On the Apostle Paul’s Above Reproach Criterion

Posted by R. Fowler White

1 Tim 3:2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach … (δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίλημπτον εἶναι).
Titus 1: 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach … (δεῖ γὰρ τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνέγκλητον εἶναι ὡς θεοῦ οἰκονόμον).

Introduction. While considering whether men who experience same-sex inclinations should be ordained to or remain in the office of elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), one focus of attention has been the Apostle Paul’s criterion in 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:7 requiring candidates for eldership to be above reproach. To put that requirement in perspective, it is useful to observe that, in the commentaries on these texts, there is substantial agreement that the above reproach standard is most likely a summary of the specific qualifications listed thereafter. Granted that consensus, our question in the following post is this: does the criterion allow for variable assessment by sessions and presbyteries when applied to individual cases? Before we take up that question, let’s consider several preliminary stipulations.

Three means. First, we propose to stipulate that self-description is one of three parts that make up a man’s call to ministry. When elders, in their ordination vows for the PCA, “approve of [its] form of government and discipline …, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity” (BCO 21-5.3), that approval involves their affirmation that “ordinary vocation to office in the Church is the calling of God by the Spirit, through the inward testimony of a good conscience, the manifest approbation of God’s people, and the concurring judgment of a lawful court of the Church” (BCO 16-1). In this light, ordained PCA overseers have affirmed that there are three means through which “the calling of God by the Spirit” is realized. (Fittingly, Paul’s charge to Timothy in 1 Tim 4:12-16 with 1 Tim 1:18-19a; 2 Tim 1:6, 14 illustrates all three components.) We affirm, then, that, when it comes to making judgments about fitness for office, assessment will include but will not be limited to a man’s self-description. We follow the Apostle’s example as expressed in BCO 16-1 and stipulate that the Spirit of God gives His testimony that a man should be inducted into or remain in office through all three measures mentioned above.

A Good Reputation. Second, though the preceding summary may be agreeable enough, we suggest that it strengthens our consensus to fill in the picture in BCO 16-1 from the contexts of 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:7. Factoring in the content of 1 Tim 1:3-11; 3:7; 4:12-16; Titus 1:10-16; and 2:7-8, we confirm that a candidate’s self-description is not the Apostle’s only or even primary focus. This is not to say that Paul advocates an approach of suspicion, but rather one of earned credibility. In a phrase, trust but verify. Why? Because Paul is eager to establish the necessary contrast between the church’s elders and false teachers when it comes to their self-description, doctrine, and practice. In doing so, he calls special attention to what the false teachers believe and declare about themselves: they profess to know God (Titus 1:16). We do not doubt the candidates for eldership also professed to know God. What is of interest to the Apostle, however, is not a man’s profession (self-description) as such, but rather the consistency of a man’s teaching and practice with his profession. In other words, a man’s self-description is of no interest to Paul if neither his doctrine (1:10-14) nor his practice (1:15-16) matches up to it. Even if a man believes and declares himself conscientiously to be above reproach, his open and honest self-description is not sufficient or conclusive to demonstrate that he is as he believes and declares himself to be. Transparency and authenticity, while praiseworthy, are, in themselves, inadequate to prove qualification or to protect against disqualification.

Unmistakably, we anticipate that a man will humbly describe his character and conduct—personal, domestic, and public—as a fitting example for others to follow in their own profession, doctrine, and practice. Particularly in his self-description, we expect that a man will conscientiously describe himself in terms of his Christian experience and inward call to the ministry (BCO 24-1.a). We also expect that, in distinction from a recent convert, he will present himself as a man of mature profession, teaching, and practice, devoted to genuine experiential religion, including his ongoing crucifixion of indwelling sin and all its corruptions to our nature that incline us to evil. Overall, then, the contexts of 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:7 provide us a synopsis of the point expressed in BCO 21-5 and BCO 16-1: a candidate’s doctrine and practice must bring no reproach on what he believes and declares himself to be, nor on what the church believes and declares itself to be. He must be above reproach—have a good reputation—not only with those inside the church, but also with those outside the church, including with the church’s opponents.

