Posted on Wednesday, December 04, 2019 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I was priviledged to write a response to the question, "If God is love, why won't everyone be saved?" for the December edition of the excellent online journal CREDO.

 

In 2011 Evangelical mega-star Rob Bell published his (infamous?) book Love Wins. In some ways this was Bell’s farewell to the evangelicalism of his early ministry. In the book, Bell advances a brand of universalism typically referred to as inclusivism or Christian inclusivism. The idea is that because God is love everyone, in the end, will be saved by Jesus regardless of what they have done or believed (though Bell does seem to hold out the possibility that some may be so unwilling to let God love them that they remain in some sense separated from God). In short, everyone will be saved, Bell claims, because love wins.
 

The idea is beguiling. After all, who relishes the idea of sinners being sentenced to eternal punishment? But we know from God’s Word that hell will be populated by impenitent sinners. We know that God does not acquit the guilty lest he be emptied of his righteousness. Jesus himself warned against the coming judgment more than anyone in the New Testament. Indeed, the Scriptures are filled with warnings for sinners to repent and be saved from the wrath to come. But still many professing Christians either struggle with or completely deny the Bible’s teaching concerning the judgment to come (Deut. 9:7; 2 Kings 23:26; 2 Chron. 12:7; 28:11; Ezra 10:14; Ps. 2:12; 21:9; 56:7; 78:38; 90:11; Isa. 13:13; Jer. 29:12; 30:23; Ez. 7:8; Micah 5:15; Matt. 3:7; 5:22; 5:29; 10:28; 23:33; Lk. 12:5; Jn. 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 3:5; 9:22; Eph. 2:3; 5:6; 1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 3:11; 2 Pet. 2:4; Rev. 6:16; 11:18; 19:15).
 

It must also be acknowledged that even those Christians who have been well taught – those Christians who have sat under a faithful preaching ministry which upholds both the love and justice of God – are not unaccustomed to moments of inner conflict. We think about the many unbelievers we know who are good and decent people and wonder if it is really in the interest of justice for them to be excluded from life in the new creation.
 

The thought crosses our mind: “My father was not a Christian but he was a fine man. He loved my mother and his children. He was honest and hard working. He helped people whenever he could. He behaved better than some Christians I know! Would God really exclude him from salvation?” We know what the Bible says, but still we wonder.

 

You can read the entire article HERE.

 

 

Posted on Saturday, November 30, 2019 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

In the summer of 2016 the MOS team was in the center of a rather public controversy over the doctrine of the Eternal Submission of the Son (ESS). I believe strongly that this is an errant doctrine. It is a serious error because it distorts the truth of the eternal relations within the Godhead. Unfortunately, many Reformed-ish evangelicals today believe that so long as we have a proper doctrine of Scripture and of justification we are in good shape. “The doctrine of God is too esoteric to draw thick lines” I have been told. The theologians of the early church would have cringed at such an attitude. The major controversies of the first few centuries of the church were about guarding a biblical doctrine of God. We must understand that maintaining robust doctrines of Scripture and salvation are directly connected to a biblical doctrine of God. Indeed, the doctrine of God is the font from which the other doctrines flow.
 

Obviously, this controversy over ESS placed MOS and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) on a collision course. CBMW had been perhaps the major purveyor of the errant doctrine of ESS among evangelicals. This doctrine maintains that the roles of leadership and submission Scripture prescribes for the family and the church are founded upon eternal relations of authority and submission within the Godhead. The problems with this doctrine are significant. For instance, ESS holds that there are different wills within the Godhead; that the Son at times has a will which differs from the will of the Father. And since, according to ESS, the Father has greater authority than the Son, he must submit his will to the Greater (The proponents of ESS seem to not understand the significance of the dual natures of Christ. When he prayed in the garden, “Not my will but yours be done” our Lord was praying according to his human nature in which he fully identified with us. Christ’s human and divine natures are not confused or mixed. In his eternal divine nature there is no difference in will or authority between the Son and the Father). Not surprisingly therefore, ESS also holds that that the Father is given greater glory than the Son and Spirit (that alone puts ESS outside the simple statement of faith of the Evangelical Theological Society which holds that the Father, Son, and Spirit are equal in glory). There is precious little difference between ESS and tri-theism.
 

