Posted on Friday, December 15, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

The first book I read from a Reformed scholar was The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. It was 1987 and I was a student at a Southern Baptist University. I had no idea what Reformed theology was or what Presbyterians believed. I picked up the book because the title struck me. Also, it was relatively brief. The other reason I decided to read The Holiness of God was because I had heard the name of the author on the radio (Christian radio was a constant presence in my home).
 

It was about 10 years later that I listened to a series of lectures by Dr. Sproul entitled “Chosen by God.” By that time I was wrestling with Reformed theology because as a youth pastor I studied and taught the Bible weekly. I was increasingly haunted by the doctrines of grace and the biblical vision of a God who works all things according to the counsel of his will. Here was a God who did not bow to my will but rather decreed all things which come to pass.
 

I did not consider myself “Reformed” or “Calvinistic” until I was the pastor of a church in the Midwest in the early 2000’s. I no longer had to explain away massive portions of Scripture. I was free to read it all and thrill in a God who sits above the heavens and does all that he pleases. You may not understand how revolutionary that was unless you were raised in the sort of tradition that makes the will of man the power to which God must adjust his purposes.
 

Like so many around the world I was caused to be quiet and reflective by the news of Dr. Sproul’s death yesterday, December 14, 2017. There are men whose lives and works have an impact which is hard to quantify. I can say without hesitation that it was The Holiness of God, purchased on a whim, which planted the seeds of my current vocation as a Presbyterian pastor. It is unlikely that there is anyone in the 20th century more responsible than R.C. Sproul for so many embracing the beauties of the Reformed faith.
 

How grateful I am for the life and labors of R.C. Sproul. In every vital matter of evangelical conviction from defending the inerrancy of Scripture, life in the womb, substitutionary atonement, and justification by faith alone, Dr. Sproul was on the leading edge. In these days of fading conviction may God give us many more who will do the same.

 

I would encourage you to watch or listen to the message from Dr. Sproul at the 2008 Together for the Gospel conference. It is entitled The Curse Motif of the Atonement and is the most powerful message I ever heard from Dr. Sproul. More than that, it is one the best proclamations of the atonement I have ever heard from any preacher in any venue. At a time when so many in my denomination are throwing overboard the unfathomable riches of the gospel for horrendous errors like the New Perspective on Paul, this message is medicine strong and sweet.
 

Posted on Monday, November 27, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Mark Jones has written a review of John Frame’s review of James Dolezal’s fine book entitled All That Is In God.

For good reason, Jones is puzzled by some of the statements in Frame’s review. Jones points out the rather uncomfortable fact that some of what Frame writes simply does not make sense. For instance:
 

I may be missing something, but this by Frame makes no sense to me:
 

“But if we say that God only appears to change in these contexts, must we also say that God only appears to enter time, that the Son of God only appeared to become man (that is the textbook definition of Docetism), that he only appeared to die on the cross and rise again?” Frame also says, “Why should we believe literally that God is changeless, but not that God literally became flesh in Jesus?”
 

It seems Frame is putting Dolezal on the horns of a false dilemma. Why can we not, with pretty much every Reformed theologian in the 16th-18th centuries, say that both are true? God does not change in his essence and the Son literally did become flesh. There is essence-appropriate language and persons-appropriate language. These are not mutually exclusive positions, but actually prove that you can hold to divine immutability and also speak of “God” (i.e., the God-man, Jesus Christ) in ways that are truly/literally anthropomorphic.
 

Jones includes this sobering, but I believe, entirely called-for assessment of theology in the 20th century:
 

Theology in the 20th century was, in my estimation, a dunghill upon which there are occasional diamonds peeking out of the manure. Liberalism, Neo-orthodoxy, and a bastardization of Reformed theology have brought us full circle to the problems that plagued the Reformers and their heirs hundreds of years ago.
 

