry Alice and instead marries Ginger then the guy who was supposed to marry Ginger now must marry the wrong person. Alice must also marry the wrong person and, as you can see, the list goes on and on until we all wind up married to the “wrong” people. Instead, we are to marry and live out our faith in context of the marriage. That is God’s will for the marriage.

    So, Christians are free to evaluate the pros and cons of the situation just as a non-Christian might. However, it is hoped that a still, small Voice, along with good counsel, will lead us into decisions that will ultimately be honoring to God no matter our decision.

    Unfortunately, many Christians do not get such wise counsel and end up listening to a yahoo who thinks God has appointed him to direct the path of “his” flock. These guys actually think they are the daddies of all their little darlings. They loooooove to direct people’s lives, enjoying the feeling of power to control others. These are little men with little power but they can pretend they are “anointed” within the confines of their tiny communities.

    These guys are so off based that it is very sad. And kind and good people get trapped into becoming followers. This is not endemic to Christianity. One can find this in all religions and even in secular groups. From my way of thinking, we must understand the grace and freedom of the Scriptures and reject those who in all times and groups who would limit that grace.

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    What kind of greeting is nonoffensive to an atheist at this time of year? Does “Happy Holidays” suffice?

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    RE the elusive will o’ God – along with many friends, I agonized over this for several years as a young believer, not wanting to “miss” the “perfect” will of God. Finally an older believer told me what Dee’s pastor did: that as long as I am actively *seeking* and *pursuing* God in faith and obedience as best I can, God is big and powerful enough to take whatever “mistakes” I make and make them yield fruit for him.

    He was right – the problem wasn’t with my listening faculty, but with my faith level: I just didn’t trust God as people like Abraham did. However, Abraham and all Bible heroes had to grow in their faith and trust in God, and so I just needed to do the same. Since then I’ve made lots of “mistakes,” but the Lord has delivered me out of them all.

    I like what Bill Johnson says: you want to be a doctor, mother, business leader? Fine – become that, and while you’re doing it, obey the clear teaching of Jesus: preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons. What we do in life (which isn’t laid-out in the Bible) isn’t as important as our not forgetting to do what Jesus *commands* us to do in the Bible. I’m still working on that obedience part….

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    Folks looking for the elusive “will of God” would be wise to check up on some 17th century documentation on the issue. After much Scripture study, theologians at the time came up with the helpful language of the two wills of God.

    One will is God’s revealed will – what we get in Scripture. It’s where we’re told not to murder, not to steal, not to sleep with someone else’s wife, etc. You can absolutely know what that will is. These are the commands God’s given for people to obey. You can absolutely mess up keeping this will – that’s what we call sin. Here’s the thing, though, messing up this will (sinning) does not thwart God one bit! It may indeed have negative consequences in your life, but you won’t be sitting there making all the dominoes of history fall over in the wrong pattern. See Duet. 29:29, Matthew 28:20, Heb 1:1-2, 2 John 1:9, Duet 18:14-15 (where the prophet has come and his words are recorded for us in Sciprture), Rom 16:25-26 for more info. This issue is more complicated depending on whether or not you are continuationist (a la SGM).

    The other is called God’s secret will or will of decree. Whether or not you believe God is merely foreknowing what will happen or is ordaining it, the idea is that this is the part of God that has a plan for people. This is the part that you absolutely cannot mess up, because it includes the sin of people (open theists might quibble here, but classical Arminians and Calvinists should be able to find some sort of agreement as I understand those viewpoints). See Isa 46:10, Eph 1:11, Eph 3:11, Rom 8:28, Acts 17:26, Phil 2:13, Gen 50:20, I Pet 2:8, 2 Tim 1:9, and there are lots more (search for “the decrees of God”). This is also the part that you shouldn’t worry about finding out directly. Proverbs talks a lot about how you do go about making decisions on things that aren’t directly “should I sin or shouldn’t I?” and it never says to make sure that you are supposed to find out God’s will before making a move. It says to seek wisdom in counselors, etc. Like keepinstep said, our job is to seek and pursue God in faith and obedience and live in wisdom. Our job isn’t to know what God knows.

