An Objectionable Invitation: An Open Letter to My Southern Baptist Family

February 4, 2015

Robert Hutchinson | Pastor
Faith Baptist Church, Harrisonville, MO

Dear Southern Baptist Family:

Do Southern Baptists still believe that congregational governance is both biblical and God-ordained?  If we do, why would we invite to the Southern Baptist Convention Pastor’s Conference a speaker who has come to the irreversible conclusion that “congregational government is an invention and tool of the enemy of our souls to destroy the church of Jesus Christ”?

James MacDonald literally believes that Satan invented congregational governance for the purpose of destroying the church.  And yet, for the last two years, he has been invited to speak at the SBC Pastor’s Conference.

Notice, MacDonald doesn’t simply believe that congregational government can be abused and used in ways displeasing to the Lord, nor does he believe it is merely a poor form of government that Jesus can still use to accomplish His purposes.  MacDonald is of the firm and irreversible belief that the Devil invented congregational governance and that he invented it in order to destroy the church.

When it comes to church governance, the practical conclusion of such a view is that you and I, wittingly or unwittingly, have submitted ourselves and continue to submit ourselves to the will of Satan.  Obviously, therefore, the only way to break free from Lucifer’s destructive grip is to do as MacDonald declares and “send congregational governance back to hell where it came from.”

Let me be clear, as offensive as MacDonald’s words are they are not what I find most offensive.  It’s MacDonald’s prerogative to say what he believes.  Rather, I am hurt and astonished that someone who believes such a thing would be extended an invitation to speak at a Southern Baptist event – unless, of course, we no longer believe that congregational governance is both biblical and God-ordained.

Here’s what I’m asking for us to do:  If you find MacDonald’s invitation objectionable, take a few minutes to forward this letter to the officers of the SBC Pastor’s Conference with a gracious request that they reconsider prayerfully the decision to extend MacDonald an invitation to speak at this year’s conference.

Brother William Rice, President: Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Clearwater, FL wrice@calvarybaptist.org

Brother Jeremy Westbrook, Vice-President:  Pastor, Living Hope Church, Marysville, OH jeremy.westbrook.email

Brother Drew Landry, Treasurer : Pastor, Spotswood Baptist Church, Fredericksburg, VA dlandry@spotswood.org

Now, may you, Lord, continue to bless this peculiar people called Southern Baptists, and may You grant us the needed grace and strength to persevere in our efforts to cooperate one with another for the edification of Your church and the advancement of Your gospel throughout the whole world.

Sincerely,

 

Brother Robert Hutchinson
Pastor, Faith Baptist Church of Harrisonville, Missouri
hutchinsonrd@gmail.com

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Rick Patrick

Robert,

Thank you for being the voice of reason. Congregational polity fits well within the boundaries of our Baptist Faith and Message: “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons.” By reckoning congregational polity as Satanic in origin, is MacDonald not attributing to Satan that which God has graciously provided? How far away from blasphemy is it to say that something comes from Satan when it really comes from God?

It should be pointed out that James MacDonald is not a Southern Baptist at all. One might wonder how he gets invited to Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conferences. The answer is easy. He is a former member of the board at The Gospel Coalition, the de facto leadership screening organization for Southern Baptists. As I seek to remind people regularly, on the day Russell Moore took over the ERLC he hired 5 people. Two of them were Southern Baptists, but all five of them were Gospel Coalitionists. (MacDonald has since resigned from The Gospel Coalition, but he affiliates with the crowd.)

It should also be pointed out that MacDonald joined other non-Southern Baptists on the leadership team for The Gospel Project, a Lifeway curriculum whose leaders and writers included not only MacDonald, but also D.A. Carson, founder of the Gospel Coalition, and Jared Wilson, who was also hired at a Southern Baptist institution even though he was not a Southern Baptist on the date of his hire. At least he was active in the Gospel Coalition, which is what really matters.

I am tempted to say that the only way to stop The Gospel Coalition from its leadership and doctrinal encroachment in Southern Baptist life would be to encroach TGC ourselves with traditional Southern Baptists and seek to turn it in another direction. Alas, that will not work, for TGC possesses a doctrinal statement that excludes us. They can infiltrate the SBC and turn us toward Calvinism, but we cannot infiltrate them and turn them toward Traditionalism.

Somehow, we must say, “Enough is enough!” Your letter does exactly that. If a man, who is not even a Southern Baptist, says our prevailing ecclesiology is from Satan, I don’t believe he has earned an audience at our Pastor’s Conference.

lydia

McDonalds view that only a few specially anointed ones can run and control the Body is best understood by reading “the elephant debt” site.

Joe Blackmon

I actually heard him, a recording, speaking at a men’s conference where he used profanity. Specifically, he talked about complaining but the word he used is one a person could use to describe a female dog. However, with the SBC having folks like Russ Moore at the ELRC and The Holy Brother Reverend Doctor Stetzer at Lifeway being paid salaries by Southern Baptists i the pews who sacrifice to give to the word of God I don’t suppose I should be surprised.

Max

Should any non-Southern Baptist be invited to speak at the Pastor’s Conference … let alone someone as controversial as James MacDonald? I realize that the greater body of Christ has a lot to offer Southern Baptists – we certainly don’t have a corner on the truth. But non-SBC folks as controversial as James MacDonald should be passed over when speaking spots are parceled out. However, MacDonald did have enough sense to bail out of Mark Driscoll’s accountability board before Driscoll and Mars Hill imploded. Before you know it, LifeWay will probably name James MacDonald to its advisory team for The Gospel Project … oh, wait a minute, he’s already a member of that crew.

Having said all that, congregational governance does have a few problems. SBC business meetings, using such church polity, are notorious for fussing and fighting over issues ranging from color of the carpet to color of the preacher. I’ve been in meetings that appeared to have been birthed in hell. After one particularly hot one, I heard a wise old man say “That’s the reason you don’t give the devil the microphone.” As long as we have nonspiritual folks in our congregations, we will experience flesh in all its glory. On the other hand “elder rule” has its problems, too. For the life of me, I don’t understand why we just can’t get along!

    Bill Mac

    I think dis-inviting someone who hates congregationalism is reasonable. However I think we’re possibly a bit hypocritical in our alleged love for congregationalism while at the same time being enamored of mega-churches and mega-church leaders. Is their form of congregational polity anything more than lip service? How much say does the man or woman in the pew have over how a mega-church operates? Suppose the man or woman in the pew feels like the pastor spends too much time running around the country to conferences, or on book tours? What can they do? Bring it up at the monthly business meeting?

