Posted on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

First Presbyterian Church of Montgomery, Alabama (PCA) is providing a great example for other churches with histories of racism.

 

I encourage you to read the story HERE and pray for the continued health of this congregation and their impact on their community.

 

We should also offer thanks for the leadership of Pastor Reed DePace whose commitment to the gospel of the Lord Jesus is at the core of this process of repentance.

 

Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

J. Gresham Machen died of pneumonia on January 1, 1937 while on a trip to Bismarck, North Dakota. He was there to teach and preach in an effort to shore of the strength of the congregations in the newly established Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Upon news of Machen’s death tributes poured in from around the world. Many were notable. Several however were (and are) especially noteworthy because of the authors. One was composed by H.L. Mencken the famed newspaperman and outspoken atheist and opponent of Christianity. Nevertheless, of Machen, Menken wrote in the Baltimore Sun:

He saw clearly that the only effects that could follow diluting and polluting Christianity in the modernist manner would be its complete abandonment and ruin. Either it was true or it was not true. If, as he believed, it was true, then there could be no compromise with persons who sought to whittle away its essential postulates, however respectable their motives.

Thus he fell out with the reformers who have been trying, in late years, to convert the Presbyterian Church into a kind of literary and social club, devoted to vaguely good works…

His one and only purpose was to hold it resolutely to what he conceived to be the truth faith. When that enterprise met with opposition he fought vigorously, and though he lost in the end and was forced out of Princeton it must be manifest that he marched off to Philadelphia with all the honors of war.
 

Another notable eulogy came from Pearl S. Buck the famed novelist and Presbyterian missionary to China. Machen had made clear his opposition to Buck because of her abandonment of the gospel and denial of the need for conversion to Christ. Nevertheless Buck wrote:

We have lost a man whom our times can ill spare, a man who had convictions which were real to him and who fought for those convictions and held to them through every change in time and human thought. There was power in him which was positive in its very negations. He was worth a hundred of his fellows who, as princes of the church, occupy easy places and play their church politics and trim their sails to every wind, who in their smug observance of the convictions of life and religion offend all honest and searching spirits. No forthright mind can live among them, neither the honest skeptic nor the honest dogmatist. I wish Dr. Machen had lived to go on fighting them (emphasis mine).
 

Posted on Monday, April 10, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

“You can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.”

It is a good saying. And it is undoubtedly true. Bees seem invariably to prefer honey over vinegar.
 

But what if the purpose is not to attract bees? What if your purpose is to warn bees away from a danger far greater than the bad taste of vinegar? In that case the application of honey is downright cruel.
 

In our discourse there are times when an irenic approach fits most appropriately the goal of the moment. May God give us (and by “us” I mean primarily “me”) greater reservoirs of gentleness and patience. But I would suggest that there are times when irenic engagement is far worse than unhelpful. There are times when sweet words are deceptive.
 

For example if you saw a man ingesting poison you would not take your time, sleep on it, consider your words cautiously so as not to offend before suggesting in soft tones that perhaps the poison he is consuming will not maximize his flourishing.
 

Don’t misunderstand. I am someone who fully accepts the fact that my tendency is to err on the side of too much vinegar. Believe it or not, I don’t like that about myself. I want to become more disciplined in taking time before speaking. I want to become a better listener. But I also plead with those for whom vinegar never seems to be the appropriate ingredient to our discourse to consider if perhaps their preference for honey may sometimes be driven more by distaste for conflict than a love for others.
 

When people like me pour out vinegar it is usually not because we do not love others. It is usually because we are zealous for God’s truth and we find a direct correspondence between zeal for the truth and love for others. Do we…do I get it wrong sometimes? Sadly, yes. I wish I never got it wrong. But I do.
 

However, I wonder how often an irenic tone has communicated to the hearer that the matter being addressed is not serious? Does constant irenicism unintentionally communicate that all matters can be shrugged off into the “it just doesn’t matter than much” category? I know that there are times when a harsh tone can exaggerate the relative importance of an issue. But is the reverse not also true?
 

And let us also examine our own preferred cultural aesthetics. We have generally become a much softer people than past generations. As tough as I can be at times with my words I’ve never once called a group of people a “brood of vipers” (Matt. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33). I’ve never made a whip and driven anyone out of a holy place (John 2:13ff). Nor have I ever come close to suggesting that anyone castrate themselves (Gal. 5:12). Compared to Paul and Jesus I usually sound like Zig Ziglar.
 