A Good Reputation with Outsiders? Third, though we can all agree that, for the Apostle, the above reproach criterion involves the specific qualification of a good reputation with those outside as well as inside the church (δεῖ δὲ καὶ μαρτυρίαν καλὴν ἔχειν ἀπὸ τῶν ἔξωθεν, 1 Tim 3:7; 4:12-16), we can also agree that a shared approbation from outsiders and insiders presumes a shared definition of the good, at least on pertinent issues. Clearly, however, we should ask, how can those outside and inside the church come to share a definition of what is good? Since we would all agree that Paul does not look to outsiders to define the good, we can surely agree that the good reputation qualification presumes that insiders know what is good from God’s revelation in the apostolic traditions (which included the law of Moses), in nature, and in conscience, and that outsiders know what is good from His revelation in nature and conscience (Rom 1:18-23, 32; 2:14-15). Accordingly, as Ridderbos reminds us, though Paul declares that outsiders are all subject to God’s wrath (Rom 1:18, 24, 26, 28; Eph 2:3), he also acknowledges differences among them. He knows that not all outsiders are guilty of the most heinous sins. Some show the requirement of God’s law written in their hearts, as their conscience, though defiled by sin, bears witness to good and evil as defined by God’s revelation (Rom 2:14-15). They are thus commendable, even if in a civic sense only, for their good conduct (Rom 13:3-5; cf. 1 Cor 5:1-2; 1 Tim 5:8).

Knowing, then, that outsiders vary in their judgments, it is for the church to accept the judgment of outsiders only when it accords with God’s revealed will (cf. Rom 12:17; Col 4:5; 2 Cor 8:21). Remarkably, this is what Paul himself does when he accepts as true the testimony of an outsider about the Cretans (whose reputation included the practice of homosexual religious rites) as he applies it to certain divisive teachers in the Cretan church (Titus 1:12-13a; 1:9-16; 3:10-11). Therefore, when it comes to the matter of sexual immorality and specifically homosexuality, we reasonably infer that Paul acknowledged differences among outsiders. Though some in Greco-Roman culture showed the requirement of God’s law written in their hearts, the Apostle well knew that, outside the NT church, homosexuality was widely tolerated or approved in that culture (e.g., Rom 1:32a), just as it had been tolerated or approved in Canaanite and other ANE cultures outside of the OT church. When it came, then, to the issue of a good reputation with outsiders, the Apostle does not require the church and its officers to gain the respect of all outsiders without exception. Instead, he requires the church and its officers to gain the respect of outsiders who by nature do what the law requires … [who] are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law … [who] show that the work of the law written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (Rom 2:14-15). In this way, we get our bearings on our time. We see that it is not materially different from the ancient past. We know that outsiders today vary in their judgment about homosexuality and other sexual immoralities, but we also know that they largely affirm these vices in greater or lesser degree. Thus, when our congregations, sessions, and presbyteries come to Paul’s specific qualification that an elder candidate should have a good reputation with those outside the church, we should look only to those outsiders who share our definition of what is good. If, as a result, we lose the respect of other outsiders, we remain faithful to implore them to join us in acknowledging that we are all sinners in God’s sight, justly deserving His wrath and without hope except in His sovereign mercy, and in believing in our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of sinners, receiving and resting upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered to us in the Gospel.

Variable Assessment. With the preceding stipulations in place, we take up finally the question of whether the Apostle’s criterion allows for variable assessment when applied to individual cases. In the context of our considerations, we submit that allowance for variable individualized judgments among the churches is plainly at odds with the deliverance of universally binding standards to the congregations and with the connectionalism of the NT church. The overt aims of the Apostles to prevent individualization and to promote standardization of profession, teaching, and practice in the churches meant that judgments in the churches would not vary without accountability. Particularly as that connectionalism stemmed from the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), the NT makes it explicit that the Council’s decisions were to be kept from one church situation to another, wherever the Gentile mission bore fruit (Acts 15:23; 16:4-5; 21:17-25). Moreover, there is evidence sufficient to indicate that to ensure the consistency of profession, doctrine, and practice in all the churches, the NT letters themselves, like the Jerusalem Council’s letter, were effectively open letters—hence official documents—for all the churches impacted by the Apostles’ Gentile mission (see, e.g., Col 4:16; Rev 2:1­–3:22). In general, from the earliest to the latest days of the Gentile mission, the NT bears witness that the Apostles set boundaries to prevent individualization of profession, doctrine, and practice among the churches by requiring them to implement the universally binding apostolic traditions delivered to them (2 Thess 2:15; 3:6; 1 Cor 11:2, 16; 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 2:2, 14; cf. 1 Cor 7:17). Once delivered to the churches, sessions and presbyteries were to apply those traditions with a view to standardizing what was professed, taught, and practiced in the congregations. Furthermore, given our focus on the above reproach criterion, it is noteworthy that embedded in the traditions of the Apostles was the moral law of Moses (e.g., 1 Tim 1:8-11; Rom 13:8-10), including the specific provision in the official resolution issued by the Jerusalem Council: the requirement of sexual purity (Acts 15:19-21, 29), the terminology of which included homosexuality and other sexual immoralities. That being the case, the official ministry in the churches was (is) to be carried out to promote their purity, to prevent their impurity, and to hold them accountable for their judgments relative to those purity standards. In fact, the NT documents associated with the Gentile mission show that this requirement was an indispensable point of emphasis in the churches (Acts 15:23; 16:4-5; 21:25; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thess 4:1-8; 1 Tim 1:10; Rev 2:14, 20-21).