      Max

      Agreed. You won’t find me a mega, multi-site fan. Give me those little churches where the pastor loves the Lord and the folks he has been entrusted with, stays home to tend the flock, knows and is known, authentic and approachable. The Lord has a way of sorting mega and mini out … the first will be the last; the last will be first. Balancing mega demands with pastoral responsibilities can be a challenge I suppose – depends upon the man. My mother was a member of Bellevue Baptist Church during Adrian Rogers’ ministry. With 25,000+ members, he still managed to make his hospital and nursing home rounds – he prayed with my mother during her hospital stays. He was the real deal when he spoke at the Pastor’s Conference.

      Andy

      To play devil’s advocate…what would you suggest to a church that finds itself growing rapidly? It seems that in such situations, shifting much of the decision making processes away from full congregation vote toward some kind of leadership team makes a lot of sense.

      For example, the church I serve recently voted to spend the money to replace the carpet in a certain hall-way. If our church had 1,000, or 2,000 people, voting on such issues would not seem to make as much sense…were I a member of such a large church, I would not care about voting on such things. Appoint a few people to oversee building maintenance and let them decide what to do.

        Lydia

        “To play devil’s advocate…what would you suggest to a church that finds itself growing rapidly? It seems that in such situations, shifting much of the decision making processes away from full congregation vote toward some kind of leadership team makes a lot of sense.”

        we could start with teaching people not to check their brains at the door of the church. Seems we have a generation or two who do this very thing. It is all over our culture. We check our brains concerning government taking care of us and check our brains concerning church budgets, etc. This is not the SBC I grew up in at all. The amount of people who were not interested in the budget at church when I was growing up was very small. There was accountability and everyone’s input valued including the consistent jerks. The making sausage aspect of how our government is to function is (was intended) a safety feature. It is a good feature for the running of a church institution, too. Every budget items should be transparent and discussed in a public meeting for those interested. Let the SBC start to once again teach those in the Body their responsibility to one another. Never assume a few heads at the top are wise. Never.

        I find it all very problematic. And it will eventually produce more and more “dones” but leave the lemmings in place. We should be “training” people in soul competency and the priesthood.

        I have a “carpet” story that would blow your mind as much as it blew 300,000 in one week because only a few people were making the decision in a mega church.

          Max

          “Never assume a few heads at the top are wise. Never.”

          Amen! Christendom is littered with ministries that went South for one reason or another due to poor decisions and/or sinful actions by a few folks at the top. Their congregations became innocent victims when the hammer fell – happened at a mega church near me recently. The church body loses an important accountability tool when congregational polity is abandoned. On a related note, SBC church plants in my area are all “elder led” with young pastors and “elders” in their 30s. I realize age doesn’t necessarily equal wisdom, but it helps.

          “We should be “training” people in soul competency and the priesthood.”

          My dear Lydia you are dating yourself! I, too, am old enough to remember when doctrines of soul competency and priesthood of the believer were standard fare at SBC churches. It seems that those long-held SBC doctrines were diminished in importance at about the time of the BFM2000 revision. These truths are important underpinnings to congregational governance … they carry with them the understanding that God’s people can be individually led by the Holy Spirit when it comes to the affairs of the church.

            lydia

            Max, it is a huge problem which is being modeled for the children at church. they are literally being taught not to think, not to grow in wisdom and see that even though adults disagree a lot they can work things out. some might even get mad and leave. That is reality. Not something to hide to present a false image. (when all this stuff is hidden we know it gets talked about anyway)

            it almost seems the goal today is to present a phony united front of platitudes.

            it is called the Body for a reason. If it is a true Body, the eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of you.

        Les Prouty

        Lydia,

        Many mega churches are indeed problematic. At the end of the day the people who are “following” those leaders who bilk the budgets and cloak everything in secrecy have the responsibility to say “enough!”

        But, using my church as an example (elder ruled and governed as I described above), ANY member may ask for and be shown the budget, elder meeting minutes, etc. Anyone who wants to know who makes how much can see it. In fact, any member may attend the monthly elder meetings. And sometimes some do.

        I agree there needs to be accountability. Our US system of government (a representative constitutional democratic republic) functions far from perfectly for sure. But the structure with checks and balances is not the problem. There are recourses to deal with problem reps and senators. And we citizens don’t get to vote on everything. That’s why we elect representatives. A pure democracy where we get to vote on every single expenditure or law is not the answer. Neither is pure democracy in a congregation the answer. 51% rules. That’s probably alright if you agree with what the 51% vote for or against. But what if you’re of the 49%?

          lydia

          “Neither is pure democracy in a congregation the answer. 51% rules. That’s probably alright if you agree with what the 51% vote for or against. But what if you’re of the 49%?”

          Corporate wisdom because believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. that does not mean it does not get messy and complicated. I also do not know why believers are so scared to have it out on issues. we can all grow and mature from those experiences.

          the other problem with your structure is it does not teach the children growing up in that structure to be involved and responsible. They have ‘ruling elders’ to look to. of course there will be a few children who want to grow up to be ruling elders. To me, the focus is all wrong. it is a great structure for a church state. Fits perfectly.

            lydia

            Back to the point of the post….. McDonald’s disdain for congregational polity can be seen clearly at the elephant debt site. I cannot remember the figure but his polity structure landed that church in either 65 or 85 million in debt while he lives like a pasha. With a few ruling elders making the decisions.

            Why do so many people check their brains at the door? Cult of personality?

            The bigger question is why does the SBC have leaders who think he is a good role model for SBC pastors?

              Lydia

              http://theelephantsdebt.com/2013/10/18/world-magazine-reports-on-jerry-jenkins-gambling-with-james-macdonald-and-connects-this-story-to-the-elephants-debt/

              http://theelephantsdebt.com/2012/11/07/recent-developments-7-november-2012/

              Another reason we should be alarmed at SBC leadership inviting James McDonald? Gambling? Are we helping James McDonald prop up his image as we did with CJ Mahaney?

              Max

              “The bigger question is why does the SBC have leaders who think he is a good role model for SBC pastors?”

              Scary isn’t it?! I assume it has something to do with MacDonald being a leading “infuencer” in the New Calvinist movement. You may recall that some of our seminaries had another role model, potty-mouth Mark Driscoll, on stage in the recent pastI Driscoll’s Acts 29 network (before he was kicked out of it) is/was considered as a model church planting how-to for NAMB church plants. With most SBC entities now under Calvinist leadership, I figure we will have to put up with such speaker choices at SBC venues for the foreseeable future. They tell us that traditional Baptists have something to learn from them, so we should be more open-minded … which gets me back to soul competency and priesthood of the believer.

            Les Prouty

            Lydia,

            “the other problem with your structure is it does not teach the children growing up in that structure to be involved and responsible.”