More specifically, the recent ESS/ERAS doctrine is one offspring of this revisionist approach to the doctrine of God, and it is not only a doctrine of God and a Trinitarian error, but also a Christological error. Quite frankly, I don’t care about what consensus someone can build in favor of the ESS theology; it needs to be called out for what it is: a theological aberration where the tail (complementarian fancies) is clearly wagging the dog (the Trinity).
 

Theological mutabilism, as advanced by some, is closer to Socinianism than Reformed orthodoxy. It is hard not to be sympathetic to a large number of Dolezal’s critiques when you consider that many of the theologians he critiques adopt a Socinian method and approach to theology that masquerades under the guise of being biblical.
 

I would be remiss if I did not include Jones’ final statement which left me unsure if I should laugh or cry. So I did a bit of both:
 

In the end, I am glad to see this debate happening. The Reformed Baptists are debating the doctrine of God; the OPC is debating Republicationism; and the PCA is debating the legitimacy of men dancing in tights during a worship service. Well done to all.
 

You can read the entire review HERE.
 

Posted on Sunday, November 26, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).
 

I have noticed a trend which ought to concern any member of a PCA church. There seems to be an increasing number of PCA church plants whose stated definition of the gospel is void of any mention of the cross or atonement. In other words, there seems to be a growing number of PCA churches and/or pastors who do not properly define the gospel.
 

The following example from the front page of a PCA church’s website was sent to me from a concerned member of one of our churches. Notice that they are answering the question, “What is the gospel?”:

What is the Gospel? It is the announcement (literally “good news”) that Jesus’ resurrection was the beginning of salvation for the entire cosmos and will be completed when he returns. God is restoring the peace (shalom) of his creation through the work of Christ and is renewing people, families, neighborhoods, cities and nations, as people trust and follow him.
 

I have read a number of other definitions of the gospel on other PCA church websites that define the gospel in essentially the same way.

 

I have no reason to believe that the writers of statements such as the one above are anything other than fine brothers in Christ. It may be that they are pastors who preach Christ crucified every Lord's Day. I certainly hope that is the case. The fact remains however that the answer given above to the question "What is the gospel?" is so incomplete as to be wrong. It is not possible to explain the gospel without placing Christ's death for sinners at the center.
 

Certainly the resurrection of Jesus is essential to the gospel. If we are not proclaiming Christ as risen then we are not proclaiming the gospel. Jesus’ resurrection is necessary for our salvation. Likewise, it is true that the salvation Jesus accomplished is cosmic in scope. That is, there will be a new heaven and earth in the age to come. Sin has ruined everything so the new creation will include both redeemed persons as well as a redeemed creation. I also understand that it is not possible to include everything about the gospel in a single statement. Certainly a statement that addresses the gospel in all its fullness and implications could not fit in a simple statement.
 

But there is simply no gospel apart from the cross. There is no proper explanation or proclamation of the gospel apart from the fact that “Christ died for our sins.”
 

So how can it be that there are PCA churches which define the gospel in such a way as to leave out the heartbeat of the gospel itself?
 

One of the standard features of progressive or liberal theology is a disdain for the atonement. You will hear talk about the various “theories of the atonement.” It will be said that while some accept the “theory” of penal substitutionary atonement others prefer another theory like Christus Victor. Of course they fail to understand that Christ’s victory is grounded in part in his death as our vicarious substitute; our propitiation.

 

Incidentally, I am making no claim about the intentions of those pastors who neglect to mention the cross or atonement in their definitions of the gospel. They may well be wonderful folks. But if we can't be "sticklers" about getting the gospel right then what are we?
 

So, what are we to think about pastors in the PCA who, when asked to explain the gospel, make no reference to sin, the cross, or the atonement? If it were a one-off we could explain it as a probable oversight; a mental speed bump. But I am concerned that this problem is way beyond anecdote. It seems to be a trend.

