Friday, May 05, 2006

The T4G Statement the essentials, unity


In the essentials unity…
The Together for the Gospel Conference (T4G) concluded last week in Louisville, KY. Everyone I have spoken to that attended T4G was greatly encouraged, impacted, challenged and eager for T4G 2008.

Other duties kept me from attending personally, but I downloaded all the conference MP3’s a few days ago and have listened to each message about three times (I thank the Lord for my iPod). I truly hope that they will also release the panel discussions in the near future as well.

I was greatly encouraged by each of the messages presented by these seven men (Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, and John MacArthur). Arguably, these are some of the finest Bible expositors, theologians and Christian thinkers of our day. Some of them are friends, others mentors, some I have never met, but all have been examples to me of men dedicated to the truth of God’s Word and representing its truth uncompromisingly. We can rejoice that God has raised up such men willing to take a stand on what it means to really be committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, live according to its truths, and encourage others to do likewise. I do not say that lightly or gratuitously.

Though the messages preached were not for the most part expositional in nature from the text of Scripture as many would expect (with the noted exception of Ligon Duncan on his excellent message of preaching the O.T.), these brothers did faithfully declare needed and helpful biblical and theological principles concerning the local church, culture, evangelism, personal holiness, the glory of God, and the gospel. For example: John Piper was very passionate about what he called, “exposition exaltation”; John MacArthur shared meaningful sign posts that have marked his 40 years in ministry; R.C. Sproul gave an excellent theological treaty on justification by faith.

Then you add to them Al Mohler’s spot on views of culture, Mark Dever’s marks of a faithful pastor, Ligon Duncan’s encouragement to faithfully preach the O.T., and C.J. Mahaney’s infectious unconscious humility to guard one’s life and doctrine—we are given some indispensable foundations for biblical ministry. I am prayerful that the Lord will use these messages in future weeks and months to speak to my own life and ministry. I would urge you to obtain your own copy of the MP3’s HERE.

in the nonessentials, liberty…
One of the fruits of this conference is a T4G Statement on the Gospel drafted primarily by Dr. Al Mohler. This is a brief manifesto (18 articles) of essential doctrine concerning the gospel and its outworkings; urging the church at large to stand against the tide of unsound doctrine and the moorings of a distorted gospel by boldly reclaiming and then proclaiming the true gospel. Though not specifically mentioned, the concern is fueled by movements and skewed theological suasions such as the Emergent Church, Open Theism, New Perspectivism of Paul, Sabellianism, Pragmaticism, etc. Though we have many profound current statements on the gospel, and throughout all of church history great confessions and creeds, we can say amen for the need of this new kind of statement of faith that crystallizes biblical truth to confront and correct these theological aberrations.

As I was reading the T4G Statement I began asking myself a series of questions. The first one being a general and practical one that pertains to us especially who “live dialy” in the blogosphere: is it right in the public arena to pose questions about what anyone may assert about the Christian faith? What if this involves those whom you admire (like the brothers mentioned above)? What if they are friends or co-laborers in ministry or that are the leading “names” of our day? Is it proper to voice an opinion through the lens and plumbline of Scripture if that opinion is different or in direct conflict with theirs? IOW, are some exempt from public scrutiny concerning doctrine? Does the standard apply to all or just to some? And should some be given a pass because they have faithfully served the Lord for many years?

The clear answer came through the words of the Apostle Paul: “Examine all things; cling to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21); “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:9-11). Careful testing of all that represent the Lord and His truth, including myself, is essential to the health of modern day evangelicalism; and as well, in a spirit of humility, any of us in public ministry must submit to and welcome the constructive criticisms and probing questions from any believer in the Lord as a “noble minded Berean.”

I have not been to seminary for my training in theology. Though I considered that path several years ago, it is not how the Lord has led in my life in preparation for ministry. There are many others throughout church history that can apply to as well. Seminaries, though not mentioned in the Bible and have no real biblical footing, can be used in some manner to prepare men for ministry. But Scripturally, the duty is given to the leadership of the local church to train “faithful men to teach others also.” IOW, “the treasure” of the Bible was not given to scholars or educators—the duty to “contend for the once for all delivered to the saints faith“ is not the mantle of professors, but of the people of God; people who were primarily uneducated, unschooled, and unlearned. And yet, they were expected to understand, comprehend, apply, teach, preach, and live according to its infallible truths.