            Except it does. Children are definitely involved. Now in most cases children who are communicant members do not vote (yes, we have congregational votes), but that’s true in many if not most congregational churches. Usually believing 8 year olds (yes indwell by the Holy Spirit) do not yet possess the wisdom to be voting on all manner of church business.

            “it is a great structure for a church state. Fits perfectly.” Except it doesn’t. Have any presbyterian church denominations taken over the US say…in the last 200 plus years?

              Lydia

              Les,

              “Ruling elders” get to decide on what the pew peasants get to vote on, so it is a moot point. I was not talking about children voting. Nice try. I was talking about the overall culture and what it communicates to children. I want my kids to snicker when they hear the term “ruling elder” in the Body of Christ -hopefully thinking it mere self aggrandizement.

              “it is a great structure for a church state. Fits perfectly.” Except it doesn’t. Have any presbyterian church denominations taken over the US say…in the last 200 plus years?”

              It is against the Constitution. But not sure what it would be like if Puritan style polity with ruling elders stayed legal. I would most likely be banished or worse. :o) I try to imagine someone like Piper with ruling legal power and I shudder. Have you read some of his bizarro world tweets?

                andy

                “I try to imagine someone like Piper with ruling legal power and I shudder.”

                If you must bring John Piper into this, you should be aware that one of the early things he did at his church was to make sure his vote didn’t count any more than any of the other elders…as the church grew, that mean one vote out of 40 or more…They could easily over-rule something he might have argued for…and it has happened on several occasions.

                (and no, I’m not on twitter).

                  Lydia

                  Andy, You should know I have family members who went to work for and study under Piper after Wheaton for quite a while years back. They came back as arrogant indoctrinated zombies who claimed none of us knew the true Gospel including their grandmother who spent her life ministering in inner city churches.. So please, we have been treated to lecture after lecture on “Pipers” church and doctrine. And guess what? I was shocked to see the same Piperish stuff they spouted all over the SBC now.

                  One Piper devotee who lied about being a Calvinist sent out a mass email a few weeks ago (a friend sent it to me as her church has been taken over) teaching that members in that church who were dying of cancer needed to understand that God orchestrated all of for His glory. That, my friend, is Piper in a nutshell. It blasphemes God.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Lydia: I don’t follow Piper’s twitter feed but I noticed a few things coming through as retweets regarding this the other day. Seems disease is a way of teaching us just what sin is like! I’m not sure if these tweets are old or new. Personally I don’t like dragging old stuff up on twitter but I guess if it becomes current in somebody’s life then they’re going to react to it.

                    At best it’s insensitive, at worse it’s as you say; simply down right wrong and approaching blasphemous. I think God’s used to it though. He seems to be a convenient scapegoat for the ills of the world. I guess nothing much has changed in 2000+ years!

                    Lydia

                    Andrew, I don’t follow his twitter, either. It is just that bizarre , vague and strange tweets of his are being analyzed on some blogs. Here are a few:

                    Piper: “The ugliness and desperation of every disease is meant by God to show us the ugliness and desperation of our sin.” #DGPasCon

                    Piper: “God never sins, and he plans and governs all human behavior, including the murder of Jesus for our sake.” #DGPasCon

                    Piper: “Sinning is any feeling or thought or speech or action from a heart that prefers anything to
                    God” #DPGpascon

                    Andy

                    Lydia, I’m sorry to hear that… here’s a few thoughts (sorry for the numbers, it helps me organize my thoughts)

                    1. Piper’s, and other calvinists’, tendency to write off non-calvinists as not knowing, or being committed to the bible, or the gospel, is indeed likely their greatest flaw. I have also heard of many others who have been blessed by some of piper teaching and gone on to lives of great self-sacrifice in missionary service. I myself will not try to defend everything Piper does. I believe he genuinely loves Jesus, does not seek material wealth, and simply too caught up on some secondary doctrinal issues.

                    2. For you and Andrew both, I’m curious… if a Christian gets cancer, or some other illness like it, Who, or what force, do you believe made that person get cancer, but not their friend? Are you saying God has no control over such things? If God does not determine who gets cancer and who doesn’t, who is well-fed and who goes hungry, who gets hit by a tornado and who doesn’t, etc…who does? Did God build chance into the world?

                    Max

                    “They came back as arrogant indoctrinated zombies who claimed none of us knew the true Gospel including their grandmother who spent her life ministering in inner city churches.”

                    Lydia, the indoctrinated and those who indoctrinate – including most of today’s pulpit elite, intellectual academics and blog scholars – will never understand what you know in your knower. It’s over their heads.

                  Andrew Barker

                  Andy: So many questions … which ones to answer? There is no straight answer, but I believe that disease, disaster and death are all as a result of sin. My sin, your sin, other people’s sin, it matters not. I do not accept that God is in any way the author of sin. Jesus Christ was sent to “destroy the works of the evil one” and it was “the devil who sinned from the beginning.” (1John 3)

                  I see no need to invoke this deterministic micro management of the universe by God which seems so prevalent in Reformed/Calvinistic thinking, otherwise “he’s not sovereign”! I find it rather naive the way Reformed folks explain life in terms of God’s sovereignty. Try hitting your head against a brick wall and see if it doesn’t hurt! Of course, you would need to be ‘determined’ to be that stupid, but hey …. it may finally sink in :)

                    andy

                    I agree that it is the result of sin…but you did not answer the question…Man sinned, and God cursed the earth, causing things like tornados and cancer…but what determines that one Godly person gets cancer while their pagan neighbor does not…that one family is hit by a tornado and another is not…that’s my question. We know from Jesus’ own answer that its NOT because one was a worse sinner.

                    Lydia

                    Andy, If I take your view to its logical conclusion that God gives us cancer then it would be wrong to seek treatment. But then that is not what you are really saying is it? It is presented as: God is Sovereign over cancer. A bit more tricky but communicates the same thing, really. It all goes back to God actively controlling every molecule. Including babies dying of cancer. (yes, it happens)

                    The determinist could say that God gave the cancer then decided there would be treatments and cures for some of it… eventually. He decides which ones, how much, whether the government will fund research for this cure or that. And then, to complicate matters, He decides who has the wealth to access the best doctors. If Obamacare gets it way then God will be in control of which doctor you are assigned not the government because He already controlled government health care. So George Soros gets the best care because God is controlling it. That is the logical conclusion of determinism. It is enough to make some folks atheists. That is pretty much how Thomas Paine saw it: A cruel God makes a cruel man. He grew up around the cruel God paradigm and ended up believing that man has the ability to govern himself. Too bad that he was not taught that God actually agreed with him.

                    Do you see the “going down mad row” problem of taking determinism to its logical conclusions? And that is not even the half of it! It is a culture of helplessness, hopelessness and death. But the ones actively promoting this thinking about God actually think they are glorifying Him when the truth is they are doing the opposite.