I am not calling for an end to irenic engagement. Far from it. Indeed, I desire to add more of that quality to my own speech. But let us remember that God chastised the unfaithful shepherds of Jeremiah’s day for healing “the wound of my people lightly” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). He rebuked them for saying, “peace, peace when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). There are times when a soft tone masks the truth and hides the need for repentance.
 

I value my brothers who excel at being irenic. I need their influence in my life. I need to be more like them. But is it not also true that the hard word in hard tones is necessary when the gospel is at stake? When godliness is at stake? When ministerial faithfulness is at stake? When the church’s witness is at stake?
 

So, today I pledge that I will work harder to add more honey to my repertoire. But I also encourage my more naturally irenic brothers to consider from time-to-time the positive uses of a bit of vinegar.

 

Posted on Saturday, April 08, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Rachel Miller over at A Daughter of the Reformation (a blog you ought to read) has written an excellent post on anxiety. I encourage you to read it and pass it along.

 

You may also want to check out a sermon I recently preached from Philippians 4:4-7 entitled "Living in Light of the Nearness of God" where I address Paul's words, "Do not be anxious for anything."

 

Posted on Friday, April 07, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

It only took 43 years for the Northern Presbyterian church to move from defrocking Charles Briggs for advancing higher criticism to defrocking J. Gresham Machen. That is a titanic shift in what is essentially only two generations.

 

Posted on Wednesday, April 05, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Last week I posted a rather strong critique of the Truth’s Table podcast entitled “Gender Apartheid.” Those who have followed this blog know that I subsequently took the post down because of charges of racism that were being leveled against me. Yes, I chickened out. Those charges were wicked and untrue.
 

Part of the pushback I received was from a fellow PCA pastor who wrote a stern rebuke of me and gathered signatures from others who shared his opinion. Since then I have received a great deal of encouragement from across the PCA. Some who agreed with my assessment of the podcast have suggested that the signatories of the letter rebuking me are guilty of a chargeable offense in the denomination.
 

I want to be perfectly clear: I do not share that opinion. My fellow pastor disagreed strongly with my original post. He had every right to post a response. Certainly I do not agree with his perspective of what I wrote. I still believe my original assessment of the Truth’s Table podcast was correct. Could I have been more nuanced? Certainly. That’s probably true about many of the things I write.
 

Anyway, I bear no ill will toward the pastor who wrote the piece nor toward the signatories. If you are one of those who agreed with my original post I would plead with you to not take up an offense against those brothers. I am not offended. I write and podcast for public consumption. I’m well acquainted with disagreement. When you publish material publicly you have to be prepared for public challenges. Those brothers did nothing wrong in publicly disagreeing with me.
 

I have had a very cordial correspondence with the pastor who took me to task. He is a very kind man and a brother in Christ. I fully expect our correspondence to continue.
 

Fortunately there have been some very helpful critiques of the Truth’s Table podcast. I encourage you to read Rick Phillip’s post at Ref 21 and listen to an extremely helpful podcast from Pastor Jon Payne and Doctor Gabriel Williams.
 

Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Much to the disappointment of many good friends I have made the decision to remove a critique I posted last week of a troubling podcast.

 

I was naive. Actually I feel quite stupid. When I saw the charges of racism being leveled against me just moments ago I decided immediately I would not subject my family or the church I serve to such wickedness.

 

Any of the dozens of pastors I heard from who were deeply troubled by the podcast are certainly welcome to speak out. I will not blame them if they don't.

 

I've never been accused of being a racist before. When you see such a filthy charge in print it is stunning and sickening. I understand why it is such an effective tool to silence dissent.

 

Chalk it up as a learning experience.

 

I should add that neither my MOS co-hosts nor the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals wanted me to remove the post. In fact I feel quite bad for retreating. But I simply cannot subject the people in my life for whom I care so deeply to endure what was becoming an increasingly nasty ordeal.

 

I also want to thank Christina Edmondson with whom I shared a very cordial correspondence. Yesterday I asked Christina if she would be willing to write responses to some specific questions that arose from the Truth's Table podcast. Her responses would have been posted on this blog without any commentary or editing from me. She graciously accepted that invitation. I think it would have been a helpful experience.