Today, one of the concerns within evangelicalism is that many of these heresies mentioned above were not born in the womb of local church ministry and leadership, but in the halls of academia and scholarship. The seminaries have virtually no accountability to the local church or local church leadership today—and it is troubling. Listen, every believer in the body of Christ is to be a faithful Berean examining whatever is being asserted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not meant for a few professionals, but for all who know the Lord and embrace His gospel. And an ordinary Christian equipped with the truths of God’s Word can confront and engage even the most profound of scholars and “win the day” for the cause of the gospel.

Beloved, if the Apostle Paul who penned the infallible, eternal truth of Scripture writing thirteen of the twenty-seven N.T. epistles under the superintending of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16ff) willingly invites examination by others, how much more should any of us, all of us in public ministry welcome that same examination? Even if those words of question and scrutiny come in the form of a corrective exhortation, passionate disagreement, gentle encouragement, or in the language of debate?

and in all things, charity.
On this blog, I want it to be understood, that if you read from time to time in these many articles of instruction from God’s Word on a myriad of subjects, when I am addressing those with whom I have served with in the past, or admire, treasure in friendship, and hold in high esteem, it does not mean that I don’t love them, respect them or honor them. We must guard our words and bathe them in a heart of Christian love and grace, but we must speak the truth and not shrink from our duty to represent the whole counsel of God. As Proverbs says, “faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” I submit to you my brothers and sisters, that it is a sign of deep Christian charity that we continually examine our Christian leaders and what they are teaching for “teachers are subject to a stricter judgment.” And to ignore this duty, is to not operate in Christian love, but in self-preservation, political posturing, and timidity.

In that spirit, I would like to offer the following questions and suggestions about the T4G Statement on the Gospel with the motive not to be critical, but to see this statement stronger and more profitable for the body of Christ.

As you read this statement, there are three things that I would humbly submit for your consideration:

1. In these eighteen articles there is no Scripture listed. This, I believe, is crucial. All of these men are dedicated to the authority of God’s Word and to the proclamation of its truth rightly divided (2 Tim. 2:15, 3:16-17); and all of these suasions listed above have one thing in common, the purposed departure from the standard of Scripture. The Scriptures must define, shape, govern, and clearly demonstrate our convictions doctrinally and theologically. The T4G statement represents for the most part sound doctrine, but for the body of Christ in general to understand and have confidence in this statement, I think it is a needed component that with every affirmation and denial that Scripture must be there leading the way. This is the only thing that gives any statement of faith like this its authority. Without it, others could easily dismiss its assertions, importance and the weight of its convictions as theological bias..

2. There is no articles currently listed that deal with three key areas: original sin/the fall of man; the consequences of eternal judgment for rejecting the gospel; and practically, whom we partner with in the proclamation of the gospel and in the daily outworking of the gospel. This again is very important. The gospel of grace brings comfort to the sinner when they see the depth of their own fallenness from God; the gospel of grace brings a sobering warning to those who reject its claims; and in a highly politically charged environment currently in evangelicalism trying to recapture a societal morality through legislation rather than through regeneration—the gospel of grace must remain central for the Christian in addressing all cultural concerns.

3. Lastly, the language of the statement would benefit greatly from more specificity and clarity to provide context, definition, and precision in its claims. I.e. – a simple illustration of this can be found in Articles 1 and II in dealing with the authority of the Bible. I agree with what is written, but there is no definition as to what they mean by “the entire Bible”? The Romanists would claim that the entire for them includes the Apocrypha as well; or the Mormons claim that “the entire Bible” would also include the addition of The Book of Mormon. This may seem basic, but I know the framers of the T4G Statement would desire to see those blinded by these false gospels (Gal. 1:6-9) to be changed for eternity by its claims in seeing them respond to the gospel of grace by God's sovereign electing love.

Though the T4G Statement in its current form to me is not as strong as it needs to be, I believe it could benefit greatly by giving the proper time for discussion, debate, scrutiny and examination from many in Christianity and thus being multi-authored. May I encourage us all to pray that the Lord would guide these men as they consider the input, constructive criticisms and questions of others pertaining to T4G; and that they would be freed from the urgency of publishing deadlines, immediacy, and brevity. We are all on the same team here beloved and desire to see God glorified, His gospel magnified, and the onslaught of unsound doctrine silenced and genuine Gospel churches committed unashamedly to the truth of God’s Word.

To that end, we all can stand “Together for the Gospel”… Amen?

“We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord.”
2 Cor. 4:5


Scruples said...

Since Steve is welcoming probing questions, here is one. Why is it necessary for the T4G statement to include an article that prohibts women from pulpit ministry?