Thus, though sessions and presbyteries may have reached varying judgments in individual cases, this did not mean that the apostolic standards were inherently subjective. To the contrary, the connectional principles of biblical church polity—mutual accountability, mutual dependency, and mutual submission—constrain our conclusion that the Apostles took the necessary steps to ensure that their standards, including officer qualifications with the above reproach criterion, would not vary from one situation to another, and that judgments about fitness for office by sessions and presbyteries, while variable when applied to individual cases, would be subject to external official review and correction. Of these principles, the Apostles’ correspondence to the congregation in Corinth, to Timothy and Titus, and to the congregations of Asia Minor provide multiple occasions addressing standards of sexual conduct (1 Cor 5:1-13; 6:9-20; 1 Tim 1:3-11; Titus 1:9-16; 3:8-11; Rev 2:14-16; 2:20-24).

Conclusion. In summary, when weighing the question of whether a man who experiences same-sex inclination should be ordained to or remain in the eldership of the PCA, it seems prudent to begin with the premise that evaluation of a man for office will include but will not be limited to his self-description. In addition, his doctrine and practice will be consistent with what he believes and declares himself to be and with what the church believes and declares itself to be. In this way, a candidate will gain a good reputation with those inside and outside the church, with the church accepting the judgment of outsiders only when it accords with God’s revealed will. All of these factors work together to fill out the picture of how the Spirit of God gives His testimony that a man should be inducted into or remain in the eldership through the testimonies of the candidate himself, a congregation, and a church court. Against the preceding backdrop, when we consider whether the Apostle’s above reproach criterion allowed for individualized judgments about fitness for eldership when it came to men experiencing homosexual inclinations, we have to deny that claim and oppose those who affirm it. Such a claim is at odds with the connectional obligation of congregations, sessions, and presbyteries to promote the consistency of the church’s profession, teaching, and practice with the apostolic traditions in general and with the sexual purity standards of Scripture in particular.

10 Comments

  1. Tim LeCroy said,

    May 26, 2021 at 10:22 am

    Dr. White, I appreciate you you carefully draw out the above reproach qualification with regard to personal testimony, doctrine, and practice and qualify that the opinion of outsiders must be with respect to things that line up with God’s moral law. For instance, if an outsider has a bad opinion of me because I believe that God created male and female and mutilating one’s body to “switch genders” is against his created order, then we wouldn’t say that their bad opinion of me had weight with regard to my qualifications to be a minister or elder. However if the same person had a bad opinion of me because I am known to be a bully in the community, being unkind and unloving in my speech and actions toward others, that would have a bearing in whether I was qualified. If they had a bad opinion of me because I was stingy and inhospitable, then that would also have a bearing. On that I think we are agreed.

    However, where I find you make a leap that is not connected exegetically is where you move from the Apostolic commands to “abstain from sexual immorality,” (Acts 15:20) and the biblical commands against same sex sexual acts to this notion that even someone who is tempted with homoerotic temptation but doesn’t act on it is not above reproach. The Scriptures uniformly forbid and call abomination the sex acts involved in homosexual practice. When Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “Such were some of you,” he is referring to folks who were sexually active in their homosexuality. He does not refer to those who experience homoerotic temptation and say, “such were some of you.” He says, “some of you used to engage in these cultic sex acts with those of your same gender, and you no longer do that, Praise the Lord!” Furthermore, if we look at the Old Testament passages where homosexuality is called an abomination, it is uniformly the sex acts that are condemned as an abomination. The Scriptures are very clear about this.

    Yes, Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Matt. 5:28) but this is an expansion of the seventh commandment along the lines of what we have in our Catechisms. We all commit adultery in our hearts when we have lustful thoughts about any person who is not our wedded wife. But when it comes to the above reproach qualification, it is our blameworthiness that is at issue. If a man is confessing his sin of homoerotic attraction, repenting of it and mortifying it, how is he blameworthy? What in the Scriptures say that this particular temptation itself is disqualifying? Respectfully, that, in my opinion, you have not demonstrated with this essay.