                    An old Rabbi I had the opportunity to talk with told me that we tend to misunderstand the 3rd Commandment. He said it also included attributing things to God that are NOT from God. That is taking His name in vain. So it is serious stuff to attribute evil to God. Yes, God could wipe it all out now but He wants a love relationship not dictatorial control. The sad part is we tend to ignore the redemptive aspects of Jesus
                    Christ when it comes to these issues and instead focus on God controlling evil.

                    The problem of evil is a big one. For some reason it is thought wrong to attribrute evil to free will..free will of fallen angels at one time and continued free will of human beings. . It is also thought wrong to believe that God created beings with intricate brains that could find cures for evil in disease. Or that these human brains could invent buildings to withstand the earthquakes to save lives.

                    (I am of the school of thought that centuries of determinism and power politics of the state church actually set humanity back in the quest for cures, science, etc. Freedom brought a totally different paradigm and knowledge grew exponetially in a short 200 years. And we all know that with freedom comes the bad stuff and freedom for the good stuff. A constant tension of wisdom/ignorance, good/evil.)

                    I say let’s get busy encouraging our youth to go down those sorts of roads to glorify God. The roads of seeking cures, alleviating the inevitable suffering, etc. Let us use HIS “glorious” gifts to allievate suffering and find cures. Let’s stop giving God the credit for cancer. Cancer is evil and evil plagues both the just and unjust. Perhaps God is wants us to show some wisdom on the matter?

                  Andrew Barker

                  Andy: The Godly versus the pagan conundrum! The tongue in cheek answer is that no such distinction exists! Psalm 53 There is no one who does good ;-) so your question never arises!

                  The real answer runs along the lines of that’s life, deal with it. Scripture indicates that life is not ‘fair’ as such but that good and bad things happen to saints and sinners alike. My primary school teacher taught us a rhyme “God makes the sun and rain to shine upon the just and unjust fella, but more upon the just …because the unjust stole the just’s umbrella”. Seems she knew more than some theologians do.

                  God may use natural events to bring about his purposes, but that’s a far cry from saying that God determines every thing which happens, including the evil, in this world. I would go so far as to say that believing God brings evil is part of the devil’s strategy to discredit God. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. That was an evil act, but God used it to bring about good. But it was not God who ‘determined’ his brothers to sell him. They were responsible for their own actions.

                  Rom 8:28 confirms that God is able to take the good and the bad things ref vs 18 (ALL) and make them work together for good. It doesn’t say God causes evil and suffering and then uses it to bring about good. Does it!? There was a train of thought in Paul’s day which said “why not do evil that grace may abound”. Paul was also accused of saying “let us do evil that good may come” Rom 3:8. Paul’s assessment on this was that it was slanderous talk! So next time you hear Piper gushingly say eg that …. “Is God less glorious because he ordained that evil be?” is no, just the opposite. God is more glorious for having conceived and created and governed a world like this with all its evil.” …. just do yourself a favour and remember what Paul said!

                    Andy Williams

                    Andrew & Lydia, Thanks for the responses, but you are both avoiding the question by focusing on side issues. Godly vs. pagan is a side issue, the question is the same if both were pagans, or both were saints.
                    Relating who gets cancer to the debate of God causing sin is also a side issue…because I have not said God causes sin…the issue is now that the curse is here, including cancer, then what?

                    The tornado question will perhaps bring more clarity than the cancer question:

                    GIVEN: God created the world good without sin, without tornados, perfect.
                    GIVEN: Mankind sinned, bringing the curse of God…Now we have tornados.
                    THE MAIN QUESTION: Does God maintain control over who gets hit by a tornado, and who doesn’t? Or did he, thousands of years ago, introduce chaos and chance into the world such that a tornado truly is random, driven by complex weather situations that God introduced as a part of the curse, but now does not guide. (UNLESS, he in is foreknowledge decides to spare someone who would have otherwise been hit by a tornado that was driven by those chance forces of nature.)

                  Andrew Barker

                  Andy Williams: You seem good at asking questions but you’re being a bit cagey and not answering anything yourself. Are you suggesting that in God’s foreknowledge, he works out in advance who is going to be hit by a tornado ‘X’ 000 years later!? Additionally, does God exercise this kind of control over just nature, or do you include us with it?

              Les Prouty

              Lydia,

              My bad. I thought you were really talking about children.

              1 Tim. 5:17 says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” And you want to teach your children to snicker at that? Well they are your children.

              As for Piper, I don’t follow him on Twitter (or if I do I don’t ever read it. I read very little on Twitter. And I’ve read some of Piper’s stuff over the years, but probably not in 4-5 years.

                Lydia

                Les,

                I would translate proest?tes much differently. I see it as “going before–as in being a model” . As in elders (the spiritually mature) are fed to the lions first so the others can get away.There is no “ruling” to it or we would have to choose Pauls over Jesus’ words. So we must be misinterpreting Paul. There is no way around that. Unless of course you are making the benevolent dictator argument. :o)

                So yes,. I would hope my children grow up to understand that anyone in the Body who allows themselves to be called a “ruling elder” should not be taken too seriously.

                Were you expecting “double honor”?

                  andy

                  1. What do you do with Hebrews 13:17? (submitting to those who watch over your souls)?

                  2. Are you saying that the word Elders in scripture ONLY describes spiritually mature Christians? Not recognized leaders of any sort?

                  3. So you’re saying that it’s somehow completely inappropriate for a church, desiring to use biblical language to describe their polity…to take the most common, widely used translation of Proestotes (RULE), and the biblical word ELDER, to describe their pastors? And that that for their desire to be biblical in their descriptions, we should laugh at them?

                    Lydia

                    Andy, I would recommend doing an exhaustive word study on Hebrews 13:17. Then you can explain why the exact same Greek words were translated differently in other passages. (This was CJ’s Mahaney’s favorite verse when he had his SGM empire)

                    Do you think the verse in the way it is written applies to Joel Osteen? How about Jimmy Swaggart? Mark Driscoll loved it, too. TD Jakes?

                    Keep in mind the hearers of this letter knew who the author was referring to as leaders and was encouraging them to listen to them. Are you saying this is a blanket law for everyone who has a Christianese title conferred upon them?

                    Here is a better translation based upon how the exact same Greek words were used in other passages:

                    “Trust them that are your leaders and be yielding: for they watch in behalf of your souls….”

                    We are also allowed to use common sense. For example, you think Diotrephese was able to get ahold of this passage and use it on his followers as a command? :o)

                    There are plenty of passages that would actually negate this one in the way it is translated.. Many from Jesus’ own mouth.