 

Posted on Friday, March 17, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I am a convert to Presbyterianism. I came running from the vague and confusing world of broad evangelicalism. For several years prior to my taking vows in the PCA I, like so many of you, read quite a bit about the history of Presbyterianism in the United States. One of the things we know from the history of Presbyterianism and of all Christian denominations is that liberalism comes easy. It seems to be the natural drift of all denominations, seminaries, and churches unless deliberate measures are taken to ensure confessional fidelity. Faithfulness to confessional standards requires effort and discipline.
 

The PCA was formed precisely because the Presbyterian Church (US) had drifted far from Scripture and Reformed confessional standards. Could it be that the PCA is facing in the not too distant future a similar crisis?
 

Don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that the PCA is in the same shape as the PC(US) in the 1960’s and 70’s. That would be an egregious overstatement. The problem however is that denominations, if they act at all against the drift into liberalism, seem to always act too late. I once asked a faculty member at a confessional seminary about a crisis they faced in the recent past. My question was, “How did the conservatives at the seminary allow the place to begin drifting into liberalism?” His answer was illuminating. He said, “Conservatives, in these situations, are always playing catch up because they just assume people will stay true to their vows and not organize to change the institution. By the time the conservatives notice that a serious drift has occurred,” he explained, “it is often too late.”
 

Indeed.
 

I understand that not everyone desires to be a minister in a Christian denomination that holds to the Westminster Standards and Book of Church Order (PCA). I understand that some men want to serve in an Anglican communion. They appreciate the doctrine and practices of Anglicanism. Others desire to hold to the Westminster Standards but they believe that women ought to be ordained to church office. Perhaps they believe it is time for the church to reconsider what it has always believed about homosexuality. What I do not understand is why such brothers took sacred vows to serve in the PCA.
 

If you love Anglicanism by all means be an Anglican. I know some wonderful Anglican brothers and sisters. If you desire to ordain women then transfer to the EPC or RCA. They will happily allow you to do that. But out of respect for the sacred vows you took, your fellow presbyters, and the flock you oversee do not seek to change the PCA into something it is not.
 

I offer these words without tooth or claw. I am not shouting. But I am dismayed. In the nearly four years I have been a Teaching Elder in the PCA I have seen, read, and heard no small measure of sermons, articles, practices, and pleas which directly conflict with our confessional standards (It was acknowledged from the floor of the 2016 General Assembly, from a sympathetic voice, that many of our churches are not in alignment with the BCO regarding women in ministry). I am alarmed by the growing fascination in the PCA with what seems to be a new awakening of the social gospel which has only ever ended in apostasy.
 

Like all of you I desperately desire for the PCA to remain faithful rather than to end up on the garbage heap of protestant liberalism. So let us renew our knowledge of and commitment to the Standards to which we took sacred vows. And if you find that you no longer hold to the Westminster Standards and the Book of Church Order then do the right thing.  
 

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

There is still time to register for the Blue Ridge Bible Conference on March 31-April 1, 2017.

 

It promises to be a wonderful time.

 

The theme is God Has Spoken and our speakers are Greg Beale, Johnathan Master, Carl Trueman, and Aimee Byrd.

 

It is being hosted by Covenant Presbyerian Church in the stunningly beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

 

You can register HERE

 

Schedule

Friday, March 31, 2017
6:00 p.m. Registration
7:00 p.m. The Effects of Meditating on God's Word, Gregory Beale
8:00 p.m. Break
8:15 p.m. The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 1, Jonathan Master

Saturday, April 1, 2017
7:30 a.m. Women's Breakfast: Women, Scripture, and the Covenant Community, Aimee Byrd
9:00 a.m. J. Gresham Machen and the Authority of Scripture, Carl Trueman
10:00 a.m. Break
10:30 a.m. Receiving and Resounding God's Word, Gregory Beale
11:30 a.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m. The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 2, Jonathan Master
2:00 p.m. Question and Answer Session
3:00 p.m. End of Conference
 

Posted on Monday, February 06, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

When you get a chance watch or listen to the lectures from Carl Trueman delivered at The Master's Seminary during this year's January term. You can access the Youtube channel HERE.