Part of Article XVI states, "We further affirm that the teaching office of the church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings."

How does this article bring Men and Women together for the Gospel?

4given said...

Scruples... because the Word of God is clear that women should not be in the pulpit. Most of my posts are about Biblical Womanhood. I am in the process of writing my opinion on each of the 3 affirmations and the 3 denials within Article XVI. Which includes why this does bring men and women together for the Gospel. The Egalitarian view is what divides. It is not a scriptural view.

littlegal_66 said...
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4given said...

I have personally questioned the need for the T4G statement because of the great conferences and creeds of the past. However, I have also come to the conclusion that this statement is needed for our time as more of an encouragement, a "let us press on...", let us co-labor together to confirm the truth of the essentials as we display how you have broken down your article... "In essentials unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity."
However, I do hope this is not considered complete. Though I can figure out for myself what Scripture references go with each article, I do believe that not listing them sets this article up for even more criticism.
I have also been sadly discouraged by those who are solid in the Word of God, who voice valid concerns in such a way as one being faithful to the Word of God as a Berean, are being relentlessly attacked. We must never get caught up in the following of men... even the great men on the T4G panel. I have a HUGE amount of respect for this panel of men. Especially Sproul is endeared to my heart because the Lord used Sproul's "Holiness of God" Isaiah 6 tape to draw me to Himself... to break me. However, my primary allegiance is to the Word of God. And we should all lovingly and willingly accept constructive criticism, especially from co-laborers. Yes, those guys are in a fishbowl. They are called to be in that fishbowl more so than others because of how well-known they are. It is a part of any ministry... and it is a part of being a genuine Christian, really. Some are just in one that is more glared and stared at the others. Being in that fishbowl can be waring... but it is a part of ministry that should be looked upon as a privilege, an exciting opportunity to be lovingly (and sometimes not so lovingly) challenged to be able to defend what you believe and why for the glory of God... for the purpose of being sharpened, becoming transformed into the image of Christ, molded, refined. Why do you think John MacArthur has become one of the most renowned and respected expositors?
Let us not grow weary of such things, nor flee from these opportunites... but let it cause us to dig deeper into the Word of God and be transformed by it through those times.

Denise said...

I've looked at Sovereign Grace Ministries' article on "The Empowerment of the Spirit" and I think all who are interested in the T4G should to, as this demonstrates where CJ Mahaney is coming from. Of concern for me is the clear "Charismatic/Pentecostal" view of the sign gifts and the work of the Spirit, and also the inclusion of the Third Wave folks into membership. All for unity, yet this is diametrically opposed to the 5 Solas as well as TULIP. The Charismatic movement as a whole is pragmatic and man-centered.

Considering MacArthur's well-known bold stand against the Charismatic movement and its sign gifts (he wrote two books on the issue as well as preaching against it), why would he hold hands with someone who is pushing the agenda? This is compromise and it saddens me. Is MacArthur going to correct his two books on the matter?

REM said...

Greetings. I have a couple questions.

1. Did you take this to MacArthur first and offer your services? I believe you have his ear.

2. This is regarding your point 1. If a Christian creed (Or statement in this instance) is in accordance with the scriptures without listing exact locations in the scriptures, does that then diminish the creed's importance? (Example: Nicene Creed and other creeds holding high what the Word of God states, without listing exact scripture references.) And while I am on it, why do you think that great creeds of old didn't list scripture references (Just curious as to why some did and others didn't list scripture references)?

Good posts by all.


Denise said...

I'm amazed and disappointed at the absolute lack of any mention of Scripture in the T4G Articles. This from men purportedly of great exegetical knowledge and practice? Unbelieveable.

I'm also amazed at how it sounds very much like the Promise Keepers---unity, unity, unity, and an apology of racism.(with an accusation of wide-spread racism against Black people, presumably by White Christians). Sounds like white guilt to me. I cannot believe they played the race card.

Jabbok said...

I've been wrestling with whether or not to purchase the mp3's. I thought it was interesting that I posted a sermon brief by Geoff Thomas just a few days before the T4G conference and statement. Mr. Thomas said,

"Our consciences are captive to the Word of God alone. It does not matter for our Christian lives if we never heard of one single 'prophecy,' or one 'saying of Jesus' which was not found in the New Testament, or one so-called infallible utterance made by a pope, or never attended a revival where the greatest preacher in the world was preaching an inspiring sermon. It does not matter that we went through our entire lives and missed such words. We have "Moses and the prophets", and their words we must not miss out on."