One of the primary proponents of ESS has written that the Godhead may be compared to a family in which the Father is analogical to the husband, the Son is analogical to the wife, and the Spirit is analogical to the child. That is horrific theology which owes more to Greek paganism than biblical theism. And while it appears that CBMW seems to have been quietly moving away from ESS since the summer of 2016 they have yet to issue a statement repenting of and disavowing that error. Enough time has passed and good material written on the subject since 2016 for CBMW to formally reject ESS. For the good of the church and the glory of God I hope they will.
 

During the summer of 2016 I wrote a piece for MOS stating that I would no longer use the term complementarian to describe myself. From now on, I wrote, I would simply refer to myself as confessional (as in the Westminster Confession of Faith and its catechisms). I resisted the term complementarian because of its origins in CBMW. Given their promotion of ESS, I wanted nothing to do with the term.
 

However, in recent months I have found that the term is nevertheless helpful and probably needed. The term confessional is wonderful of course. But for obvious reasons, it says very little about some of the contemporary challenges regarding the differences between men and women. The term patriarchy does not appeal because it can be used too easily to distort the full biblical witness concerning men, women, family, and the church.
 

Since this Spring I have been preaching through the opening chapters of Genesis (after 20 sermons we are just finishing up chapter 3). During these months I have come to the conclusion that the term complementarian captures quite well the biblical witness regarding the relationships between men and women within the family and the church. It is a term which is helpful in understanding the Bible’s prescription that husbands are to gently lead their wives and that only qualified men are to preach and occupy church office.
 

As I look around at the current controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention (my former denominational home) over women preaching to and leading men I am concerned by the foolishness and danger of re-ordering or otherwise ignoring God’s prescription for complementary roles of leadership between men and women in the church and family. The differing roles designed by God – roles that are complementary – reflect God’s wisdom. To reject God’s wisdom is to step into dangerous territory. How many denominations have slid into liberalism and apostasy with this one step of casting the relevant biblical texts on leadership within the home and church into the sea of cultural irrelevance?
 

Lord willing, in the coming weeks I will be posting a series of articles under the heading of What It Means to be Human. If we are to properly understand and be grateful for God’s design for leadership and submission within the home and church then we must begin in Genesis. I will address such subjects as our creaturely status, the significance of being embodied, the complementary nature of gender, and the meaning of sex.
 

Posted on Monday, October 07, 2019 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

The Reformed-ish Twittershpere has been in high dudgeon since the release of Rachel Miller’s book Beyond Authority and Submission. Mark Jones wrote a review of Miller’s book wherein he critiques what he believes are significant weaknesses. And then, to make matters a bit more interesting my friend Aimee Byrd posted a critique by Valerie Hobbs of Dr. Jones’ critique of Miller’s book. It all seems a bit confusing, I know.
 

Anyway, In recent days I have been inundated with questions and complaints and more complaints:
“Are you going to respond to Rachel Miller’s book?”
“Are Aimee’s views on gender the views of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals?”
“I can’t believe you allowed something by Valerie Hobbs to be posted on MOS.”
“Valerie Hobbs? Really? C’mon!”
“Why are you so awesome?”
 

You get the picture. Okay, I made up the last one.
 

Here are a few initial thoughts in no particular order…
 

1. Aimee and I do not agree on everything regarding gender. Big surprise.
 

2. The things over which Aimee and I do not agree seem to place our disagreement firmly in the category of the intramural. We both believe that our differences are important but not so important that they rise anywhere near to the point of breaking fellowship.
 

3. If you are more upset with a sister in Christ who is a member in good standing of a conservative Presbyterian church because she believes women can be police officers than you are about those who for years have propagated errors about the Trinity, then you’re doing this wrong.
 

4. I share enough differences with Valerie Hobbs’ viewpoints that I cannot endorse her (I’m sure she’ll lose all kinds of sleep over that).
 

5. I see no need to write a rejoinder to Hobbs’ critique of Jones’ critique of Rachel Miller’s book.
 

6. I believe Miller’s views on the differences between maleness and femaleness place far too little emphasis on ontology. I believe her view of Genesis 3:16 is wrong (certainly not heresy though). I believe the view that anything a man does is by definition masculine and anything a woman does is by definition feminine to be peculiar at best.
 

7. The way we understand masculine traits and feminine traits should not be one size fits all. Remember Jacob and Esau. While Esau possessed the sorts of traits one typically associates with burly masculinity, Jacob was characterized by more domestic traits. At no point however is Jacob considered effeminate. We should reject slavish conformity to every cultural expectation attached to femininity and masculinity. However, I would argue that in addition to the Bible’s warnings against the “malakos / malokoi” (effeminate) there is also within nature a common knowledge of those ways in which men and women should typically present themselves.
 