 

Posted on Monday, October 23, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

The dreadful condition of the conversation regarding racial reconciliation among evangelicals is a cause for sadness. Within the denomination to which I belong it has become rather toxic. Dissent from the approved narrative is met either with venom or dismissal. For instance I witnessed a black sister in Christ referred to as “ignorant” by a white Teaching Elder because she challenged some of the assumptions of those driving the race conversation in the PCA. As a consequence of this sort of thing many have absented themselves entirely from the conversation. There are some, however, who are still willing to be treated shabbily for suggesting an alternative to that which we are allowed to think and say.
 

Samuel Sey, a brother in Christ who happens to be black wrote a courageous reflection on the state of racial reconciliation among Christians. He concludes his post by writing:

Racial reconciliation happened on the cross when Jesus reconciled Jewish and Gentile sinners to God. Racial reconciliation happened when Jesus made Jews and Gentiles, Black people and White people, and all other racial groups one in himself when he became our representative and identity on the cross. What Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. could not do for Americans, Christ did for the world 2,000 years ago. Jesus has already accomplished racial reconciliation, and it’s even better than we could have ever hoped for. Those of us who trust in him are not merely reconciled to each other, we are also reconciled to God.
 

We should hate injustice, love good, and establish justice. Like William Wilberforce and Francis J. Grimké, we must do whatever is in our capacity to establish justice. However, we must not lose sight of the gospel. Real racial reconciliation isn’t political, it’s theological. We evangelicals are already reconciled to each other in Christ. We just have to remember that and live like it.
 

Our reconciliation to each other will be perfected in Heaven when a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, stand before our Lord Jesus Christ. But until then, we must live in light of our reconciliation to each other in all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Please take time to read the entire piece HERE.
 

 

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a conservative law and order sort of guy. I like the idea of giving police officers the benefit of the doubt. I like it when NFL players stand for the National Anthem.

 

But I also believe that conservatives like myself ought to be intellectually consistent. And I am seeing a lot of inconsistency. I am seeing people who warn about government control and champion free speech applying their principles in ways that seem to be contradictory.

 

The article by Jonathan Last in The Weekly Standard entitled It's Trump vs. the NFL, And We're All Losers is well worth your careful consideration.

 

Posted on Friday, September 08, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I respect many of those who chose to sign the Nashville Statement. Some of them are friends. And, as I have stated before, I am in agreement with the substance of the document.

 

However, any suggestion that those who drafted and/or signed the Nashville Statement are like John the Baptist is, to quote a friend, revolting. The fact is, it would cost me absolutely nothing to sign the Nashville Statement. It costs me nothing in my church or denomination to state publicly (as I do repeatedly) that I uphold biblical sexual ethics and reject any attempt to revise God's design of male and female as the only two available genders. Heck, I'm even on the conservative wing of this whole thing in rejecting the legitimacy of the term "gay (but celebate) Christian." I am troubled by the spiritual friendship movement. I believe we ought to reject the term "sexual orientation" in favor of the more biblical "homosexual desire." And stating all of that will cost me nothing.

 

And this is true for most, if not all, of those who signed the Nashville statement. That is not a criticism. Not everything we do should lead to persecution. But please spare us the self-congratulatory comparisons to actual martyrs. Such comparisons are a mockery of those who actually suffer for their faith in Christ and commitment to God's Word. Honestly, some of these men need to get over themselves and stop boasting as though it is especially courageous to be a conservative pastor or seminary prof in a conservative institution. I am thankful that it will not cost me my job to uphold God's Word regarding human gender and sexuality. But the same cannot be said about some of the men and women I serve as pastor. Pastors like me would do well to give thanks for the covering from which we benefit and go about serving those who will indeed pay a price.

 

 

Posted on Friday, September 08, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

Just as we predicted on the podcast, signing the Nashville Statement has become a measure of one’s commitment to biblical sexual ethics and gender distinctions. These sorts of things are inevitable. One group drafts a statement and opens it up to signatures with all the right people and influencers signing gladly. Suddenly those who do not sign are immediately suspected of going all squishy on the truth. And almost like a reflex action the very thing has happened on social media regarding the Nashville Statement.
 