I do respect the labors of all of God's men who struggle with defining and defending truth along with the daily stress of ministry.

I sometimes wonder if we take ourselves too seriously though.

I enjoy your site...

4 His Glory Alone!

donsands said...

Nice post. The Articles are good. They start with the Word as being our authority, and end with God getting all glory.
Could they use some spiritual tweaking? I suppose so.
My appraisal:




cyd said...

Excellent Post, Steve. Thank you so much!!

I am so glad to see that others are shocked by the lack of Scripture references in the T4G Statement; it would be so helpful in defining these Articles, wouldn't it?

For instance, had article XVI included 1 Timothy chs. 2,3,& 4, as well as Titus chs. 1 & 2, the necessary weight, substance and clarity would be given.

There is no substitute for the authority of God's Word. What a great peace and rest we have in it!!

Carla said...

Steve, thank you.

My comments were far too long to post here, so I posted them here.

I certainly do hope your words are received in the same spirit they were clearly written in.


4given said...
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Dan S. said...

On point #1, I just did a real quick survey of some of the historic creeds and confessions and not many include Scripture references in the body of the statement (Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Augsburg Confession, Belgic Confession, Westminster Confession, London Baptist Confession). Church history experts can correct me on this, but is seems that even the ones that do have Scripture proofs (like the Westminster Shorter Catechism) those were later additions.

All that to say that, for myself, the absence of those references does not lessen the force of the statement.

Jeff said...

I would have loved to listen to the MP3s of the messages. But when I looked for them I was surprised to see they were charging for them. The cost wasn't much, I admit. When I complained, they wrote a nice note back explaining that it was a ministry and they needed to be good stewards of the ministry resources. Fine. But, even at the nominal charge, I was very disappointed.

So, who should charge for MP3 downloads?
1. Music companies and artists who make a living producing music.
2. For profit companies who have a product.
3. Retail outlets.
4. Ministers who are in it for the money.

I am sorry to see a ministry asking for a charge. Then again, I come from a different doctrinal view, perhaps. If they had only asked for a 'donation', I would have gladly given. But to charge?...I hear Apple is only $.99 a download. When will they be out on iTunes?

No, I feel they made a mistake, and I hope this does not effect the ministry. Freely receive, freely give. Remember the five loaves and two charge.

4given said...

Can the purpose of this document be defined in the intro?: We are also brothers united in deep concern for the church and the Gospel. This concern is specifically addressed to certain trends within the church today.

I have read the statement prayerfully over and over. That intro finally hit me. I don't think this is a doctrinal statement. What it apears to be is a list of specific affirmations and denials that breifly address today's church trends.
When I look at it as a breif address of church trends, the purpose and potential of it is exciting in that it provides an outline for fruitful, prayerfully discerned discussions ... When I look at it as a doctrinal statement that is considered complete, I am discouraged.
Perhaps if brought before a church body as a breif address of today's issues, a church can then use it as an outline to create or tweek or expound on their own doctrinal statement which should include Scripture references. said...

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and here is mine.

You are wrong about them being wrong to charge for the MP3 of the sermons.

Making money? A profit? Do you know that for a fact? Do you know that after the cost of putting on the conference, the cost of the free books, the cost of the free bottled water that was available to all the participants (3000 men X ?5 bottles a day X 2 days = a lot of bottled water), the cost of advertising the conference, the cost of administrating the details of the conference (signing up 3000 people does not come without effort)... did they make a profit?

Do you personally know for a fact that T4G is rolling in a profit b/c of the sell of the MP3s?

No, in fact you don't. Just speculation on your part.

I paid $175 for the conference and received $200 worth of free books and materials. That means that I have gotten $25 extra - I'm the one who made a profit!

I feel bad about this profit-making, so if you will please go download the sermons, and email your snail mail address, I will send you a check reimbursing you for the cost of the MP3s. That should be about $25, and my profit-making guilty conscience will be cleared. LOL

And if you decide you want to go to T4G 2008, then in about a year, email me your request, and I will line you up with a complete scholarship.

Nobody who was there and heard the sermons live is now complaining about the $2 download price.

Just my opinion on the subject...

Grace & Peace,
Scott Lamb

Bill said...

dan s. says I just did a real quick survey of some of the historic creeds and confessions and not many include Scripture references in the body of the statement

I did the same and found the same results (duh!). As dan says, this in no way lessens *their* usefulness and relevance.

jeff says (a number of things about charging for T4G mp3s).