  2. rfwhite said,

    May 26, 2021 at 10:42 am

    Tim LeCroy: Thanks for engaging. I’m traveling right now. I’ll hope to respond in a few days. Thanks for your patience.

  3. Freddy Castaneda said,

    June 1, 2021 at 9:33 am

    Forgive me for not knowing fully what is going on in the PCA. I’m not a PCA member, nor do I go to a PCA church. But as a brother in Christ, I do not think that Mr. White is saying that those who are tempted by homosexual attractions are not above reproach, but rather he is saying that those who describe themselves as homosexuals (even though they do not act upon such attractions and mortifying themselves) are not above reproach. I don’t know of any Christian who would want to describe themselves with a sin as though it is part of who they are. Sure, we are sinners, but we are not our sins or even a specific sin that has had a particular hold on us or have fought with the most. It makes no sense to say that one is a Murderer or Thief, in that even though they don’t act upon it, that somehow it is who they intrinsically are, and yet call themselves Christian. A Murdering Christian? A Thieving Christian? A Homosexual Christian? It is an oxymoron and contrary to the Word of God.
    My two cents.

  4. rfwhite said,

    June 1, 2021 at 2:22 pm

    #1 Tim LeCroy: Thanks very much for waiting until now for me to respond to your interaction with my post.

    Let me start by responding to your conclusion that I did not demonstrate that a man who is confessing his sin of homoerotic attraction, repenting of it, and mortifying it is disqualified from office. Looking back to the introduction to my post, you will see that the questions you pose were not the ones I intended to address. My intention was to provide reasons to oppose the claim that the above reproach criterion allows for variable assessment by church courts when applied to individual cases. Leaving that aside, your good questions offer me an opportunity to make some additional observations that I hope are helpful. In what follows, I’ll just move through your comments, paragraph by paragraph.

    Responding to your 1st paragraph, I would say that we’re agreed, provided we also agree that a bad reputation with outsiders may include not only our beliefs and conduct but also our teaching. I anticipate that we’d agree that all three (i.e., beliefs, conduct, teaching) or any one of the three may bring about a bad reputation for us with outsiders.

    In your 2nd paragraph, you state that I make an unwarranted exegetical leap when I (in your words) “move from the Apostolic commands to ‘abstain from sexual immorality,’ (Acts 15:20) and the biblical commands against same sex sexual acts to this notion that even someone who is tempted with homoerotic temptation but doesn’t act on it is not above reproach.” As you’d probably guess, I have to disagree with you here. Your criticism that my “exegetical leap” is unwarranted is based, at least in part, on your introduction of the term temptation into our discussion, a term that I did not use. What difference does the term make? Well, you doubtless know that the term temptation may imply a test or a seduction, the former inclining those tempted to good, the latter inclining those tempted to evil. To be sure, if I had used the term temptation, your criticism would have some weight. I chose the term inclination deliberately, however, because it is the word that appears in the MOP’s response to the Session of Covenant Church (PCA), Fayetteville, AR, and also in the Westminster Standards where they discuss the corruptions of our nature by indwelling sin that incline us to evil. My “leap” was warranted, then, because within the contexts of those discussions, it was a given that we were talking about sinful inclination, which is always blameworthy even without the sinful act itself.

    As I continue reading, I find that I also disagree with your comments on the prohibitions in Acts 15:20; 1 Cor 6:9-11; and certain relevant OT texts. You say that we should see in those passages only a prohibition of acts and not also a prohibition of temptation (which again was not my terminology). Yet you provide no justification for your view. As you’d understand, you need to do more than assert your view to persuade me of it. In addition, you don’t apply Jesus’ commentary on the 7th commandment in His Sermon on the Mount to your reading of those passages, even though it is relevant to your comments on them.

    In your 3rd paragraph, I agree with your reading of Jesus’ statement on the 7th commandment. More specifically, I expect you would agree that He would have us interpret the 7th (and all others, presumably) in light of the 10th and the Two Greatest Commandments. As you point out, the 7th commandment requires, along the lines of our Catechisms, a heart free of all unchaste thoughts, all unnatural lusts, all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections. Jesus rejects any reading of God’s moral law that would focus only on its external requirements by focusing also on its internal requirements. Thus, He forbids the sinful thought as well as the sinful act. By His brief commentary on the 7th commandment, then, Jesus exposes our unchaste hearts and our need of a new, chaste heart. By your references to Matt 5:28 and our Catechisms, I take it that you would urge us to believe and teach the truth they express. Your appeal to those references, however, is at odds with your view of the prohibitions in Acts 15:20; 1 Cor 6:9-11; and certain relevant OT texts. Surprisingly, you read those passages in the very way that Jesus rejected: that is, you read them with a focus only on their external requirements and not also on their internal requirements.