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    I just don’t find scripture that clear on most issues…murder-well, unless God commands you to wipe out a neighboring tribe and plunder their goods. Then it’s not murder…it’s just God’s chosen instrument of justice.

    But how can you tell the difference?

    The whole concept of a God’s secret will seems to be a way to avoid hard questions, in my opinion….

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    I do not find Merry Christmas the least bit “offensive”.

    Christmas is a holiday that you celebrate and you are wishing my happiness for that same time. I fail to see how anyone can be offended by someone wishing to share the joy their experience during one of their holidays, religious or not.

    I will also accept cards for the following other holidays in December.

    Boxing Day – Dec 26
    Frank Sinatra’s Birthday – Dec 12
    Anniversary of Boston Tea Party – Dec 16
    Al Hijra – Muslim New Year
    Bodhi Day – Buddha’s Enlightenment (Buddhist)
    Feast of the Immaculate Conception
    Santa Lucia Day
    Ashura (Islamic, Muslim)
    Las Posadas
    Winter Solstice
    Kwanzaa (Dec. 26, 2009 – Jan 1, 2010)
    Ludwig Von Beethoven’s Birthday – Dec 16
    Tiger Woods’ Birthday – Dec 30

    Please, do send one with that generic, politically correct “happy holiday” stuff on it, I like knowing which holiday it is I’m celebrating…that way, if I celebrate a little too much (i.e. beer, wine, eggnog), at least in my haze I can stumble over to the doorway and look at the card taped to the wall to help me remember what day it is! 🙂

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    Arrrgh… I can’t type some times …
    it was supposed to say “Please do NOT send one with the generic…”

    apologies for the typo

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    Good questions. Have you ever heard of the concept of the perspicuity of Scripture? Here’s the first Google result for the concept, which boils down to the idea that “the Scripture is a plain book.” See Ps 119:105, 2 Tim 3:14-17 (Scripture can be understood by children).

    Of course this doesn’t mean that everything in Scripture is clear and easy-peasy. After all, Peter says there are hard things to understand in Paul in 2 Peter 3:16. Augustine said in On Christian Doctrine:

    Thus the Holy Spirit has magnificently and wholesomely modulated the Holy Scriptures so that the more open places present themselves to hunger and the more obscure places may deter a disdainful attitude. Hardly anything may be found in these obscure places which is not found plainly said elsewhere.

    Yet it remains that the things which we clearly see and bind our consciences are the things we are required to obey.

    This doesn’t, of course, mean that the Bible clearly tells people who to marry, what job to take, where to live, if it is wise to buy a house today, etc, etc, etc. The Bible does clearly tell us things that guide us in the process: Christians are to look for other Christians as marriage partners, we are supposed to work rather than be idle, we should work to support our families, etc, etc, etc. We get guidelines like I Cor 10:23 pointing out that we should look for what is most helpful when making decisions between things that are allowed by Scripture.

    I mentioned briefly above that if you think as Sovereign Grace Ministries does this whole issue is a bit more complicated, but you think God still speaks today in many of the same ways that he did when Scripture was still being written (prophecy, tongues, etc.). Lots of other Christians disagree with that, and think that when Scripture was completed apostleship, prophecy, and tongues were done too. Christians who believe this way think that God isn’t telling anybody anything outside of the usual means of his revelation in Scripture. From there for murder specifically you can start quibbling about whether Scripture backs up Just War Theory, etc, etc, etc, but for those who believe the prophetic gifts have ceased you don’t have any prophets today giving you a message from God. You do have the Holy Spirit working in your heart as you read the Word of God, hear preaching, talk to other believers, and so on, but there’s no new revelation.

    The last bit is pretty hotly debated and there are good points on both sides.

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    Thanks for your thoughtful response….I understand the concept, and I agree that SGM’s theology complicates even basic concepts from scripture and throws a whole layer of pastoral authority, prophetic words, etc…on top of it all.

    I just find the history of how the scriptures came together to be riddled with contradictions, as well as the scriptures themselves. Simple things, like whether Jesus was arrested before or after the passover meal, is just a small example of the sort of contradictions that make me believe it (scripture) is of human origin only…..

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    About 15 years ago, I had a bit of a crisis of faith. It happened when I discovered the women caught in adultery was not in the early manuscripts. I decided that I didn’t know very much about the faith even though I knew the stories, etc.