                    So anyone who trots it out to prop themselves up is suspect in my view.

                  Les Prouty

                  Andy,

                  I think what happens sometimes is that people allow their experiences to cloud how the plain reading of the texts read. Also, real or perceived abuses of certain matters cause them to look hard for a way around the plain reading.

                  In this case, Lydia may fall into that category. She wouldn’t be the first. There seems to be a segment in the church who essentially see pastors/elders as just one of the people who happens to be the one delivering a lesson each week. They see essentially no positional authority for the pastor/elder. They see no case where people should submit to the pastor/elder. It’s a misunderstanding of the priesthood of the believer. And this idea is usually because of real abuses by some and then those real abuses of pastoral authority and leadership are projected on all pastors/elders.

                  Then often, well almost exclusively, this notion is heaped on Calvinists. It’s the Calvinists who thirst for power and control. It’s the Calvinists who are compared to the Islamic state or a communist state. They say that these things are inherent in Calvinism and the only thing holding them back is laws against Calvinists taking over the state. Left out are the many non Calvinist SBC churches that are led by strong leaders who operate as leaders in virtual secrecy from the “peasants” as the congregants are often referred to by Lydia. I dare say there are many more non Calvinist churches operating in the ways she decries than Calvinist churches.

                  So their perceptions are their reality. That’s why IMO they have to do all sorts of gyrations with passages such as in 1 Tim. 5 and Hebrews 13.

                    Lydia

                    “They see essentially no positional authority for the pastor/elder. ”

                    That would be correct. John Calvin had “positional authority”. TD Jakes has “positional authority”. Felix Manz had no “positional authority” yet he influenced many people by his actions/words.. As did Castillio. And there are plenty of non Calvinists who thirst for “positional authority”. It is a huge sin trap for those who believe in such things and strive for “positional authority” over others..

                    I think NT scripture makes the case that believers submit to one another. What you see as positions of “authority”, I see as gifting’s/functions within the Body of Christ. It was a whole different ballgame to be an “elder” in the 1st Century + Body of Christ. They were getting it from both sides of the equation. From the Jews and the Pagans. The elders (spiritually mature) would be fed to the lions first in that equation. Today, they bask in their “positional authority”.

                    Is there a minister/laity distinction in the NT Body of Christ? If so, why are we all priests in the Royal Priesthood? Why do all believers have access to “anointing”? What you call positional authority, I call gifting/functions in the Body. However, there ARE “Nicolaitans”,( “conquerors of the people””. But it is not a good thing to be. :o)

                    Why would anyone in the Body want positional authority? How about striving for spiritual influence, instead?

                Les Prouty

                Lydia,

                I would be surprised is you said you *didn’t* translate it differently. Lexicons, smexions. Who needs definitions. But really you seem to think that an elder “ruing” is dictatorial over and against one who would lay down his life for the congregants. I suspect you don’t know very many ruling elders in the PCA. It’s not Paul vs Jesus. The same Spirit inspired the writings of each of their teachings.

                “There is no way around that.” Well actually here is. It’s called sound hermeneutics and lexical work.

                “Were you expecting “double honor”?”

                Well yeah! Of course.

                  Lydia

                  ” would be surprised is you said you *didn’t* translate it differently. Lexicons, smexions.”

                  Actually, it was quite an exhaustive study over a long period of time using quite a few sources including Lexicons.

                  ” I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. 1 John

                  But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20: 20-28

                  Servant ruler? I think not.

                  There are many many more that communicate similar….including the fact that most letters were written to the entire church and not specific elders who were to implement the contents and be obeyed by their followers. An elder would “model” not rule. But that would be even harder for a Calvinist since they are “unable”.

Wayne

Still not convinced one can defend congregational rule calling our Bible as the only witness.

    Andy

    Defend conclusively to the exclusion of all others, perhaps not…but it does seem there were some things in the NT that were to handled by “the church,” or “the whole congregation” The choosing of deacons in Acts 6 especially comes to mind, as does Jesus’ instructions in matters of offense to “tell it to the church.” I’m content to say that congregational rule cannot be disproven by scripture…ie, cannot be said to be in sinful violation of scripture. Conversly, Elder-rule also cannot be dis-proven, as it seems part of the Elder Timothy’s role was to appoint more elders. Of course this is example only. It never says that a church that has no elders cannot appoint some itself. It would seem from the whole of the NT that some combination of Elder/Congregational rule likely would fit closely.

    At our church, we would call it “Elder Led, congregationally governed.” In other words, the congregation appoints (ordains, hires, chooses, etc) Pastors…those pastors then have some freedom to lead as they see fit…recognizing they are accountable to the congregation who can remove them from office…and also who can, in fact, simply choose to not follow the pastors lead on a certain issue while retaining the pastor himself. Ie, Our church votes on a yearly budget. The pastors have occasionally made recommendations of re-allocations of funds for various missions…the church can agree with those, reject them, or most likely, make some edits in a business meeting and then vote to pass a budget. The same can happen with church discipline…pastors may recommend that “John Doe” be removed from membership, but the church must take the action.

    I heard of a sister SBC church in which the new pastors re-wrote the church constitution to the effect that only the other Elders can instate or remove an Elder from office. I don’t think that is very wise.

      Les Prouty

      Andy, I think you’re right here. It is impossible, IMO, to exactly prove or disprove congregational or presbyterian forms of government. I think it comes down to using scripture to do one’s best to determine which is best and recognize that there will be variations in each form.

      I will say that the PCA, for example, is elder ruled. The PCA has teaching elders (TE) and ruling elders (RE). TEs are ordained ministers and REs are laymen called to be an elder and thus ordained to the office. When elected to serve, TEs and REs make up what the PCA calls the Session. The session governs many if not most things. Besides shepherding, the session makes many decisions on behalf of the congregation…much like our USA representative form of government. A decision to have a children’s church, for instance, is decided by the session. The Sunday school classes and what they teach, curriculum, etc. is decided by the session.

      But, the calling of a pastor (or assistant pastor) is voted on by the congregation. The forming and makeup of a pastor search is decided by the congregation. The election of elders and deacons is decided by the congregation by vote. The congregation can vote to remove an elder and in fact that’s the only an elder or pastor can be removed.

      These are just examples. It really is an elder/congregational combo model.

        Andy

        Thanks for the info…I did not know that the congregation was so involved in PCA churches…I think that is a better model than the Methodist model I’ve heard of, in which a church is assigned a minister by those higher-up.