Every conference I've been to charges for the audio portions of the conference. Do you see Piper, MacArthur, living it up in multimillion $ mansions? I don't think so. My guess is that they are recouping the production cost of these events and little more. As Scott points out, those who attended didn't seem fazed at the least at paying for the audio. Several of my friends attended, and they were not at all reluctant to pay for them. If you're like me and you do a little personal evaluation of your spending, I suspect you'll find a few wasteful items on your list that you might be able to swap for those $2.00 download charges. The Starbucks I bought tonight was more than that...

donsands said...


Good points. I agree.
Especially with the Bible itself under heavy attack.

cyd said...

One thought regarding creeds, confessions & catechisms -- it is true that many of our favorites do not include scriptures, and those that do added them in at a later date.

Certainly the T4G statement is a valuable, well constructed document. Clearly most believers would agree upon the the majority of the articles.

However, in light of this present age, where absolutes are null and personal interpretation is 'truth', I believe that any document, be it a doctrinal statement or a list of affirmations and denials, NEEDS the foundation of Biblical
references, so that we, as the body of Christ, can be direct, succinct, and accurate in our standing.

Statements not only need to state WHAT we believe, but WHY.

Our foundation is the Word of God. May we confess, affirm, live and die by it.

Hebrews 4:12

Jeff said...

In response:

I don’t think for a minute that they are trying to make a profit charging a cost for downloading. But why charge? Cover costs? Of what? Bandwidth? There is no paper, no ink, no blank disks, no production costs beyond the initial creation of the original MP3. But the real point I hold on to is: is this ministry or something else?

If this is ministry, by the classic definition to me, there should be absolutely no charge, ever. It diminishes the value of the ministry if money is attached to it in any way, period. I know of several ministries that refuse to charge for their work.

But, if this is something other than ministry, such as the gathering of doctrines together to build a consensus among like-minded people, then, by all means, charge for them. It is proper in that case to ask for money. But I won’t pay to hear what is said.

Which brings me to the point of the original post. In the sub-title are the words: “in the essentials, unity”. If this is a gathering of like-minded people to come together to agree on doctrines, then what they produce (the T4G Statement) may bring them together, but it will produce division among others. I could NEVER sign any statement like the one written at this conference. For these reasons:

1. I don’t have the time or inclination to study each article to figure out what it is saying, or what it means, or ‘why’ it’s saying it. I can’t agree with something that I don’t fully understand or see the point of.
2. Man produced this document. It’s being argued over by the “committee” method. It is doomed to be flawed. Can’t sign on to that. I don’t care who wrote it.
3. Signing any document like this means dividing from someone who can’t sign it. So, although there is a desire on the part of the writers to create unity, at the same time it creates division. Some division is good, but between brothers and sisters, it is not good. Which is the same reason I could never be a member of a denominational church. It all is just division, in the name of Christ.

There is a better way to answer the error of the day, and counter the false teachers leading people astray. These are difficult days, but we were warned about that. We have also been given the weapons to deal with the problem. This Statement is not one of those weapons. It will not produce life. It will produce death.

4given said...

Cyd wrote: " light of this present age, where absolutes are null and personal interpretation is 'truth', I believe that any document, be it a doctrinal statement or a list of affirmations and denials, NEEDS the foundation of Biblical
references, so that we, as the body of Christ, can be direct, succinct, and accurate in our standing."

Well said, Cyd. That is part of the potential of viewing it as not yet complete... the working out of the "why" that must go with the "what".

BlackCalvinist said...


When we still have Harry Seabrooks running rampant in the PCA without being disciplined, I don't think that article XVII is 'the race card'.

donsands said...

"Harry Seabrooks running rampant in the PCA"
I'd like to know more about this. Who is Harry Seabrooks?

Denise said...

Creeds and confessions, although having a limited use, are a far cry from the pure and perfect and authoritative Word of God.

A document with no Scripture is even less useful.

Re: the racist issue: There is no doubt racism exists, but it is not one sided. To make sweeping generalizations from one side of the fence to the other was uncalled for, especially when very few (if any) real Christians are truly racist. To have 6 men "speak" on behalf of so many Christians on this issue(not even the issue but assigning blame to one group and assuming the other group is victimized and without racism--indeed not addressing other groups either), I find presumptious and honestly, divisive.

A better way to have dealt with the racism issue would have been to keep it general so that it addresses "everyone" regarding favoritisim,no matter what color the skin.

candyinsierras said...