    So I set out on a journey in which I decided to look at all of the supposed contradictions of the Bible along with studying about other faiths, etc. I even read the atheists, Bart Ehrman, etc. I wrote to theologians and asked questions.

    I came out on the other side with my faith strengthened. What I learned is that people far, far smarter than me were aware of these contradictions and had answers for them.

    There are books written about the contradictions that give answers. The Bible Answer Man at also has awesome answers and resources. in fact, i would recommend that you listen to his show on the radio-he does a call in Q+A and it is fantastic. I listen on line as well.

    If you would like to list a few contradictions, I would be happy to answer them either privately with you or even do a post on them. I have found there is no question that does not have an answer.

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    You have a great sense of humor. i usually have a good chuckle when I read your thoughts.

    I would personally like celebrating the Boston Tea Party day. I grew up in the Boston area. During the bicentennial I visited a museum in Boston that gave you a personality quiz and matched you to a famous revolutionary of log ago. Well, I was matched with Samuel Adams- the firebrand who was not known for twiddling his thumbs. he was also quite outspoken. Could that have been a prophecy?

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    I am most concerned about that park. I think some young earth types are going to be sadly disappointed when the ark is built. It will be rather easy for scientists, etc. to show how difficult it would be for such a boat to save so many animals.

    Darn it- I wished Ken Ham would cut out this nonsense. It is going to be an embarrassment.

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    BTW, you know that holiday is a simplified version of holy day?

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    I loved your answers on God’s will. I think that we, as humans, want to see the miraculous like folks raised from the dead, etc. Yet we overlook the day to day miracles of the universe holding together, the sun coming up, etc. Jesus used miracles to prove to the Pharisees that he was the One Who could forgive sins. Jesus could have healed everyone’s illness or fed all the starving people but He chose not to do so.

    Actually ,the most important miracle- forgiveness of sins- is looked at as ho-hum by some Christians. Instead they want to see the big things-cancer cured, people stop dying etc, no tragic accidents, etc.

    I think some have trivialized the real miracle-reconciliation with our Creator.

    One disagreement that I have with some reformed brothers is that Scripture is simple enough so that even a “plowboy” can understand it. I believe that Scripture is simple enough in the big ideas-God as Creator, sin ,salvation, Jesus. But I think Scripture is confusing in the ares of creation, the second coming, the Trinity, etc. That is why we need teachers to study and help us understand these issues. But even the theologians disagree on many things-eschatology, age of the earth ,etc.

    I have often joked that, if anyone wants to see heresy, ask the average person in any evangelical church to describe the Trinity.

    So, there is much uniformity in the essentials but great disagreement in the nonessentials with everyone believing that they are the ones who have got it right.

    Just in case you think that I don’t believe that miracles occur, you need to know that, 19 years ago, my three year old daughter was diagnosed with a huge, malignant brain tumor and was given a less than 10 prognosis. She will be graduating from samford University this spring with her degree in nursing.

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    Thank you so much! I had such a good laugh. I actually think I am one of the few people in this country who loved that musical. I know that there are a few folks out there who would love it if I would sit down and shut up. No can do! I have a legacy to live up to!

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    Thanks for sharing that video. Yep, that’s Dee all right!

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    Off Topic

    After responding to a statement on another blog about the word “atheism” and how it is an empty word and shouldn’t even be needed since it conveys no real meaning, simply a lack of a belief. I realized that, even though spouted by atheists all the time, including the likes of Dawkins and Harris, that there is more to the word than meets the eye.

    For many of you this may be ho-hum, and I understand…but for me this was one of those light bulb moments, so I wanted to share what I posted in its raw form before I add to my blog. I believe I’ve found the alchemy that transforms the word “atheist” from something neutral or meaningless at it’s best to something horrific at it’s worst, into something better. You may or may not agree, but I’d like to hear your opinion…here is my response from the other blog.

    “Atheism is not an vacuous concept, a simple lack of belief, like a non-collector of stamps. Atheism is a positive statement about what I require to excercise my belief.