Max

As a side-note, President Obama was an invited speaker at today’s National Prayer Breakfast. After praising the Dalai Lama and noting that “People committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ”, one has to wonder why he was given the microphone at a prayer gathering! Just because you are President of the United States, doesn’t necessarily mean you have anything to say. They ought to just pray at these meetings by putting some real prayer warriors on the platform to lead. Which brings me back to the topic at hand: is it perhaps time for the SBC Pastor’s Conference to be a solemn assembly of humility, prayer, repentance, and seeking God’s face for the days ahead … rather than a slate of speakers with prepared text?

Andy

Lydia,

1. Word Study: I Suspect that if I dd a words study I would find that the word is translated differently in different situations…which does not negate any of those translations. I know for a fact that in most cases I am not smart enough to figure out how to translate greek words…My point before has not been answered, however: “If a church, looking at the vast majority of translations from the last 500 years, sees several verses that speak of “elders” and “rule” and “overseers” chooses to use what they believe to biblical words to describe their pastors/leaders…WHY does that action, in and of itself (apart from any abusive application, mind you…we’re only talking about the words) merit a response of ridicule, and even teaching our children to ridicule such people, instead of seeking to understand their position?”

2. Here is a better translation: “Trust them that are your leaders and be yielding: for they watch in behalf of your souls….”
>>> So you DO believe that you should YIELD to the leaders in your church? I fail to see a significant difference here. No one here, not me, not even Les and his presbys…is advocating blind obedience to Elders and pastors. Equating mark driscoll & TD Jakes with EVERY PCA “ruling Elder” is simply unfair. What we are saying is very similar to your translation of this verse: In matters in which obedience to God is not the issue, YIELD to the leaders.

Lydia

“>>> So you DO believe that you should YIELD to the leaders in your church? I fail to see a significant difference here. No one here, not me, not even Les and his presbys…is advocating blind obedience to Elders and pastors. Equating mark driscoll & TD Jakes with EVERY PCA “ruling Elder” is simply unfair. What we are saying is very similar to your translation of this verse: In matters in which obedience to God is not the issue, YIELD to the leaders.”

No matter how hard you try to get around it, Andy, that verse is taught as a command by just about every charlatan out there ignoring context.

Any leader claiming to represent Christ would more than willing to prove themselves worthy of yielding to and that takes time. If blind obedience with some voting mingled (never mind the foundational teaching of hierarchy/caste system beliefs influencing the followers) is not the case, there would be no need for the term “ruling” elder. It is a bit too obvious. At least the seekers tried to hide it with “servant leader”. :o)

The hearers of that letter knew who the writer was referring to. (Lots of anonymous stuff with Hebrews) . To make it a blanket prescription is not wise and is often dangerous. Calvin, the despot, is one example out of many. How about Henry the VIII who conferred “Defender of the Faith” upon himself? Is that “leader” enough for you? Or the divine right of kings? Or, King James who desperately needed to prove his Protestant bonafides? Was he a “leader”? When you guys discuss this stuff do you forget there is a lot of historical evil and power politics to consider that you might be interpreting from?

Jesus said those who wanted power and authority over others are like the Gentiles….which means “Pagan”. Jesus says: Don’t go there.

descriptive. Not prescriptive. Jesus is not one thing like Calvin, thankfully.

    Andy

    1. I really don’t know how to respond to this because I agree with much of what you are saying. Blind obedience = Bad. Got it. Nobody here is advocating that. I am simply saying the term “Ruling Elder” has not been shown to be some vast distortion of the text…rather, one of several possible translations. You have said you believe we should “Yield” to leaders, correct?

    2. (Non-seriousness coming… :-) Regarding Calvin, He was at least a few things like Jesus….don’t forget he was a human, like Jesus, male, like Jesus…and even if you believe calvin was not a Christian at all, unless you ARE a 5- point Calvinist…you believe Jesus died for Calvin. :)

Lydia

“Thanks for the responses, but you are both avoiding the question by focusing on side issues. Godly vs. pagan is a side issue, the question is the same if both were pagans, or both were saints.
Relating who gets cancer to the debate of God causing sin is also a side issue…because I have not said God causes sin…the issue is now that the curse is here, including cancer, then what? ”

I don’t see them as side issues at all. That is a way to frame the debate, though, to force the answer you want. I just don’t buy it. I really do fear attributing things to God that are not from God. It is not about God’s power but His attributes and how he deals with humans. Your lot want to focus on power and control. He could have easily forced the Jews to walk right to the Promised Land but they thwarted Him at every juncture. Did God force them to do that to show His Glory? I often think of Daniel 10, too, in light of these sorts of convos about good/evil, power, etc.

Can we not say with conviction that every good and perfect gift is from God?

“The tornado question will perhaps bring more clarity than the cancer question: ”

A good one because it hits home for me. When I was a kid a lot of people we knew were killed in 1974. So I am quite familiar with all the advanced warning systems and technology associated with surviving a tornado that have come about since then. If I buy a house with a basement just for protection during a Tornado, might I be thwarting God’s plan? Piper seems to take delight in these disasters as evidenced by his tweets after disasters.

So you really believe God actually sends Tornado’s? I think they are evil. And I think our striving to live through them and protect others with all sorts of inventions/ advances is exactly what God expects of us. I do think the evil one hates it when we strive to save lives. If you believe God sends them– then it makes sense to sort of ignore the need for such things. Which I believe was the attitude of the state church concerning plagues, etc for centuries.

    Andy

    Lydia thanks for clarifying. For clarity’s sake, for you and Andrew, I’ll try to summarize my own thoughts on the matter:

    1. (in general) LYDIA ASKED: “So you really believe God actually sends Tornado’s? I think they are evil. And I think our striving to live through them and protect others with all sorts of inventions/ advances is exactly what God expects of us.”

    ANSWER: I believe that Tornados are part of the curse, which was brought about because of Man’s sin. So yes, they are evidence of sin in the world, just as thorns are (Gen. 3). However, remember that the curse was sent FROM GOD as judgment for sin. So Thorns are judgement for sin, yes. Are thorns evil? I don’t know if I would say that. Are poisonous snakes evil? I wouldn’t say that either…I would say they are part of God’s judgement on the earth and mankind for sin. I an not willing to say that God’s judgement of evil is evil, if that makes sense. I would include all of natures dangers, and diseases in this. It seems from scripture that the harshness of nature, and the presence of disease is a result of the fall and Curse. So in the ultimate sense, yes, God sent tornados into the world as part of the curse.

    2. (In Specificity) ANDREW ASKED: “Are you suggesting that in God’s foreknowledge, he works out in advance who is going to be hit by a tornado ‘X’ 000 years later!?

