I just finished reading (somewhat belatedly!) a book that a friend of mine sent me. He was the editor, in fact. He assembled a whole bunch of interviews, which he then published in his book. The result is a fascinating window on how the church should be dealing with error. There are interviews here with a very impressive list of names: Carl Trueman, Tom Schreiner, Michael Horton, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Greg Beale, Derek Thomas, Scott Clark, Tom Ascol, Guy Waters, Kim Riddlebarger, Ron Gleason, Sean Lucas, Iain Campbell, Gary Johnson, Conrad Mbewe, Geoffrey Thomas, Joel Beeke, Robert Peterson, and Michael Ovey.
Downes asks such questions as these: “Were they any deviant theologies to which you were ever attracted?” “How should a minister keep his heart, mind, and will from theological error?” “What would you consider to be the main theological dangers confronting us today and how can we deal with them?”
I’ll share some of the highlights, as they struck me. Trueman notices that the root of theological error is pride (p. 31). He says that “their (that is, the false teachers spoken of in 1 Timothy 1:5-7) focus is on their own status, not on the words they proclaim.”
Derek Thomas has some wise words for pastors: “Ministers can so easily develop grudges and become angry and allow that anger to show itself in the pulpit justified as ‘righteous anger’, of course. The cause may be legion: pent-up frustration over poor remuneration, a bad marriage, a secret life of unmortified sin and pulpit anger is a smokescreen of anger at oneself, the Elijah syndrome (‘I only am left’) that ends up (unlike Elijah!) justifying majoring on minors (tertiary issues, if truth be told). I think this is the peculiar temptation of those who maintain an unapologetic Calvinistic theology” (p. 67).
Scott Clark says, with a self-deprecating note that he hasn’t always done this, and quoting Derke Bergsma, “Gentlemen, when you go heresy hunting, be sure to use a rifle, not a shotgun” (pp. 73-74).
Tom Ascol notes that “One of the Puritans said that the temptations that accompany controversy are greater than those that accompany women and wine” (p. 91). Our goal should thus be “to win people and not arguments” (p. 91).
Sean Lucas says, “The greatest danger comes from those who are simply not willing to be troubled to care about the denomination, who are content in their own smaller networks (whether formal presbyteries or informal affinity groups), and who will not engage in the issues of the day…I believe that utter indifference to the plight of denominations is the major danger we face today. Because when doctrinal challenges do come from ministers who are doctrinally deviant (edited by LK here), many ministers, elders and laypeople simply tell themselves, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter; we can do our own thing over here, use the denomination as a branding and credentialing agency, and not be affected’” (p. 127). I believe that this quotation especially, is relevant for any church, classis, or Presbytery that finds itself in the middle of nowhere geographically. The temptation to comfortable isolation is extremely strong. Lucas also says, helpfully, “it is always the unwritten creed that operates in a more powerful and exclusionary fashion than the written creeds” (p. 128). Quoting Machen, “All real doctrinal advance proceeds in the direction of greater precision and fullness of doctrinal statement” (p. 129).
Geoffrey Thomas says, “If you depart from the confessions of faith then find the strongest arguments why our fathers resisted the path you are taking and seek to answer them. Wait until you are forty before coming down on the side of a position different from historical confessional Christianity (and wait until you are fifty before you use powerpoint!)” (p. 164).
Joel Beeke says, in a characteristically Puritan-saturated mold, “Develop the hide of a rhinoceros so that you won’t be tossed about with every criticism and wind of doctrine while maintaining the heart of a child, so that you will be a tender undershepherd to the needy” (p. 166). He also says that “ignorance always serves the cause of error” (p. 168).
Greg Beale says, “Our doctrine of inerrancy does not depend on our being able to solve every problem in the Bible” (p. 227).
These are just a few of the wonderful things you will find in this book. These were the most “quotable” of the lines, but everything in the book, and every entry, is helpful.