    When I say I’m an atheist, I am saying that I cannot exercise faith at this point in time because the evidence in front of me is insufficient to command my belief. In this light, we were all atheists at one point or another. You believe because you find in nature and the universe around you sufficient evidence to believe. I do not, but this does not imply I am better than you, or even that I am more correct than you.

    My atheism is not an ideology, not a faith nor does it require faith, it is not a religion, philosophy or world view. It is a proposition and I am it’s keeper, as such, I am obligated to continually exam this proposition called atheism in the light of new information I acquire. Our standards of belief are different, some day, I may join you in belief and maybe some day, you may join me in disbelief, in the meantime let’s journey together, committed to changing, letting knowledge, honesty and integrity be the sharpening stones to mold us into what we become.”

    OK, it’s a little mushy there at the end and maybe this is obvious to everyone except me, but it was a wonderful enlightenment.

    Thanks for joining in.

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    It seems to me that this one has gotten a bit off topic.

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    apologies….sometimes the excitement of the moment overwhelms better judgement. In my defense, I did start with “off topic”… 🙂

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    Free from KWCC+Karl
    Actually, TWW has written about the new atheism on a number of occasions. There are few atheists who are willing to dialogue and explain their beliefs (or lack thereof) to us evangelical types. We are most grateful to have,not only a civil atheist, but a fun-loving one as well. So, Karl, mush on.

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    I don’t recall off-hand when Mahaney became big in the CBMW. I knew at one time, but I can’t pull the exact year out of the memory bank. It seems to me he was on the board by the late 90’s. He and Harris became more prominent around the same time SBTS received big donations from them. I discovered this on my own reading Towers a few years ago. I filed it away and almost forgot about it until just recently when I came across this place.

    It may not be as sinister as a smokey backroom deal where Al Mohler’s peeps made a deal with Mahaney to trade positions for cash. More likely the donations made whoever it is that chooses officials at the CBMW take notice that this was an issue Mahaney cared enough about to donate a lot of money toward. That in turn may have qualified him in their mind for a place at the table. But would they have gotten that place at the table if the money weren’t given? Doubtful. It is what it is.

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    Funny how the evangelical world seems to have sold out.

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    When it comes to this strange “de-gifting” concept, I’m glad that our Father does things differently — “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).

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    I couldn’t agree with you more. Glad to hear from you again.

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    One of the strangest de-giftings in SG occurred a couple of years ago in San Diego. The pastor was de-gifted and then, less than a year later, re-gifted – all by the same “apostle”.

    Then there was the PC grad who had also attended Southern Seminary. At the Manhattan SG church, when the founding pastor was “moved on”, the PC/SS guy was “passed over” – for a bloke that was still in the PC! The PC/SS guy had pastored a SBC church prior to his infatuation with SG. This church was folded into the SG church while he attended the PC. When he saw the writing on the Manhattan church wall, he never returned and took most of his original congregation with him.

    Then there was …

    You get the picture.

    My last months on staff at a SG church were extremely frustrating. The senior pastor kept changing priorities and expectations. At one point I could do no wrong; a few months later I couldn’t do any thing right. The senior pastor’s passive-aggressive nature and the “apostolic” interventions that were spiritually ham-fisted (at best) caused me and my family to resign. I must always add – I only wish I had done so sooner!

    It is a great place to be from,
    Former SG Pastor

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    Dee said: “Funny how the evangelical world seems to have sold out.”

    Well it’s not like it’s an indie rock band – they *are* trying to attract the biggest audience, aren’t they? 😉

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    Thanks for your comments…I may take you up on your offer to dialogue!

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    Awesome thought. In fact, the more I think about it, Jesus and the church is more like an indie rock group than hmmm, let me think…I’ve got it- Paris HIlton!

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    We got a comment from someone in SGM who said something to the effect of “Do you think 7000 people can be duped?” My answer is indubitably, without a doubt, absolutely, and on and on. One only has to look at history to see such proof.

    Things always sound so good on paper.It all sound so hunky dory- real spiritual. Well, it ain’t. Men are sinful and that goes for the leaders of SGM and they have been getting away with nonsense for a very long time.

    This year we are urging people to read through their Bibles. For those who have been in weird churches, we are urging the m to read them without the spin place on the text by their churches.