8. Keep in mind that women in the PC(USA) would consider Aimee Byrd and Rachel Miller knuckle dragging Neanderthals and enemies to the cause for believing that God calls husbands to lead their homes and calls qualified men to be office-bearers in the church.
 

9. #8 is a reminder to keep things in perspective. If you are treating Miller or Byrd like heretics then you’re doing it wrong. Only the most peculiar type of chest-beating patriarchist who places applications of male headship above trinitarian orthdoxy in terms of doctrinal hierarchy would believe that those two women are liberals. A liberal denomination would not tolerate either of them.

 

10. If you disagree with Aimee's views then you ought to contact her. She's easy to reach. Ask her direct questions. But if you prefer to take cheap shots involving crass language on social media then ask yourself whether that comports with biblical manhood.
 

11. Aimee and I have no immediate plans for a cage match but you never know…

 

Posted on Monday, July 08, 2019 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Last week the episode of the MOS podcast which aired was recorded by Carl and Aimee while I was in Dallas for the PCA’s General Assembly. I had not listened to the episode but when I saw that some more progressive folks in the PCA were referring to the episode to criticize the Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) I became more than a little curious.
 

The approach of MOS has always been that we are a casual conversation. As such, there is very little (and I mean VERY little) preparation that goes into our podcast discussions. Some of you are thinking, “That’s quite obvious Todd.” That sort of approach has some strengths and some weaknesses just as a carefully scripted approach would have as well.
 

In their discussion Carl and Aimee addressed the fact that the SBC, PCA, and OPC were all having their national gatherings about the same time. But in the midst of their discussion they made some statements about the Gospel Reformation Network that were not accurate. The suggestion was that the GRN is a political lobbying body within the PCA. I can tell you, that ain’t the case.
 

There is indeed a political lobbying body in the PCA. It is called the National Partnership and they are rather secretive. They actively seek to rally votes on the floor of the Assembly and to fill committees with like-minded men. The GRN does none of that. Indeed, they have been criticized by some fellow conservatives precisely because they do not lobby or organize votes.
 

The GRN is simply not a political body. Now, we are all from one degree or another, political. Anyone speaking out on certain issues can be accused of being political. And, of course, that is not always bad. Indeed, sometimes it is good and necessary to “be political.” But the GRN has consciously chosen to not be an organizing body to turn out votes at General Assembly. There is no instant message system used by the GRN during GA to make sure everyone is voting the right way. Though, the National Partnership uses precisely that approach.
 

I know for a fact that members of the GRN counsel are in regular conversation with brothers on the more progressive end of the PCA in order to promote understanding and ensure they do not misrepresent their brothers. I appreciate this about them.
 

In case you are wondering, I have no formal relationship with the GRN though I count several of their council members as good friends. I do not write content for them. I do not advise them. I do not contribute financially to them (though, I’m considering it). What I am, is deeply appreciative of the GRN.
 

The GRN was born about the time I was entering the PCA some six years ago. They came together to respond to the rather serious errors which were growing in popularity and being spread by Tullian Tchividjian, his Liberate movement, and its supporters and admirers. Of course we know that behind those errors resided some rather scandalous sin. But that is another story. I am grateful that the men who came together to form the GRN decided to step into the controversy and confront the errors.
 

Now the PCA faces another set of errors being forced upon us by Revoice and “Side B” homosexuality. Thankfully the GRN is seeking to provide biblical and confessional responses to these errors. On the Tuesday before General Assembly the GRN hosted a conference called A Time to Stand. The addresses were excellent. I would encourage you to listen to them. They can be found on Youtube. Soon the audio will be available on the GRN site.
 

It seems to me that the GRN exists to promote Presbyterianism within the PCA. Their stated purpose is “To cultivate healthy Reformed churches in the Presbyterian Church in America.” You can find their core distinctives HERE.
 

Posted on Saturday, December 22, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

I read a lot of good books this year. There are also some books published this year that I have heard great things about which I have not yet read. But the following are the ones that rose to the top for me.