Harry Seabrooks is a blatant racist as evidenced by his website.

I found the T4G statement clear and concise, addressing the issues that the Church faces in our culture. Rather than ripping it apart, perhaps we can see it as the beginning stages of a wall that God is building for Biblical truth. It is interesting to see the widening chasm between apostasy and Biblical truth.

I think it is grievous to equate this movement with Promise Keepers. They are world's apart. I also think it is grievious to criticize Sovereign Grace Ministries, which has added so much to the Body of Christ in it's healthiness (as Al Mohler emphasizes) and the character and ministry of C.J. Mahaney.

Some of the criticisms remind me of the criticisms of the congregation of Jonathan Edward's church towards so many of his decisions and actions. Too bad they did not recognize the treasure that God had given them.

We should be Bereans but we should also support the work of God entrusted to these men for such a time as this.

I agree that perhaps African-Americans should not be singled out in their statement, but bear in mind that this statement is addressing specific trends that exist. Harry Seabrooks, and other so called "Christian" groups do exist that single out blacks in an ugly fashion, and I don't see black Christians singling out whites in such ugly displays of racism. Of course, those in the world are a completely different matter, but we are talking about the Church.

Timotheos said...

I downloaded the TG4 and can't hear them, the computer doesn't recognize them - what program did you use to hear them?


gbfluteman said...
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gbfluteman said...

I originally had an extremely long post, but I decided to follow someone else's example and post a slightly modified version of it on my blog instead.

SJ Camp said...


I use iTunes as my default player. But you should be able to access through QuickTime Player, RealPlayer, or Windows Media Player.

I personally found the Sovereign Grace Min. online store one of the finest on the net. Let me know if you still can't access your files. Q: what media player is your default player?

Hope you get these to work... they are well worth the listen (Ligon especially).

2 Cor. 4:5-7

SJ Camp said...

On the issue of Scripture and the purpose of Creeds, Confessions and Statements of Faith:

Here is a brief, but yet helpful statement by A.A. Hodge that may address several questions asked so far on this thread.

He said, "Creeds and Confessions, therefore, have been found necessary in all ages and branches of the Church, and, when not abused, have been useful for the following purposes:

(1.) To mark, disseminate and preserve the attainments made in the knowledge of Christian truth by any branch of the Church in any crisis of its development.

(2.) To discriminate the truth from the glosses of false teachers, and to present it in its integrity and due proportions.

(3.) To act as the basis of ecclesiastical fellowship among those so nearly agreed as to be able to labor together in harmony.

(4.) To be used as instruments in the great work of popular instruction.

It must be remembered, however, that the matter of these Creeds and Confessions binds the consciences of men only so far as it is purely scriptural..."

Any statement desiring doctrinal clarity to ward off the onslaught of unsound doctrine and theological drifting can never error by driving its assertions to the text of Scripture. I would think it is absolutely necessary when addressing the Emergent church movement in particular.

4given said...

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest expression every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace, if he flinches at that point." -Martin Luther

4given said...

Thank you Mr. Camp for not flinching or taking flight, but remaining firm without compromise.

SJ Camp said...

The view and implication that the WCF did not originally contain Scripture references and were added years later as an "after-thought" is not accurate.

Thought the initial version that was sent to Parliament for approval did not contain the Scripture references, Parliament sent it back to the framers and ordered them to include the Scripture references before it could be officially approved for public use.


Once again beloved in our postmodern day, the need for sola scriptura to remain preeminent must be essential, not peripheral.

Terry Rayburn said...

If we are truly to be sola scriptura, we must acknowledge that Scripture itself doesn't advocate the making of man-made creeds and confessions, preferring to point to itself as "profitable" (2 Tim. 3:16).

To be fair, neither does Scripture *forbid* the making of creeds and confessions (I'm trying to be consistent in my sola scriptura here).

But I see several problems with man-made creeds and confessions:

1. Creeds and confessions are essentially superstitious. They are viewed as garlic and cross to be held up to the vampires of error, seeking to hold them at bay. But the "vampires" still roam, until the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit, chooses to drive the wooden stake of the Gospel into their hearts, by means of the Word of God alone.

2. Creeds and confessions are always at odds with vast numbers of the members of the Body of Christ, unless stripped down to the most elemental of "articles". Thus they are either inherently divisive to the Body, or bland baby food.

3. Creeds and confessions give a false sense of understanding, because they lend themselves too easily to a merely mental understanding. They are never "spiritual" nor "spiritually discerned" in the same way the Word of God is.

