Professional Grumblers

Last night was the “Evening of Confessional Concern and Prayer” organized by Ken Pierce and Geoff Gleason. It was a wonderful evening, and kudos to them for the effort they spent in bringing this about. The discussions were informative, reasoned, charitable, and yet direct and forthright. They struck just the perfect tone that one hopes confessionalists will imitate throughout this week at General Assembly. The prayer was very uplifting as well. One point struck me in particular as I reflected on how confessionalists like myself tend to behave, and so this blog post is directed primarily towards confessionalists, though I hope others will listen in and be encouraged.

Confessionalists are professionals at grumbling. I daresay we could put ancient Israelites in the wilderness to shame. For us the glass seems to be about .00001% full. Notice that I have now found a new subject about which to grumble and complain. But the point I wish to make here is that we are very good at complaining about the other groupings of people in the PCA. I have done it many times myself: “Oh, those CWAGA folk, they don’t care about doctrine, they only want a dumbed-down version of Christianity;” “Oh, those progressives, they hate the Westminster Standards, and want to eliminate them entirely from the PCA.” Now, no group within the PCA is immune from criticism. However, when we confessionalists think about the other groups, do we remember and thank the Lord for good points about them? Many, and maybe even most, of the CWAGA folk still preach a clear gospel, and should we not be thankful for that? Even progressives like Tim Keller have contributed good things (I am thinking particularly of his apologetics). We must not forget that our own theology and practice has error in it, since we are sinful humans. We must therefore walk humbly before our God.

28 Comments

  1. Dave Sarafolean said,

    June 17, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks for the update and the admonition. Praying for the assembly.

  2. Jack Bradley said,

    June 17, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Glad to read this, Lane. Especially appreciate your citing Keller. Whatever his shortcomings, his apologetics are indeed priceless. And there is no one more aptly described as a “physician of the soul” in his preaching.

  3. Reed Here said,

    June 17, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Grateful Lane. Hard at times to maintain one’s position with grace and humility. Thank goodness for Jesus.

  4. Mark G said,

    June 17, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Not grumbling, but I am surprised you would appreciate Keller’s approach to apologetics. I found it to be basically grounded in empiricism; talk about a “Kantian divide.” Tim Keller rejects Enlightenment rationalism with one hand and takes up Enlightenment empiricism with the other. Biblical truths are often presented as being as likely or more likely than others. The existence of the Trinitarian God of Christianity is not more likely than His non-existence. It is absolutely so and assumed by Scripture to be absolutely so regardless of what anyone thinks.

    Here is a review of “Reason for God” by William Dennison making this point:

    http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=119

  5. Sjoerd de Boer said,

    June 17, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    I appreciate the post very much and recognize myself as a professional grumbler and if there is one danger about it, it is to become self righteous.
    At the same time, however, were not all the prophets “grumblers” and were they not always accused of having complaints? As long as we stay humble and know and confess that we are part of the problem we have to keep sharp in discerning what is from the Lord or not. But we have to go on praying to the Lord with the attitude of Daniel in Daniel 9, which is very humbling to read from time to time. While the Scriptures do not even report one sin he ever committed, he identifies constantly with his rebellious brothers of Israel. After all, if we complain, we better make sure it is about something that makes the Lord coming short of His glory.

  6. June 17, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    You’ve been feeling extra humble over the last few days, Lane. Have you not been getting your daily allotment of caffeine?

  7. Mark G said,

    June 17, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    There are some real dangers in the blogosphere. Jesus said people would know his disciples by the fact that they love one another. It is not difficult to find graceless discussions on “Christian” blogs. There can be a real lack of Christian witness in some of the discussions.

    I also have concerns about venting that goes on over decisions made in church courts. There are proper biblical and ecclesiastical channels for complaints and church members commit themselves to the authority of the church. I don’t recall airing out the church’s dirty laundry on the internet as being part of the God ordained channels for resolving differences or that when all else seems to fail, blog it. Even when one has strong convictions and may be right there is a time for humility and submission. Jesus was a pretty good example of being in the right, and even having authority and power, and yet exercising humility at his own expense.

  8. Mark B said,

    June 17, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    @7
    Better to hang the dirty laundry out in the sun and fresh air, rather than letting it continue to accumulate and molder under the bed. While it may be embarrassing for the neighbors to see it, it’s better than waking up one day to find the floor rotted out underneath you…. (speaking from a little pcus background here)

  9. danmacdonald said,

    June 17, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    CWAGA? Sorry, I don’t read acrostic. Can anyone translate?

  10. greenbaggins said,

    June 18, 2014 at 1:35 am

    It stands for “Can’t We All Get Along?” my moniker for the evangelical middle of the PCA.

  11. Mark G said,

    June 18, 2014 at 8:31 am

    @8
    My point concerned venting in front of the world when there are appropriate and biblical ways of addressing issues. The world will find plenty of ways to put down the church without the church/Christians providing ammo. I was suggesting anything like sweeping issues under the rug.

    Machen wouldn’t even consider the PCUS a church so I guess they can do whatever it is they do.

  12. Frank Aderholdt said,

    June 18, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    During the “Thanksgiving” section of the prayer time Monday night, I confessed my own tendency to grumble first and give thanks later. By nature, the phrase “winsome Calvinsim” makes me a little uncomfortable. There’s really great wisdom in it, though, and a worthy goal to strive for. “Professional grumblers” (you know who you are) make a lot of noise, but to little effect.