 

Book of the Year
Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition by Craig Carter
Originally intended to be a defense of classical theism, Dr. Carter took a detour into a defense of the hermeneutic of the church fathers. Of course there is no single hermeneutic to be found among the scholars and preachers of the first five centuries. But Carter examines the method of those best representatives of the early church and presents a compelling argument that they got it right far more often than they got it wrong. Could it be that otherwise conservative Bible scholars and preachers of our day have been unduly influenced by critical scholarship? Could it be that we have unwittingly embraced a hermeneutic which places the intent of the human writers above the supernatural hand of Scripture’s Divine Author? Every preacher needs to read this book.
 

Grounded in Heaven by Michael Allen
The latest from Michael Allen of RTS Orlando is well worth reading. Dr. Allen offers a needed critique of the many modern studies of the age to come which neglect a proper emphasis on the presence of the Divine as the central blessing of the eternal state. But far more than a critique, Grounded in Heaven is a reminder that eternal life in the presence of God is, for good reason, the foundation and substance of the Christian hope.
 

Jesus Becoming Jesus by Thomas Weinandy
Weinandy is a Roman Catholic Friar and systematic theologian. Years ago I benefitted greatly from his defense of the doctrine of divine impassibility, Does God Suffer? In Jesus Becoming Jesus, Weinandy offers a systematic theology of the synoptic gospels. One of the book’s great strengths is the seamless harmony of scholarship and devotion. Protestants will find very few things they cannot gladly affirm. My own preaching on the Lord's Prayer and the incarnation have been enriched by this wonderful book.
 

The Devil’s Redemption (2 Volumes) by Michael McClymond
I must confess that I have not yet completed all 1200 pages of this scholarly work. But so far I have benefitted greatly from the author's thorough critique of a system of belief which is probably quite widespread among evangelicals. This will probably be the standard go-to work on the subject of Christian universalism.
 

Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey
Miss Pearcy has given us once again a very helpful book. What makes Love Thy Body so important is the skillful way in which the author grounds the biblical teachings on human identity, gender, and sexual ethics in the doctrine of creation. The battle over human identity and sexuality that is currently raging is one that must be met with our best scholarship, our most careful arguments, and our most compassionate ethos. Miss Pearcey’s book is a worthy addition to the effort.
 

That Hideous Strength: How the West Was Lost by Melvin Tinker
I have enjoyed the work of Melvin Tinker for years. This little treatise on the influence of social Marxism on the church and society ought to be read by every American Christian. This is no conspiracy tract which sees a communist behind every call for generosity. Far from it. Rather it is a careful but appropriately urgent warning from one who has seen first-hand the ravages of cultural Marxism in Europe.
 

 

Posted on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you have probably read my previous piece on the Revoice conference. Revoice has been the source of great division in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the denomination in which I serve. That is because although Nate Collins, the conference organizer is a Southern Baptist, the church which hosted the conference belongs to the PCA and several of the speakers are office holders in the PCA.
 

As I have written previously, I am thankful that those connected to Revoice have repeatedly affirmed their belief in the biblical ethic that sexual intimacy is to be shared between a man and woman in the bonds of marriage. There are no special congratulations for affirming what the Bible teaches. However, lest anyone mistakenly conclude that the speakers and organizers of Revoice advocate the normalizing of homosexual acts, I want to be clear that is not the case. Unfortunately, the positions they hold concerning human identity, sexual orientation, sanctification, and the moral status of same-sex desire will, I fear, ultimately undermine their current commitment to biblical standards of conduct.
 

I will not argue about the motives of those connected to Revoice. I can only assume that they sincerely hope to minister to those who struggle with sinful sexual desires. This is a cause the church must embrace. The new sexual revolution and the gender chaos connected to it is wreaking havoc in the lives of many of our neighbors; people we are called to love. The church must think constructively and regularly about ways to communicate God’s law and gospel to those who struggle under the weight of homosexual desires and gender confusion.
 

But as I have stated before, along with many others, the trouble with Revoice is the content. What Revoice proposes is a departure from what Christians have historically believed about key doctrines and their ethical implications. Revoice represents a theology and ethic which, if allowed to take root in the PCA, will lead us into great and grievous errors.
 

One of the troubling statements which came out of Revoice was that the “nuclear family” has become an idol in the church. In his plenary address, Nate Collins made the following rather extraordinary statement:

Is it possible that gay people today are being sent by God, like Jeremiah, to find God’s words for the church, to eat them and make them our own? To shed light on contemporary false teachings and even idolatries, not just the false teaching of the progressive sexual ethic, but other more subtle forms of false teaching? Is it possible that gender and sexual minorities who have lived lives of costly obedience are themselves a prophetic call to the church to abandon idolatrous attitudes toward the nuclear family, toward sexual pleasure? If so, we are prophets.
 

