Thursday, April 8, 2010

'D' Student Ruling Elders

Pastor Reed DePace has posted an article over at Green Baggins, commenting on Doug Wilson's reference to "C" students grading the work of "A" students (this is in reference to critics of the Federal Vision (the C students) critiquing proponents of the Federal Vision (the A students). I, by no means, wish to enter into that discussion other than to day this: If you are a Ruling Elder who is intimidated by the academic prowess of teaching elders with graduate-level seminary education, then you need to read what TE DePace has to say. Here is a sample, to get you interested:

I want to offer some biblical insights as to why even C students actually do get to grade everybody else’s papers.
  • 1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.
  • Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Hopefully it is relatively clear that the Bible expects Christians to grade each other’s papers. In fact, it wouldn’t be going too far to observe that such exercise of faith is a means God promises the Spirit will grace with insight unto blessing in Christ.

Now, I'm not saying that all Ruling Elders are C students (far from it!), but I am saying that it is easy to be intimidated by "Dr. Theology" when you are "just a C student Ruling Elder" or even "no formal theological training at all Ruling Elder." And Biblically, we have every right to call into question the teachings of our fellow elders, with or without PhDs.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Judge Extends Restraining Order in Erskine Case

Seems like the rumor has been confirmed:

Edited to add: The Aquila Report has also picked up the story now. Read their article here.

Erskine Ruling?

There are rumors going around that the judge has issued a ruling in the temporary restraining order case against the ARP. I have not seen primary sources on this yet, but Pastor Tim Phillips is reporting it, and I trust him. I still want to know details, though. (Google News search turns up nothing, at this time.)

This is disheartening, but we should keep a few things in mind:

1. This is just the latest move in this legal battle. It is not the end.
2. Even if the judge had ruled in favor of the ARP, it would not have been the end of the issue, since the anti-ARP faction has made it clear that no matter what the outcome was in this restraining order case, they were going to push forward (see the "Alumni for Erskine" Facebook group for such statements).
3. We ought to continue praying, as this is far from over.

I will let you know if and when I can find any details about all this. One thing is certain, this year's Synod is sure to be interesting.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Dangerous Trend

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you'll see that I've spent a fair amount of time discussing the ARP/Erskine issue. What I'm about to write is related to that issue, but has much wider application, in my opinion.

First, a little background about myself. I grew up in the Reformed Church, but not the ARP. As a matter of fact, I've only been a member of an ARP congregation for about three years now. I love my church, and I love the ARP. But, I've noticed that there is a tendency in the ARP to boast about how long you've been in the denomination or for how many generations you're family has been in the ARP. Phrases like "I'm a seventh generation ARPer" or "My granddaddy taught at Erskine" have been thrown around a lot during this whole debacle. Even outside observers have noticed it.

To be fair, this isn't a problem unique to the ARP. I've seen it before in local congregations. I've been at congregational business meetings where members of the church have said things like "I built this church with my own hands" or "I am a founding member of this congregation." I'm sure many of you have experienced similar sentiments.

I want to point out exactly how dangerous statements and feelings like this are. First of all, our boasting is supposed to be in Christ, not in our own age/pedigree/heritage. That several generations of one's family have been faithful to a particular denomination or congregation doesn't matter one bit in the grand scheme of things. Do you really think Christ will be interested in what your great-great-grandfather did when He returns in judgment? If not, then why bring it up in a church business meeting, whether it be a congregational meeting, a presbytery, a synod or a general assembly meeting? Is there biblical warrant for it? No, there isn't which means it is irrelevant to the business of the church.

Second, this view seeks to raise up one man over another so to make us respecters of men. To state that your family has been in a denomination for several generations is to implicitly state that your opinion is more valuable than the person who has only recently joined the church/denomination. But, guess what? When it comes time to vote, both men only get one vote. They are equal at the ballot box. Of course, equality at the ballot box should not be our motivation for humility, but it does show just how foolish it is for one man to boast about his heritage when in fact that heritage doesn't matter one bit when it comes time to decide an issue.

Third, this view disenfranchises new-comers and is damaging to the growth of the church. Churches do not (or at least, should not) have different classes of members: old and new (see Luke 22:26 for our Lord's view of age in relation to places of honor). We are all equal in Christ, whether you grew up in the church or whether you are a brand new member. But, new members (or visitors) who come to a church where such attitudes are present will not be welcomed. Even if they are greeted, even if they are invited over for Sunday dinner, even if they end up joining the church, they are not truly considered a part of the church--they never breach that "inner circle". Despite all the outward niceties, when push comes to shove (which regrettably happens all too often in church politics), the true colors will come out, and those who are newer members of the church will be labeled as "newcomers", "carpetbaggers", "those who only want to change they way things have always been." Are such attitudes healthy? Will they encourage the unity of the saints and the growth of Christ's kingdom? Of course they will not. Paul's words to the Church in Philippi apply so well to this situation: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." (Phillippians 2:3)

I'm sure there will be more talk in the ARP about how a particular member, elder, or minister has been in the denomination for generations, and I'm sure we will continue to encounter similar attitudes in our local churches. But, I hope we will all be able to see these attitudes for exactly what they are: boasting, prideful, and lacking the humility that accompanies a servant of Christ.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

ARPTalk Update

APRTalk has posted a new e-mail detailing some more strangeness eminating out of Due West. Apparently, Erskine needs to raise funds for a "legal defense fund" (see Pastor Tim Phillips' comments on that terminology here). What is so interesting is that the Board of Erskine voted to not go through with the lawsuit, and instead it was picked up by individuals who also happen to be associated with Erskine. In other words, Erskine is raising funds to pay for a law suit they are not party to. There's something rotten in Due West, in deed.