Theologians hate to admit this, but God has designed the Word in such a way that it does not always appear clear, or consistent, or logical, or bringing conclusions, but yet it feeds us with Life and with the Bread of Life, who is Christ. While it does give us knowledge, it ministers Life and Wisdom to us, not just information.

It has this fundamental characteristic, that it speaks not only to our minds, but it "witnesses to our spirits".

4. 1 Cor. 13:2 makes it clear that if we know all mysteries and all knowledge...but do not have love, we are nothing. Yet man-made creeds and confessions virtually always omit love, and the fruit of the Spirit in general, and particularly the love between members of Christ's Body by which the world will know that we are His disciples. All hat (the doctrine) and no cattle (the Spirit).

5. Finally, my experience has been that Christians get so ingrained in their particular creed or confession that they then use it as if it were Scripture. They prove arguments from it, they divide over it, they fight for it, they elevate it over the Scripture itself -- all the while in denial that they are doing such a thing.

Creeds and confessions strive for perfection. If we want to "sign on" to something that is perfect, let's look to Him who is perfect, and "sign on" to His perfect Word...

"...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." -- 2 Pet. 1:3


Taliesin said...

Steve, while I have not fully reviewed the statement, so I'm not going to agree or disagree with specific statements, thanks for a thoughtful post. I would hope that one reason for the publishing of the statement was to start a dialog on the points it addresses. We who stand in the Reformed tradition must always be willing to continue the process reforming our doctrine in conformity to scripture.

Nutria Boy said...

A great post. I appreciate you taking the time to actually listen to some of the things said at the conference. This is a good thing.

In reading many comments and editorials posted about T4G, as one who attended the conference I would like to caution everyone on a critical point.

If you believe that you can read blogs about a conference like this, read a statement of affirmations and denials, listen to a few audio files, and yet miss the hundreds of other things said either in more detail, spirit, or clarification (such as the panel discussions) and know what the intent and heart of this conference was like you are a like those who piecemeal Scripture and assume they know the text.

Again, kudos to Steve for writing not only a gracious article here but also ACTUALLY LISTENING to what he has access to of the speakers.

One example of what I mean in my above comment is the criticism that I heard someone make that the sermons that these men gave were lacking in Scripture references etc. Well the problem with this comment is that they made it clear to us that these were not sermons. They said that they asked each man to simply share from his heart on a particularly topic, not prepare a Sunday sermon on it. Therefore, you'd expect at least in part that the tone and delivery of the addresss would be different. And it was.

Beware of ordaining yourselves to be both prophet and pundit and remember that contrary to what you may think you know leave yourselves open for not having all the facts and details before launching grenades.

I appreciate Steve's approach and consideration.

Breuss Wane said...

I'd be one who isn't all that *bothered* by the lack of texts attached to the document. This isn't an official confession. And it's real easy to forget that the emergent church couldn't give a rip about text references even if they had been included. The text means nothing to the emergent church because the text is whatever one makes it.

Does anyone seriously believe any of these statements aren't grounded in the text (and yes, the text of Scripture is complementarian not egalitarian)? The question isn't whether or not the text references have been included, but whether or not the statements are in fact grounded in the text. In the end, the various dogmatic defenses for such reference inclusions only make us feel better about ourselves and do nothing, one way or the other, to advance the gospel.

I'm with 4given that such statements are a necessity for any given generation.

IMHO. Sola Scriptura.

littlegal_66 said...

I tend to agree with Chad in that we surely don't think for one minute that these statements are grounded in anything but the text of scripture. HOWEVER, we don't want to give the emergent church an opportunity to poke holes in this by saying, "You claim sola scriptura, but where are the scripture references in the T4G statement?" (as "forgiven" said, potentially "setting this [article] up for more criticism.")

It's kind of ironic to me that there's no scripture provided to support the first five articles' statements intended to affirm the veracity, importance, authority, sufficiency, and infallibility of scripture. Did anyone else notice the irony, there, or am I way off-base in my thinking?

Campi....I thank the Lord for my Ipod, too....I'm never without it! :-)

Scruples said...

Are Scripture References scriptural? I looked it up on Wikipedia and the Bible was "versified" in the middle ages. Isn't referencing Scripture the way we do, like treating the Bible as a jigsaw puzzle that we can split apart and re assemble according to our doctrinal beliefs?

WE all want to abide by Sola Scriptura but it seems to me that we do that principle a disservice by cutting and pasting a list of verses and attaching them to creedal statements.

