Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, June 12, 2006

Dishonest Churches

A week or so ago, the fine fellas over at Strange Baptist Fire republished an article written by Tom Ascol called Dishonest Calvinists and the Call for Integrity.

In it, Tom takes on the criticism raised by various figureheads in the SBC who suggests that "Calvinist" pastors are really lying, evil beasts with slow bellies. These "Calvinist" pastors, according to an assortment of testimonies quoted in the article, don't tell the search committees of their "Calvinism" when they candidate with a potential church, because to do so would ruin their chances for being considered as a pastor. Then, once the deal is sealed, maybe a couple of years into the new pastorate, the stealth "Calvinist" pastor begins to introduce "Calvinistic" teaching.

An otherwise shocked and dismayed congregation has been snuckered; lied to by a man they trusted. They are now stuck with a pastor they have to deal with one way or another. More than likely, they have to start proceedings to have him removed. This wolf in sheeps clothing disrupted the precious fellowship the Church had known for years. If he had been truthful when he was being interviewed for the ministry, none of this would have happened. It may even be that many in the congregation have been sucked up into the morass of his Calvinistic teaching and any move to dismiss him will only cause a church split.

Thus, the SBC pundits quoted in Tom's post are beseeching (read, "threatening with a warning") young men fresh out of SBC schools to walk with integrity; don't lie if you are a "Calvinist." Of course, in their minds, all Calvinists are natural liars, so it is rather difficult for them to tell the truth anyways, but don't lie nonetheless.

These ignorant SBC blowhards annoy me a lot. I was so bothered by their disingenuousness I was compelled to leave a comment under the post. I wanted to expand on my comments further with this article.

I believe the true dishonesty comes from the churches, not the pastors. I have listened with grief to the testimonies of beleaguered pastors who have been run out on a rail from a church they loved and served with all their heart, because they were led to believe the church was willing to pursue biblical reform, especially in the realm of salvation. Once they begin teaching with conviction the biblical view of salvation (aka, Calvinism) a mob of disgruntled members stir up a stink against the pastor and his family and move to have him kicked out of the pulpit.

Typically the stories go like this:

When the pastor-to-be is candidating with the church, he is told by the search committee, generally in the info packet he receives from them, that they are committed to finding a Bible teaching pastor: a pastor who holds up doctrine and the authority of the Word of God. He may even be told they don't want another "denominational" man. Moreover, they may even tell the candidate that this is a church desirous to be taught expositionally and there is no interest in the Purpose Driven models popular in so many congregations.

The candidating pastor in turn raises controversial subjects with the search committee like:

  • Lordship Salvation
  • Male-only leadership and teaching
  • Enforcing church discipline
  • Divorce and re-marriage convictions
  • Financial integrity
  • Bill Gothard's materials
  • Rick Warren's materials
  • And of course, the Doctrines of Grace
The church affirms they are in agreement with his convictions, or that they are willing to learn and submit to the pastor's convictions. After many interviews, a few times preaching to the congregation, and everyone agreeing that they love the man and his sweet family, he is called to be the shepherd. The new pastor moves his family across country with much expense paid. They are all welcomed to the community and he begins to acclimate to the new situation.

All is well and good for about a year, maybe. Then the honeymoon is over...

All of his expectations of a promising ministry are quickly dashed when the very same people who welcomed him and his family with opened arms begin to complain about his pastoring. All of the talk about exposition of the scriptures is abandoned when the people come to realize that careful exegesis and exposition of the scriptures takes time and patience. The new pastor is said to be boring when he preaches and his sermons are considered irrelevant to the people's felt needs. "They're good for seminary professors, but we need to know Jesus, not doctrine," or so goes the complaint.

Additionally, the new pastor was told the people wanted a man who upheld the authority of God's Word alone, yet when the pastor brings the authority of God's Word to bear upon some beloved tradition that is unbiblical, the pastor is viewed as "quenching the spirit of God."

The pastor was told the people wanted to practice church discipline, but when he moves to enforce discipline against a long time member who is involved with a scandalous sin, the pastor is accused of being unloving, unforgiving, and outright hateful mean.

And of course, as soon as the pastor begins to touch the subjects of election, total inability and effectual grace, he is charged with denying the gospel, or teaching that Jesus didn't die for everyone, and that only a special select few get to go to heaven and no matter how much a person really, really wants to go to heaven, if you ain't elect, then you ain't going.

More than likely, the pastor hasn't even raised the subject of election on purpose; it just flows out of his consistent, expositional preaching everyone says is boring. In fact, I recently met a pastor who was teaching through the Gospel of John. As soon as he arrived at chapter 6, verses 39-45, and he taught the text, a big group of his flock were up in arms. When I spoke with him he was ready to preach his last message on John 6:44,45, and then he was going to resign to spare the church a split. This man was losing his ministry because the people, much like the crowd Jesus was addressing in John 6, rejected the idea that it is the Father drawing men to the Son that establishes the affect of the gospel and not a person raising a hand or walking an aisle.

I met another man who was kicked out of his pulpit because he wanted to use a John Piper book for a small group Bible study. Someone who had never heard of Piper did a "google" search and discovered to his horror that Piper was a "Calvinist!" Before the pastor knew what was happening, there was a group of people calling special meetings and slandering the pastor's character.

I am sure there could be more men who could come forward and share similar stories.

So this idea that it is the dishonest "Calvinists" causing problems is false. Perhaps there are some men who are not forth right when they are interviewed during the candidating process, but I would be willing to bet a Costco ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and smothered in roasted almonds, that it is the churches who are dishonest, not the pastors.



Blogger D.J. Cimino said...

Excellent analysis on this issue... Before I became a Calvinist I was reading Piper's Don't Waste Your Life. Once I found out he was a Calvinist (by looking at his website) I stopped reading the book. It is amazing that non-Calvinist will not even bother to actually find out what Calvinist believe and why... As soon as the "C" word comes up they cry "heresy!" and close their ears.

Well, I did that too, so I can be patient with them (or at least try :)
Hopefully God will reveal the truth of His Word to their hearts.

2:42 PM, June 12, 2006  
Blogger Celestino. said...

And the truth shall set you free.

12:23 AM, June 13, 2006  

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