    ANSWER: I don’t claim to have THE definitive answer on this, but here’s what I think. On the one hand, people make choices that increase the likelyhood of being hit by a natural disaster (living in florida near hurricanes, over-farming the west for years such that a huge sand-storm wipes across the country in 1930, etc). On the other hand, I DO believe God controls the weather, he can foresee and prevent a drought if he wants to, or not prevent it. same with tornados…and remember those droughts and tornados are only there because of the Curse. God’s curse. I cannot see in scripture how those things are outside of God’s control. AT MINIMUM, I think we must say that for every disaster, God foresaw it, Knew that it would happen as a result of his originally cursed earth, and decided not to prevent it. It also seems from scripture that when we ARE protected from some potential threat, we SHOULD thank God for his protection, which implies some level of God’s control. I would likely say MORE than that. I would say that human choices can and do hurt themselves and others, but that God maintains control in such away that when illness and disaster comes, it is Not a sin to say it came from God. [Here are some shocking verses from Job… 1:21 “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong”….2:10 “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”1 In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” …So…Satan caused Job’s loss and illness…Job said God did it…and then the bible says “he did not sin with his lips.” It is not a sin to say that God brings disaster and illness into our lives. For what reason? We often don’t’ know….Why does God allow some to be killed by natural disasters, disease, and others to survive? I DON’T KNOW. (Jesus, when asked this question about a tower falling on some people, answered that it was NOT because they were more wicked…so that answer doesn’t work).

    3. (How should we respond? ) LYDIA: “Andy, If I take your view to its logical conclusion that God gives us cancer then it would be wrong to seek treatment.”

    ANSWER: I disagree. I can get poked by a thorn due to the fall. Yet there is nothing in scripture that forbids me from using Neosporin and a band-aid on my wound. Pain in childbirth is a result of the curse…yet God does not forbid epidurals and pain medication. In fact, I would say that the vast majority of the human experience is to work against the effects of the fall. We heal diseases, we carefully avoid thorns to cut roses and given them to our loved ones, we farm the stubborn soil, and seek ways to make farming easier. And when a person gets cancer, they can seek treatment. In my view, they can seek treatment with full confidence that God is still in control of their situation, and that if he desires, they may live though it, if he desires, they may go to be with him.

    4. “Additionally, does God exercise this kind of control over just nature, or do you include us with it?”

    ANSWER: It is my personal view that my view of God’s control over nature is NOT dependent on viewing his similar control over human beings. God could certainly decide to give moral agency to human beings while maintaining control of other parts of his creation. If not, God would not be free. Dispite some arguments on both sides, the issue is not what God COULD do, since he could have either determined all human choices strictly, or given them free will…the question is what DID he do, as revealed in scripture. A.W. Tozer has a very good passage on this topic: “God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it.”

    Now, my own personal view is that, upon examining the 3 primary views of Election (Unconditional Individual Election to Salvation, Conditional Election based on foreseen faith, and Corporate Election), that the Unconditional Election view seems to make the most biblical sense…So the bible says God chose me, it also says I must choose God…how does that work? I don’t’ know.

    But I don’t believe belief in the one necessitates belief in the other. There are a great many Christians who would share my view of God’s control over nature, but reject Unconditional Election.

      Lydia

      Andy, I keep goiing back to foundational thinking. For you guys everything is about power and control. That is where you start. That is your foundation. That is how you make the connection to God controlling the evil because He is controlling every molecule. Since God allows it, He wants it?

      I start in a different place: Relationship. And I see the “relationship narrative” from Gen to Rev. Relationships are not about force. They are about persuasion, wooing, consquences, protection, etc, etc. A real relationship with Christ is synergistic. It is not about control and power even though He has it all.

        Andy

        I’m sorry you feels this way about my view of God’s relationship to nature and illness. I suppose you’ll just have to take my word for it that for me (Not sure about the other “GUYS”), not everything is about power and control…but it is simply about trying to make sense of the biblical evidence I see and relate it to the world around me. If I get cancer, I will rest in knowing that God will use it somehow to teach me to be more like Christ, that the momentary affliction is producing in me an eternal weight of glory. If God wanted me to never have any hardship, he could certainly arrange that, but for some reason he doesn’t.

        It IS about relationship. Hebrews 12 says God disciplines those he loves…and we know that because of the cross, that discipline is not for the purpose of punishment (as in, God is holy and has to punish sin)…ALL of that has already been taken by Jesus on the cross. SO whatever discipline God has for me now is not retribution for sin, but for the purpose of training in righteousness, it is opportunities for me not to “make light” of it, but respond in faith and trust and obedience.

        (and thank you for your continued responses…It’s better than when you post something and nobody replies…I hope these discussions are beneficial for you.)

          Lydia

          “If I get cancer, I will rest in knowing that God will use it somehow to teach me to be more like Christ, that the momentary affliction is producing in me an eternal weight of glory. If God wanted me to never have any hardship, he could certainly arrange that, but for some reason he doesn’t. “b

          Suffering is built into life. Athiests, Buddhists and Muslims get cancer, too, so not sure what that means in the big picture. I do think a believer is going to have a totally different outlook on the matter than an unbeliever. From my experience working with Muslims, they also believe that it is the will of Allah they get cancer.

          What I have a problem with is declaring God is sending a hardship for some reason we don’t know. How does this help the suffering believer? No, the hardship is here. It is part of life. God will help us through it. Anything else becomes a horror of why Miss Myrtle the devout missionary dies of cancer young but the prostitute lives until 100 totally healthy.

          Hardship is built in to life. Period. We have made huge strides in alleviating hardship. That is both a blessing and a curse as we can get lazy and entitled. As believers, we should know better. And there is always something to improve, defend, build, cure, etc. Why can’t we focus there in His Name?

          “It IS about relationship. Hebrews 12 says God disciplines those he loves…and we know that because of the cross, that discipline is not for the purpose of punishment (as in, God is holy and has to punish sin)…ALL of that has already been taken by Jesus on the cross. SO whatever discipline God has for me now is not retribution for sin, but for the purpose of training in righteousness, it is opportunities for me not to “make light” of it, but respond in faith and trust and obedience”

          I do not disagree with this but doubt we would agree on what that hardship looks like and how we grow from it. We have to be careful here because some think piety is gained from suffering so we must suffer and then it becomes a contest of who is suffering the most and that means piety. Like the monks trying to obtain piety through suffering. And if I hear one more YRR pastor talk about sweating blood to create a sermon, I am going to hurl. We must Suffer, suffer, suffer is all we hear. The car breaking down is suffering. The fender bender is suffering…..And so on. It is the focus I have a problem with because most of these young men have NO CLUE about suffering that is inevitable. So when they tell people that God orchestrated your cancer for His own glory, I must conclude they do not know Yahweh at all. I have also seen Calvinist pastors tell victims of childhood molestations that God orchestrated it so that good would come from it. Sicko. Why didn’t God protect that little innocent one? Because that is OUR job and we must take it quite seriously..