Dr. Collins’ shocking application of the Scriptures – that homosexuals are prophets in the way of Jeremiah sent by God to rebuke the church – can be left for another post. In a future post I may also address whether abstaining from what God calls an abomination constitutes “costly obedience.” What I wish to focus on here is the notion that the church holds “idolatrous attitudes toward the nuclear family.” This theme, that the church idolizes or makes too much of the “nuclear family” was affirmed elsewhere at Revoice.
 

In her conference workshop, Bekah Mason stated that “the non-traditional family is the biblical family.” She cited examples of families from the Bible which strayed from the pattern of husband, wife and children. However, in doing so Miss Mason neglected or ignored an important principle of biblical interpretation: description is not the same as prescription. The fact that the Bible records the existence of family arrangements other than husband, wife, and children does not suggest that the Bible commends those arrangements. Indeed, the Bible often points out the inevitable disasters that occur when God’s design for the family is rejected.
 

So, why the ambivalence and perhaps passive hostility from Revoice toward the pattern for family established by God in his Word? One can only speculate. Perhaps it is because, having uncritically accepted worldly categories of sexual orientation and human identity, an ambivalence toward the family is inevitable. Since the speakers and organizers of Revoice wish to challenge what the church has always believed about the nature of temptation, homosexual desires, and human identity, perhaps a necessary component of that project is a relative devaluing of the family as designed by God.
 

I am choosing my words carefully, I assure you. I believe that the warnings from Revoice against making an idol of the “nuclear family” are, at the very least, ill conceived. This warning comes from those who have chosen to embrace a homosexual identity, invented a category of non-lustful same-sex sexual attraction, and have, in many cases, eschewed the creation mandate. I do not believe they are in a position to offer wise counsel regarding the family. That may sound harsh. But my intention is to correct what I view as a sharp trajectory toward serious error. Even the terminology of “nuclear family” is adopted from secular culture. Much like the term “sexual orientation,” “nuclear family,” implies that there are various ways to be family just like there are various ways to be sexually oriented. But in the Scriptures we see that God has instituted two families: 1) The conjugal family of husband, wife, and children, and 2) The spiritual family, the church to which all Christians belong.
 

Consider what God affirms about the conjugal family in his Word:
•    It is the creation of God (Gen. 1-2). The conjugal family is the one God-prescribed design for families.
•    It is given the creation mandate to have children and govern the created order (Gen. 1-2). That means humanity’s very purpose is tied to the conjugal family.
•    It is the means by which God communicates the blessings of his covenant of grace from one generation to the next (Gen. 12, 15, 17; Acts 2:39).
•    It was the means by which the Messiah was raised and incorporated into Jewish society.
•    It is assumed in and governed by God’s moral law (Ex. 20:1ff; Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:18-21; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
•    It is the ordinary means by which God trains his people to understand and obey his law (Deut. 6:20-25).
•    It is (marriage, that is) a living illustration of the mystery of Christ’s love for his church (Eph. 5:22ff).
 

Even a cursory survey like the one above suggests that it would be exceedingly difficult to value the family more highly than does God.
 

To be sure, the human heart is a factory of idols. Our imaginations run wild in ways we are probably not fully aware, seeking to worship the creature rather than the Creator. So I suppose it is possible to make an idol of the family. But I suggest that is no easy task. Again, is it possible to value the family, to love the family, to place a higher priority on the family than does God? I assume so. But how hard one would have to work to do so.
 

However, it is also true that not everyone is called to be married. Indeed, some are positively gifted to remain chaste. The Apostle Paul himself recommended chastity for those who would follow in his footsteps of dangerous and demanding ministry (1 Cor. 7). What is more, not every marriage is blessed with the ability to procreate. These men and women must never be slighted, ignored, or in any way devalued within God’s spiritual family, the church of Jesus Christ. I am blessed to be a pastor to precious souls in all these categories of life and our church is stronger because of them.
 

So, the church is made up of the married and the chaste as well as those with and without children. If any pastor, elder or church member withholds love from or marginalizes someone because they are unmarried or without children they are sinning against God and the body of Christ. It must also be stated that those who are married and have children should not be resented for it. Neither should churches be dissuaded from acknowledging the goodness of marriage and child-raising.
 