    You were abused by a bunch of yahoos who have a “spiritual superiority complex.” This is a terminal condition which leads to a whole bunch of nonsense.

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    I would be pleased to dialogue. You can use the email address and we can do this one on one or you can make your questions known to the group at large.

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    can 700 people be duped…really? That was a serious question …. how many people believe in God?


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    Har, har!

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    “We got a comment from someone in SGM who said something to the effect of “Do you think 7000 people can be duped?” My answer is indubitably, without a doubt, absolutely, and on and on. One only has to look at history to see such proof.”

    How many seminary trained pastors of several denominations signed the pledge of allegiance to Hitler when he took over the churches of Germany?

    How many refused?

    The answers are astounding. Remember, the pledge they signed was to make Hitler head of the church.

    Millions are duped every day because they believe men on all kinds of stages.

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    Karl, as a material reductionist, you would, I assume, foreclose the possibility of deducing belief in God from the recognition of extrinsic truth — that is, truth apart from ourselves. You state that there isn’t enough evidence from an empirical standpoint to convince you, yet, of the existence of God. Are you familiar with C.S. Lewis’s treatment of this matter in the Abolition of Man in the context of his discussion of “objective value?” I ask this with the following questions in mind: you mention selfishness, arrogance and hate, which means you apparently recognize those things easily enough. But by what standard to you condemn or even define them? Could it be that there is an objective right and wrong existing apart from ourselves? And if so, what does that mean for an atheist? I lean toward agnosticism even though I too an a former SGMer (you, of course, were actually a proto-SGMer), but I get aggravated at atheists like Dawkins and Dennett who are progressives and thus view evolution within a teleological framework, which would mean, would it not, that their brand of evolution is sort of a theistic one?

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    I think I got in a little bit of a hurry (you ladies need an edit function). I should have said that I assume, Karl, that you’d foreclose the possibility that one can conclude God exists based on the existence of extrinsic truth, not that you’d foreclose deducing mere belief in God that way.

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    Surly Boy,

    I used to post on a blog that had an edit function, and I loved it! We need to look into that feature.

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    I look at concepts like arrogance, hatred, selfishness as well as those of love, compassion and altruism from a particular view, which provides a context with which to make a value judgement.

    I evaluate these concepts as they contribute to the goal of producing a flourishing, society, where all citizens can have their basic needs met and are free to aspire to self improvement without oppression or fear.

    I am not a moral relativist in the sense that anything goes, however I also believe there is more than one way to achieve the goal. Similar to a dietitian, who certainly wouldn’t agree that “any” food is good for your health, but at the same time would probably say that oranges and tomatoes are equally good sources of vitamin C, pick the one you like best.

    So while I do believe that set of values to be “universal”, so to speak, I also believe that those morals can and should be flexible and should represent our best understanding from multiple disciplines of human nature, psychology, and building societies.

    As a side note, I am a cultural relativist within the confines of the above stated moral framework. In other words, eat pirogies or pizza or arepas or mensaf or baklava if you like, wear a turban or hijab, eat at the dinner table or in the living room, dance the bourrée or the bossa-nova, the farruca or the zouk! Cultural difference make life fun, interesting and give us a point to connect with our ancestors.

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    I just switched my comments over to using Disqus service. I have an edit button and I like the service because I can track posts on all my blogs as well as others I want to follow. It’s a nice service.

    Take a look at Bangor daily news comments, they use it as well and actually HAVE comments, unlike my blog 🙂,161422

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    As a member of CLC for 16 years, I remember when Larry was ousted, but I honestly don’t remember what their explanation was. Something about his son’s rebellion and Larry’s pride, I think. There were many crazy things that happened while I was there that I just blocked out. I do remember other pastors being “degifted” and it was odd. I also remember well their descent into hyper Calvinism, and “sin” became a four-letter word to me. We also had to talk about sin in our care groups, and whenever we asked for prayer, we were ultimately asked to repent.

    I believe C.J. has a huge ego, that was fed by the pastors in the church, and all the big wigs he associated with. I’m surprised he passed the church to Josh Harris. Interesting that, years later, I’m finding myself in a church where the pastor seems to be a true narcissist. It makes me wonder if that is the norm in evangelicism rather than the exception!