  13. Stuart said,

    June 19, 2014 at 12:23 am

    And let’s not forget that Confessionalists do not have the market on grumbling. Grumbling is a sin that we all find ourselves doing at times.
    I know I’ve done my share.

    May the Spirit make us full of gratitude for all that is good and give us what we need to speak the truth without having a grumbling heart.

  14. Steve Drake said,

    June 19, 2014 at 3:16 am

    Mark G @ 11:

    My point concerned venting in front of the world when there are appropriate and biblical ways of addressing issues.

    This from an evolutionary biologist who would rather see the church adopt the Biologos model of origins without any dissent, right Mark?

  15. Mark G said,

    June 19, 2014 at 8:20 am

    @Steve Drake

    You should not make false claims about people you don’t know. The Bible has something to say about the tongue being capable of great evil.

  16. Steve Drake said,

    June 19, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Mark G.,
    My apologies. You are not the Mark G. with a PhD in Evolutionary Biology?

    This is one of the problems with people not being willing to be forthright and use their full names. What is your full name Mark?

  17. Reed Here said,

    June 19, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Mark G: appreciating Steve’s apology, I find myself responding with some “wait a minute” to your defining humility in terms of not speaking, but shutting up and submitting to a church court’s decision.

    Are you saying this is cart blanche, that once the Church has spoken, no more dissent?

    Are you saying that the individual’s liberty of conscience is thereby constrained, that further dissent even internally is rebellion against God’s own ruling?

    If you are not saying such things, might I ask you to qualify your coordination of humility+submitting+shutting up? As it stands in no. 7 above, it almost reads as a one of the common debate tactics used by some in the PCA oin response to our disagreement with recent decisions some of us find more than scandalous, but an attack on the gospel itself,

    Are you saying, “well Reed, since the church court has disagreed with you, you are required to cease your dissent”?

    Sincerely Mark, not trying to make an argument with you. I am willing to agree that your three terms do have some role in how I behave on issues that concern me in the Church, contingently though not terminally.

    I cannot agree with how you have structured it. If I were to do so I would have to agree with those who thought to silence Luther, Athanasius, Paul, Stephen, God’s prophets, and even Jesus himself. All were told at some point, “the duly Divinely appointed church court has decided you are wrong. The correct response that is in keeping with proper obedience to God is to humble yourself, submit to our ruling, and demonstrate it by shutting up.”

    I fully accept you might not mean this. Nevertheless your phrasing sounds exactly like some I have heard in our Church who have meant exactly that.

    If you mean differently, by all means please clarify. Thanks!

  18. Ron said,

    June 19, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I agree with post #4 regarding Keller’s apologetic. I went to a bookstore to go through the book when I learned that it was being used by a pastor friend of mine who had graduated from WTS. I was horrified, not by what Keller wrote but that this friend who had been taught a God honoring apologetic was taken in by this unbiblical approach to defending the faith.

  19. Mark G said,

    June 19, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    @17 I did not see where I said anything about “shutting up.” The context was venting on internet blogs. I said there is a time for submission. This implies that there may be other times where submission is not appropriate. There are right times and wrong times, right ways and wrong ways. I am not even saying what’s right in this regard is always clear, but too often the ultimate concern seems to be winning points and self-satisfaction. The examples you cited (e.g., Paul) were a little wiser than many bloggers.

    The main topic concerned exercising appropriate restraint.

  20. Ron said,

    June 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    This is one of the problems with people not being willing to be forthright and use their full names. What is your full name Mark?

    Steve,

    You jump the gun on a person’s identy and in doing so discredit his point based upon a perceived incongruity of hypocrisy. You then offer an apology only to partially excuse it on the basis of the common allowance for partial anonymity.

  21. Reed Here said,

    June 19, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Mark: thank you. Just wanted to see an implication expressed. Inappropriate for me to assume.

  22. Steve Drake said,

    June 20, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Ron @ 20,
    Recent history with a Mark G. on another reformed blog led to my comment. Yes, it was an assumption, yet you’ll notice this Mark G. didn’t answer my question about having a PhD in Evolutionary Biology. If it’s one and the same, then his feigned outrage is the hypocrisy.

  23. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Steve,

    I don’t mean this flippantly; rather I say this with all sincerity. I’m trying to refrain these days from interacting with posts that don’t interact with mine. I trust you’ll understand.

  24. Steve Drake said,

    June 20, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Ron,
    I say this with all sincerity. I’m trying to learn the same thing about those who think they’re the blog schoolmarm interjecting their disciplinary comments as if they’re walking around with a ruler in their hands slapping fingers. I trust you’ll understand.

  25. Reed here said,

    June 20, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Steve, Ron’s original caution was reasonable and fair. He wasn’t lecturing you.

    Whether or not Mark G is who you think he is, your comment did actually didn’t interact with his comment. That is against the blog rules.

    You’ve no need to be flippant back to Ron. Thanks for appreciating this.

    Reed, Moderator (aka, a blog schoolmarm)

  26. Frank Aderholdt said,

    June 21, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Well, isn’t this interesting. A gracious post against grumbling devolves into a mini-war with guys lobbing grenades over the wall at each other. Surely that says something about us. I’m not sure exactly what, but it says something.

    Brothers, how about just one “snipe-free” zone every once in a while?

  27. Reed here said,

    June 21, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Amen

  28. Jack Bradley said,

    June 23, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Just one example of Keller’s priceless apologetics:

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/timothy-keller-podcast/id352660924?mt=2&i=80503552


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