In the weeks since the Revoice conference, nothing I have read has lessened my deep concern about the theology and ethic taught at the event. Given where the conference was hosted I wonder whether the theology of Revoice will be given a place in the PCA. I suppose it already has.
 

I agree fully with the following statement from Rick Phillips in a post published yesterday (9/25/18):

There are many reasons to have sympathy with the aims expressed by the Revoice conference, especially the genuine sorrows of those who experience same-sex attraction. But the doctrine of Revoice is not one that biblically faithful Christians can afford to view with sympathy. Either the biblical view of humanity, sex, marriage, and society is right or else it is wrong. Likewise, if gays represent a prophetic voice challenging the church to conform, then it is the traditionally understood Christian view of sex and marriage that comes under rebuke. It is for this reason that the PCA cannot afford either to endorse the Revoice message or even to stand by inactive as conferences like these are held in our churches. If the Bible is true, right, wholesome, and good, then the doctrine of Revoice must not be embraced, nor permitted in the counsels of the church. What is at stake in this controversy is nothing less than the commitment of our denomination to the truth of God's Word and our embrace of the Scripture's view of life and godliness.
 

Recommended:
You can read Dr. Harry Reeder’s excellent commentary HERE.

Tim Geiger of Harvest USA attended Revoice and recorded his thoughts HERE.

David Strain wrote a wonderful piece on same-sex attraction in the form of an imagined letter to a struggler.

Dr. Guy Waters wrote a helpful piece on Paul’s words about homosexuality HERE.

 

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Once again Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Powder Springs, GA will be hosting their annual Reformation Worship Conference in partnership with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. This years’ theme is “Worshipping God’s Way, Not Ours.” I’m planning to attend. Give me a shout if you see me.
 
Date: October 18-21, 2018

Speakers:
Scott Aniol
Roland Barnes
Kent Butterfield
Dan Cole
David Garner
Robert Godfrey
David Gordon
David Hall
Terry Johnson
Burk Parsons
Carl Robbins
Mark Ross
Neil Stewart
Carl Trueman

Register HERE
 

Posted on Friday, August 03, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

The Revoice conference is over. But we will continue to hear from Revoice, its various speakers and supporters. It is not my goal here to write a point-by-point rebuttal of the many troubling things that were stated in the conference. I have listened to the addresses from Nate Collins and Eve Tushnett and there is enough troubling material there to keep one busy for quite a while.

 

One of the central points of controversy with Revoice specifically and the Gay Christian movement in general is their understanding of sin and temptation. They have departed from the testimony of Scripture and the Protestant theological heritage. Is attraction to members of the same sex inherently sinful, morally neutral, or essentially good like attraction to mebmers of the opposite sex? If Jesus was tempted in every way as we are then does that mean he struggled against same-sex attraction? Some, even in the PCA, are saying yes.

 

Mark Jones recently posted the following helpful comments on his facebook page:

 

"

SSA and Christ's Temptations. A few thoughts...
 

Temptation and Sin
 

Lusting in the heart after that which is opposed to God’s law is opposition to that which is good. Here we are speaking of internal temptations, understood as the deliberation to sin. Thus sin has several stages, as follows:
 

A) Inclination and propensity;
 B) Deliberation (via inward or outward temptation);
 C) The resolution to sin;
 D) The act itself;
 E) A certain pleasure in performing the act;
 F) Boasting.
 

Of course, not all stages are necessary for sin to take place. Temptation, inwardly, may be sinful. What is temptation? As John Owen notes,
 

“It is raising up in the heart, and proposing unto the mind and affections, that which is evil; trying, as it were, whether the soul will close with its suggestions, or how far it will carry them on, though it do not wholly prevail. Now, when such a temptation comes from without, it is unto the soul an indifferent thing, neither good nor evil, unless it be consented unto; but the very proposal from within, it being the soul’s own act, is its sin” (Works, 6:194).
 

If temptation is understood this way, then a proposal towards that which is evil (e.g., same-sex attraction) is sinful. We are distinguishing between proposals from within versus a proposal from without. And the distinction between the two is not a mere quibble, but the difference between heaven and hell.
 

As John Davenant notes, “although the faculty of desire itself is not sin, yet the inclination and propensity of it to evil is sin; even in one asleep, when it does not at all actually incline to sin.” This is similar to the act and habit of faith. As those who still have remaining indwelling sin, we have the habit of sin always that leads to acts of sin. We mortify not just the acts but also the habit, which means we repent not only for the act but the habit of sin. In other words, we repent for who we are, though forgiven, because we are still those who have remaining uncleanness in our very being.
 