    You continue your critique by mentioning our common commission of adultery in our hearts. We’re agreed about our shared guilt and corruption and about our shared need for confession, repentance, and mortification. We’ve both affirmed that all of these holy habits are necessary to meet Paul’s above reproach criterion. We’d also agree, I expect, that their presence in a man’s life, while truly a cause for rejoicing, is not the threshold of qualification for office: those habits must be more mature in an elder than in a recent convert, setting an example for others. It’s fair to ask, however, how can a man who confesses sin, repents of sin, and mortifies sin be disqualified from office? My answer is twofold. He is disqualified, first, because, in keeping with Scripture and our Catechisms, homoerotic inclination is one sin among others that, in itself and also by reason of the aggravations that accompany it, is more heinous than others and thus is disqualifying. He is disqualified, second, because his self-description and teaching as they relate to homosexuality and mortification are equivocal and thus confusing precisely where he must be as unequivocal and clear as Scripture and our Confession and Catechisms are. When he describes himself and teaches other Christians how to describe themselves, do his self-description and teaching show that he understands and would have us understand what Paul would have us know in, for example, Rom 6:3-4, 6; Gal 2:20-21; and 1 Cor 6:11? That is, as someone else has put it, does he believe and teach Christians that they belong to a new category of people who share this defining identity: they are “those-who-have-died-to-sin” people and no longer people defined by sin? If a man’s self-description and doctrine do not match up with Paul’s gospel logic, then he will sow error and confusion from the eldership and bring reproach not only on what he believes and declares himself to be, but also on what Christians should believe and declare themselves to be.

    All this to say, I join my voice to yours and others in affirming any Christian who confesses sin, repents of sin, and mortifies sin, including homoerotic sin. May we all be pleased to welcome these brothers and sisters as God is pleased to add them to our congregations. At the same time, I am not able to affirm that such a man has met the above reproach criterion and is qualified for eldership. To the contrary, his self-description and doctrine disqualify him from office because they introduce confusion and error into the church’s understanding of homosexuality and mortification, confusion and error that materially detract from the church’s profession, doctrine, and practice in ways that are contrary to Scripture, our historic Confession and Catechisms, and our Book of Church Order.

  5. B Totty said,

    June 8, 2021 at 9:00 pm

    Thank you Fowler for providing an excellent article and a follow-up that is clear, timely, informative and instructive to so many Churches, congregations and Believers struggling (and unfortunately often confused) about such an important topic that now faces the Church both nationally & globally.

    Unfortunately sins of sexual perversion are often too quickly identified as “just another sin” in order to serve an agenda. But when Paul talks about God’s judgement associated with the rebellion of unbelief against the general revelation of God in nature & the law written on every person’s heart, a portion of that terrifying judgement is God finally giving up or giving over people to all types of sexual perversion; as if to say sexual perversion against nature is not just wrong but is also a signpost of God’s judgement & abandonment (cf. Romans 1:18-27, 32). As a Church and a nation we should be in fear and trembling as we observe without disagreement how this teaching and behavior has literally exploded & become acceptable among younger and older people in record time.

    Yet here we are debating doctrinally, if a man can serve as an Elder if he continues to identify himself as ‘gay’ but ‘in Christ’ ?; as if a former sinful inclination or aptitude can share in his union ‘with Christ’ ” (cf. Rom.6, Eph.4:17-23). In other words, if a Believer is so inclined (or has an aptitude) toward a particular sin are they are not disqualified for a leadership role demanding a life ‘beyond approach’ ? Practically speaking, doesn’t above-reproach imply without question or reservation? Yet the question out of the gate raises doctrinal issues and doubt about the person’s maturity due his new identity markers.

    And doesn’t this doctrine directly teach or at least imply that the “gay Christian” can never change and is forever on earth in this state? How is that love and how does that fit into the theology of sanctification & the work of the Spirit ? (2Cor.5:17; Gal.2:20; 1 Cor.6:9-11; 18-20). And yet the idea of permanent change is itself so controversial that I have witnessed heads pop off tempered men when asked the question!