          Since suffering is inevitable, let us comfort, help, pay, etc and work to eradicate as much of as we can. Let us do that in His Name and give HIM the credit.

            Max

            Lydia, there is a New Calvinist church near me (an SBC church plant) that has developed a strange view of suffering IMO. They seem to be saying “Bring it on!” as if it is a necessary passage to glory land. If disease and abuse hasn’t touched them, their members (in their 20s-30s) actively look for other ways to suffer to punch their ticket. There are enough trials and tribulations in this old world for us to be going out and looking for more! I choose to walk in victory. If that journey involves personal suffering, me and Jesus will handle it … though He slay me, yet will I trust Him! Strange days, indeed, in some SBC corners … what my dear father would have called stinkin’ thinkin.

            Oh, since the blog stream has drifted from whether or not we should suffer through James MacDonald at the Pastor’s Conference … I say no.

      Andrew Barker

      Andy: I wasn’t going to mention this but after consideration I will. You seem quite happy to quote AW Tozer, but you don’t really appear to take on board what he’s saying. The quote is quietly but firmly putting the Reformed concept of a sovereign God who micro manages everything on the ‘naughty step’. The quote is directly opposed to your position where God chooses me and I choose God and then you appeal to ‘mystery’. To put it bluntly, Tozer is saying God is sovereign and has decreed that YOU must make a choice! Whatever choice you make is yours; don’t blame others and certainly don’t blame God since he hasn’t made it! You are the only one who is responsible for your choice!! :-)

        Andy

        Andrew,

        I am fully aware of Tozer’s views on this issue. I still like him. And in some sense I agree with him. I do not think God controls every decision of man. At the same time, I see God choosing those who will be saves in scriptures. Sorry.

    Les Prouty

    Andy,

    This reply to Lydia and Andrew is very good. Well written and biblically based. I certainly could not have said it better.

    This: “I cannot see in scripture how those things are outside of God’s control. AT MINIMUM, I think we must say that for every disaster, God foresaw it, Knew that it would happen as a result of his originally cursed earth, and decided not to prevent it.”

    Right. His choosing NOT to intervene to save someone from say a tornado only serves to prove who is in complete control. We all agree He COULD intervene to save someone from the tornado. But the fact that He doesn’t in some cases serves to prove that HE is in charge of all things. And that is NOT to attribute sin to God. When someone is murdered, God did not DO the murder. He did not force the person’s finger to squeeze on the trigger. The murderer did that. God speaks to this kind of thing in Habakkuk. Look around He says. All this destruction you see? He says, “I’m doing all these things.” Specifically the text says,

    “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
    Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?
    3 Why do you make me see iniquity,
    and why do you idly look at wrong?
    Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise.
    4 So the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never goes forth.
    For the wicked surround the righteous;
    so justice goes forth perverted.
    The Lord’s Answer
    5 “Look among the nations, and see;
    wonder and be astounded.
    For I am doing a work in your days
    that you would not believe if told.
    6 For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
    that bitter and hasty nation,
    who march through the breadth of the earth,
    to seize dwellings not their own.
    7 They are dreaded and fearsome;
    their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
    8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
    more fierce than the evening wolves;
    their horsemen press proudly on.
    Their horsemen come from afar;
    they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
    9 They all come for violence,
    all their faces forward.
    They gather captives like sand.
    10 At kings they scoff,
    and at rulers they laugh.
    They laugh at every fortress,
    for they pile up earth and take it.
    11 Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,
    guilty men, whose own might is their god!”

    Stunning verses. Thank you Andy.

Andrew Barker

Andy Williams: Lydia’s comments are on the money. “I just don’t buy it. I really do fear attributing things to God that are not from God. It is not about God’s power but His attributes and how he deals with humans.”

I mentioned the verse in Rom 8:28 which is often trotted out because “God makes everything work together for good”. Do you take it that God determines the bad/evil things which happen to his people and these are all under his control? The point about God making them work together for good is agreed on all sides!

    Andy

    Andrew, See my longer response above and let me know if you still have questions about my take on things.

      Andrew Barker

      Andy: My initial reaction is that your responses are too convoluted and are couched in vague suggestions as to possible answers to points raised. I’ve rarely if ever seen a straight answer from you. These exchanges are only interesting up to a point because hand on heart we know very few people are swayed by what they read in a blog. It’s only interesting when people interact genuinely with a view to understanding a different viewpoint.

      So I would rather direct you straight back to my question and re-submit it to you. In Rom 8:28 do you take it to mean that God determines the bad/evil things which happen to his people and that these happenings are directly under his control?

        Andy

        I’m sorry if My answers are not cut and dried enough, I’ll try again.

        1. For NATURAL DISASTERS, AND ILLNESSES: I would say YES, these are directly under his control, because they are rooted in God’s own curse on the world. Whether he, on the one hand, guides a tornado purposefully in present time, or on the other hand, simply initiated the curse in a certain way knowing where every single future tornado or damaging microbe would go…the result is the same: God did it. This is what I see in scripture. If God had not cursed the world, tornados would not have ripped through the midwest last year…and if God cursed the world not knowing every effect his curse would have, then he is not omniscient. I also think we MUST distinguish between something EVIL, and something that is part of God’s judgement of evil.

        2. For SINFUL ACTIONS OF HUMANS WHICH HARM OTHERS: My answer would be different. I would say , NO, God does not cause people to sin, He did not cause “joe” to kill “John” and take his car. BUT…I think we must also say that even in this case, God COULD HAVE STOPPED JOE, but decided not to for some reason.

        WHY CONVOLUTED?: I am MORE sure of my answer to number one, than I am of my answer for number two. For me, some things in scripture are more clear than others. I am more sure of my view of Jesus’ resurection than I am of my view of eschatology. These questions are somewhere between those two.

        What I will not do, is make a grand all-encompassing statement in either direction, such as…
        a. “God sent that terrorist to kidnap and behead your son because he controls EVERYTHING. or…
        B. “Of course God had nothing to do with you getting cancer/losing someone in that tornado, those things are outside of his control.”

        I don’t think scripture allows either of those statements to be made.

          Andrew Barker

          Andy: “Whether he, on the one hand, guides a tornado purposefully in present time, or on the other hand, simply initiated the curse in a certain way knowing where every single future tornado or damaging microbe would go…the result is the same: God did it. This is what I see in scripture.” You are correct in saying that the result is the same, but the two situations are definitely not the same. On the one hand you have a situation where the earth and nature which suffer under the curse produce what we term as natural disasters and the other is where God is specifically controlling and causing the ‘evil’. Try as you may, you cannot eat your cake and have it. I would suggest is has to be one thing or the other.

            Andy

            Ok, thanks for the replies

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