Christ Tempted in Every Way
 

I hold that Christ was not “liable to temptations from within.” If I may summarize the basic view of Reformed theologians, and including the vast majority of the Puritans I have read, I would argue the following:
 

Our temptations typically arise from within us, as we are lured away by desires that give birth to sins such as unbelief and sinful lust (James 1:14–15). Jesus was free from these types of temptations. He did not have an inclination towards evil or the “inclination and propensity” of desire towards evil from within. For example, as the Sinless One, filled with the Spirit beyond measure, he did not experience lust in his heart towards a woman; however, that does not mean he did not find certain women attractive. As a man, he would have experienced a natural attraction to a beautiful woman. Beauty is necessarily attractive. Nevertheless, this “attraction” was always kept perfectly in check. Never once did it move to the realm of lust or covetousness.
 

The various outward temptations that Jesus would have felt may have had a certain appeal, but he fought ardently to repel them all. To depend on oneself or to give in for a moment to a lustful thought or action always carries an appeal, but Jesus could not and did not do that. He always entrusted himself to his Father. He always responded perfectly to any situation in which he found himself tempted.
 

There were, however, no sinful impulses in Christ that originated from within his human nature. Because Jesus had infirmities, he had natural human weaknesses that, for example, made him subject to hunger. Thus the devil tempted him in that area in the hope that Jesus would not depend on God but upon bread alone. The desire to eat when hungry is not sinful, but such a craving at the expense of faith in God’s provision is. As the sinless one, Jesus felt the force of temptation more than we can imagine.
 

As such, Owen and the Puritans would say that a homosexual lust, even if it is not acted upon, is sinful. Even homosexual attraction has to be mortified because it is not natural, but rather unnatural. It is a temptation towards that which is evil. So not just the act itself, but also the “deliberation” that arises from the “inclination and propensity” is sinful and needs to be mortified (Rom. 8:13). Inclinations need to be reoriented so that propensities are reoriented so that the justified child of God is freed more and more from resolutions to sin.
 

Christian faith has indeed seen homosexual orientation as perversion, or at least as a pathology, and its expression as a serious sin. But if people want to argue that inward temptation in the form of homosexual desires is not inherently sinful because Christ was tempted in every way as we are, they will have to do a little better than simply make that assertion.
"

 

Posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I am often asked whether the PCA is liberal or on its way to becoming liberal.
 

I have not been shy about voicing concerns about certain trends in the PCA that, if left uncorrected could lead eventually to a sad undoing.
 

But before addressing any concerns let me be clear on this point: the PCA is not liberal. If it were then I would be seeking a call to another Presbyterian denomination.
 

If you believe that the PCA is liberal then I invite you to ask the opinion of any minister in the PC(USA), ELCA, or Disciples of Christ. They will laugh at the suggestion. To them we are knuckle-dragging troglodytes. For example, the PCA does not ordain women to church office. That alone places us, in the minds of many, in the outer dark along with the other fundamonsters. The PCA holds to the inerrancy of Scripture. We uphold the biblical standard that sexual intimacy is to be enjoyed only within the confines of marriage between a man and woman. And while we are on the subject of marriage, the PCA does not recognize homosexual marriage nor are its clergy permitted to officiate homosexual weddings. Those standards were once again recognized and strengthened in our most recent General Assembly.
 

When we use the word liberal we ought to do so as those who know our history. Protestant Liberalism which bloomed in the United States near the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries was marked by a rejection of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture and pretty much everything supernatural about the Christian faith. H. Richard Niebuhr, no fundamentalist, famously described the theology of Protestant Liberalism as, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”
 

The PC(USA) provides us with a sad picture of a liberal denomination. Over a period of years and decades the once orthodox communion came to embrace a post-modern approach to reading the Scriptures in which they deny its authority and divine origin in favor of a model whereby the reader is free to determine its usefulness. They abandoned the treasure of the gospel of Jesus Christ in favor of a bowl of spoiled pottage. They fully embraced the new sexual revolution and accepted the language and categories of the current gender chaos. They hold forth a Jesus who, rather than being the atoning sacrifice for sinners, is the ultimate social justice warrior; a hippy pro-abortion Pope Francis for the first century.
 