The whole thing reminds me of a scene from Seinfeld:
 

I suppose I understand why many Baptists believe in the necessity of such statements since they have not taken vows to uphold an historic confession of faith (excepting our Reformed Baptist friends). But Presbyterians should know better. We are supposed to take seriously the admonition against binding another’s conscience. Presbyterians also ought to understand why a fellow Presbyterian would not feel comfortable signing a non-ecclesiastical document such as the Nashville Statement. Bottom line: there are a whole host of reasons why someone who affirms the substance of the Nashville Statement would choose not to sign. And to call into question someone’s commitment to the truth because they did not sign is rather detestable.

 

There are three primary reasons why I am not comfortable adding my signature to the Nashville Statement:

 

1. It is a product of CBMW.

Why would I sign a document produced by an organization which has embraced Trinitarian error (the eternal subordination of the Son)?

 

2. It is not particularly useful.

I agree with the theses of the Nashville Statement. But because it is devoid of any substantive development of those theses wherein they are grounded in the biblical doctrines of creation and humanity I don’t see how it can be useful except for those who already believe. In other words, I could not give that statement to any of the university students in my community and expect it to actually assist them if they are skeptics. For the purposes of actually instructing, a document like that produced by the RPCNA is much more useful.

 

3. It is not necessary.

My views on biblical sexual ethics and gender are quite clear. I have a long paper trail and my sermons and podcasts are easily accessed online. Plus I have taken sacred vows to believe and teach according to the Westminster Standards. Given my first two issues the third naturally follows.

 

Posted on Thursday, September 07, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I had a few spare minutes so I thought I’d ask…
 

Are the Presbyterian members of The Gospel Coalition Board bothered at all by the fact that TGC’s website employs images of Christ? As Presbyterians they have taken sacred vows to uphold and teach according to the Westminster Standards. If you are not Presbyterian, the Westminster Standards are quite clear that the 2nd Commandment ought to be honored along with all of God’s moral law. So I would be curious to know if they feel conflicted at all to serve on the board of a ministry which holds very different convictions concerning the 2nd Commandment.

 

I'm not trying to be a pest. I understand that there are some differing opinions among the Reformed which allow, under certain circumstances, for the use of images of Christ for strictly pedagogical purposes. But if any of TGC's Presbyterian members hold the more restrictive view I wonder how they navigate the ministry's use of images.

 

Just wondering.

 

Posted on Tuesday, September 05, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On October 12-15 Midway Presbyterian Church in Powder Springs, GA will be hosting the Reformation Worship Conference.
 

It promises to be an excellent time of instruction and fellowship. Among the impressive lineup of speakers are Drs. Robert Godfrey, Carl Trueman, Terry Johnson, and T. David Gordon.
 

You may register HERE.

 

Posted on Sunday, September 03, 2017 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

I was happy to pass along some links to African American voices we ought to be hearing. But because they will sometimes ask inconvenient questions or come to conclusions not sanctioned by the elites they are slandered and ignored.

 

The voices of these men and women have become all the more important as the sanctioned voices on the subject of race are now openly challenging (denying?) talk of racial reconciliation. One prominent voice in the PCA is now holding forth the liberation theologian James Cone as a voice worth following. It seems someone recently tried to warn about encroaching liberation theolgy in the PCA only to be mocked and called a racist. But I digress.

 

There is a better way to talk about race than what we are being treated to in the currently approved narrative by the currently approved spokespersons. Randy Nabors, no stranger to the effort at racial reconciliation, has written a measured, gracious, and helpful piece wherein he holds out hope that racial reconciliation will not be replaced by reckless condemnations of white supremacy. His is one of those better voices. May the influence of Mr. Nabors and those like him grow and the voices of division and accusation either repent or fade away.