    Unfortunately we have been good at parsing words and creating new identity markers from the beginning e.g. “Did God really say … ?” If someone identifies with a particular sexual sin would we not naturally disqualify their role in leadership in order to protect the Church and the individual until that is resolved? For instance, would we be having this discussion if someone came up for ordination and stated they were inclined toward transgenderism or pedophilia so that they would identify themselves as a “transgender Christian” for example ? Or has homosex-attraction been granted a special exemption in this case (because all sin is equally heinous)? We are living in a day where I just filled out a medical form where the question about my gender had no less than 5 choices. So should we wonder if ordaining a “gay christian pastor” is not going to offend God or the Bride of Christ or confuse the Biblical call to repentance & mortification of the flesh? If not, then we are ‘wandering’.

    Of course we must welcome, empathize and share the pain & burden of anyone struggling with a sexual perversion. But there are many ways to accomplish that or to use these men to minister or help counselor others with similar challenges w/o ordaining them. And boo to Leaders who would entertain subjecting a Christian at this stage to a leadership role in this environment. And likewise, if that individual were mature, would they not step back from pressing leadership role in order to insure peace, unity and avoid confusion in the Church for the sake of their brothers & sisters (Rom.13-14)? Is it not reasonable to believe that such an accepted practice would impose confusion not only among Believers but also on those outside the Church; many of whom are also struggling with questions about identify and human sexuality that the media outlets are pounding down their throats.

    Where is wisdom or love in this? Is the persistence to do this out of our love for God & His holiness, or a love for God’s people, or a love for the individual himself or is it to satisfy an appeal to the new cultural mandate? If you scan the blogs it appears we are more concerned about wokeness & CRT than we are about understanding repentance, mortification, the work of the Holy Spirit & our union with Christ. – perhaps we need to ask ourselves who are we seeking to please … ‘are we seeking the praise of men more than the praise of God’? How are we ‘guarding the flock’ by word-smithing exemptions around clear doctrinal and practical implications?

  6. Tomas said,

    June 9, 2021 at 9:28 am

    B Totty, in these discussions it is helpful to remind those in the conversation that some sins are in fact more grievous than others.(WSC 83) This reality is often sidestepped, denied, or ignored in current conversations around sexual sin.

    It would be helpful if there was an essay one could point to that provided guiding principles on how to determine those sins that are more grievous “in themselves”. Those that become more grievous vis a vi several aggravations are matters of habit or pattern.

    One place to start is OT case law–not in any attempt to read those case laws into the modern state, but in terms of which sins were punished more severely than others. Vern Poythress’ Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses is useful on some of these questions.

  7. rfwhite said,

    June 9, 2021 at 11:50 am

    Tomas: Knowing B. Totty as I do, he’ll respond if/when he can. Meanwhile, when looking for guiding principles on how to determine the aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others, as you likely know, WLC Q/A 150-51 are one place to start. Thomas Ridgley’s commentary on the WLC is helpful, as is the commentary of J. G. Vos.

  8. Tomas said,

    June 9, 2021 at 5:42 pm

    Dr. White, I was aware of WLC 150-51, but your reminder is helpful Ridgley is new to me. Appreciate the assist.

  9. B Totty said,

    June 9, 2021 at 10:31 pm

    Hey Tomas,

    Ditto on the comments from FW above … you may also find useful Fisher’s Explanation of the Shorter Catechism – Q. 83 – here is a link:

    reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/documents/fisher/q083.html

    Other helpful titles touching WSC q83:

    Thomas Vincent
    shortercatechism.com/resources/vincent/wsc_vi_083.html

    Cambridge Press
    cambridgepres.org.uk/resources/app/type/westminster-shorter-catechism/resource/334/title/q83

    Francis R. Beattie’s – The Presbyterian Standards:
    “Guilt and its Degrees”

    John Flavel’s – Exposition of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism

    Matthew Henry’s – A Scripture Catechism in the Method of the Assembly

    Thomas Watson’s – Body of Divinity – ‘What is Sin’

    John Whitecross – The Shorter Catechism Illustrated

    Ezekiel 8:6. “He said unto me, Son of man, see what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, that I should o far off from my sanctuary? But turn yet again, and you shall see greater abominations.”

    Mark 8 – “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will lander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

  10. Tomas said,

    June 10, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    I’ve bookmarked Beattie a few times. That particular essay looks helpful. Perhaps, I’m finally without excuse to follow that bookmark.


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