I could go on, but you get the picture. The PCA is most certainly not THAT.
 

We are a denomination that was founded out of the liberal chaos of the old PC(US) – southern Presbyterians who ultimately merged with the larger PC(USA). From its inception the PCA determined to hold to Scriptural inerrancy, a gospel unadulterated by the latest political and social fads, biblical standards for leadership within the church, and biblical sexual ethics. And while it would be foolish to think that those commitments will remain secure or that there are no current challenges, the PCA continues to be a Reformed and evangelical denomination with a high view of Scripture.
 

So why all the concerns? Why have there been so many laypersons and elders warning about a liberal drift in the PCA? Why have I shared many of those concerns?
 

That is the subject of my next post.

 

Posted on Friday, July 20, 2018 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Dr. Robert Gagnon, author of what is probably the most thorough study available on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, has written a helpful piece responding to the upcoming Revoice conference being held at Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA) in St. Louis (July 26-28).

 

 

Gagnon writes:

 

"

While I am glad for the fact that persons at the Revoice Conference (July 26-28, St. Louis, in a PCA venue) and those who align with the "Spiritual Friendship" program want to refrain from engaging in same-sex intercourse and thereby uphold this part of the orthodox witness, I have seven consequential concerns about their views.

 

1. Inadequate engagement with the need for "renewal of the mind" as regards homosexual desires. Is there any asking of: "What is the false narrative that gives these impulses particular strength? Why am I viewing a person of the same sex as a sexual complement or counterpart to my own sex? Why am I aroused by the distinctive sexual features of my own sex, by what I already have? Am I thinking of myself as only half of my own sex? What kind of strategies for renewing my mind can I use to counter this false narrative beyond 'washed and waiting'?" Instead, the benefits of a generalized "gay" perspective (minus the sex) are celebrated or lifted up. Even if one's attractions may not change with such an evaluation, they can be disempowered by exposing the lie that lies behind attempts to gratify same-sex desire or (for "transgenders," so-called) to deny one's biological sex altogether. There is more to be addressed here than refraining from homosexual sex.

 

2. The adoption of terminology for self-identity that cannot be sanctified and inevitably brings in the whole "LGBTQ" baggage ("sexual minority," "gay," "transgender"). This terminology is normally associated with self-affirmation rather than sin and switches the obligation of the church from a call for repentance and restoration to a call for inclusion and diversity that celebrates what should be mortified. The fact that evangelical proponents of the "sexual minority" language are unwilling to use it of those with a pedophilic or polyamorist orientation should tell us all something.

 

3. A greater focus on a victim mentality than on the need for disengagement with the LGBTQ agenda (hence their refusal to sign the Nashville Statement). It is more important for them to say that the church has treated persons with same-sex attractions in an ungodly way throughout its history (painting with a broad brush) than to say that those who promote homosexual practice and transgenderism in the church are committing heresy. Indeed, they usually reject the heresy charge and any arguments made from Scripture that homosexual practice is a particularly severe violation of God's standards for sexual ethics. Many cast entering into homosexual unions not as egregious sin but rather as something less than the maximal "flourishing" that God has for us. Self-critique generally doesn't go further than a non-moral disability model. This in turn often leads to favoring church membership (without church discipline) even for self-professed Christians actively engaged in homosexual relationships.

 

4. Support for "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" laws that lead to the persecution of Christians and the erosion of the church's own standards (since indoctrination in the sphere of the state affects the views that people carry into the church); even general support by some of, or at least strong sympathy for, "gay marriage."

 

5. An apparent aversion to any thought of developmental influences on any homosexual attraction and discouragement of any who seek help for reducing the intensity and direction of same-sex sexual attractions. Indeed, the idea of some Christians who shift on the Kinsey Scale in the direction of less homosexuality is viewed as a virtual betrayal of the benefits of being "gay" and a threat to those who have not experienced any orientation change. They not only assert that such change is not possible for them but also appear to want to close the door for all others. Granted, a change in the experience of same-sex attractions is not requisite for being a strong Christian; God can declare "my grace is sufficient for you" without removing said attractions. Yet doesn't God also at times remove or significantly ameliorate the deprivation or difficulty (see numerous Gospel miracles)?

 

6. A formulation of spiritual friendship that looks an awful lot like marriage minus the sex: viz., a promise of lifelong commitment to one person of the same sex viewed as one's "significant other."

 

"

 

You can read the rest of Dr. Gagnon’s post HERE.