Surely Sola Scriptura means Scripture as it was written by the original authors NOT Scripture as a collection of verses.

So perhaps its a good thing the T4G statement does not reference Scripture directly but points us back to the Bible as a whole as our guide for faith.

see-through faith said...

re paying for downloads. I don't think it's necessary and the fact that others charge doesn't make it any more right.

As for
I paid $175 for the conference and received $200 worth of free books and materials. That means that I have gotten $25 extra - I'm the one who made a profit!

I'm glad you profited out of going :) Too bad so many people cannot afford the conference fee, the accommodation the travel etc

to get books and oh yes I almost forgot bottled water

where are our priorities??????

This conference was men only. Where were the women? Out spreading the gospel as one cartoonist put it. Worth looking into I think :)

be blessed

and do yourselves a favour - stop fussing about women in ministry - and go out and preach the good news. That's what we all were commanded to do after all.

4given said...

see-through-faith wrote: "This conference was men only. Where were the women? Out spreading the gospel as one cartoonist put it. Worth looking into I think :) be blessed and do yourselves a favour - stop fussing about women in ministry - and go out and preach the good news. That's what we all were commanded to do after all."

The fuss is not about women in ministry. The fuss is not about whether women are aloud to spread the Gospel.
I am a woman.
I embrace the Doctrines of Grace.
I also embrace Biblical Womanhoood.
There is no fuss.
But there is a valid concern regarding obeying God's Word in context. And it is clear in Scripture that women are not to take upon a pastoral/ leadership role over men unless you are willing to muddy and twist Scripture to justify it by saying it was a cultural thing, or you justify it as an experiential thing rather than a Scriptural thing. It is this Egalitarian view that causes the fuss, makes the clear truth divisive.
No fuss on this side.
Just defending, as we should, the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. This is an encouragement to glorify God by joyfully submitting to His authority and perfect design.

Piper says not to "measure your potential by the few roles withheld, but by the countless roles offered."

As a woman, I am happy that it was men only. Yes, i would have loved to have been there. However, that would have meant one less seat for a man, and they needed to be there more than us women. Why? Because this was a conference foe those in authority positions in the church of which women are to joyfully submit to God's design for these men to be in. We women are NOT doormats who embrace this truth. We are strong women that love the Lord and are thrilled at the many ministry opportunites available to us.

littlegal_66 said...

You posted:
"This conference was men only. Where were the women? Out spreading the gospel as one cartoonist put it."

Well, as for the married women...... perhaps also living up to the confidences her husband has placed in her, (Proverbs 31:11), managing her home estate well, keeping things running smoothly there, which allowed her husband to attend the conference without worry of things back home? ("Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land." Proverbs 31:23).

Or how about on the homefront, (or possibly back at the hotel) spending much time in prayer throughout the conference....for her husband, the other men attending the conference, the issues of the conference, and the outcome of the conference itself? (Unmarried women, or women whose spouses couldn't attend could have been in prayer for the conference and the attendees, as well, you know?)
I wonder.......:-)

Is this concept really that passe, that antiquated? (Just musing.....)

4given said...

Oh... Hey Lorna... I did not realize that was you. (Lorna is a female pastor that frequents my Biblical womanhood site.)
She is also someone I consider a friend... though I totally do not agree with her on this issue.

SJ Camp said...

A few brief comments for "the thread" on this issue:

1. Scripture itself always takes precedence over our assertions, even if they are ones principled from Scripture. The Word of God alone is "living, active, sharper than any two-edged sword..."

2. Any statement, like T4G, is much stronger at every level for pointing its readers to the truth of God's Word within its articles; so that even those (like The Emergent Church) who for the most part don't hold to the absolute authority and veracity of God's Word (Dan Kimble, Mark Driscall being two exceptions), will be driven to examine the truths contained in T4G in light of Scripture and not in light of any bias for or against the framers of T4G.

3. There are three reasons biblically why women are not allowed to hold the position of authority within the local church as an elder and/or pastor: a.) There are no Scriptural qualifications found anywhere in Scripture (cp, 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9 for the men); b.) Adam was created first (1 Tim. 2:13 ); and c.) Eve was the one deceived (Ibid. 14).

(1Tim. 2:12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 1Tim. 2:13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 1Tim. 2:14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.)

It is not a matter of ability, it is a matter of obedience to God and His divine ordering of authority within His church. It's that simple.

Thank you all for your comments here...
Keep on,

PS - I have been travelling since early this morning from the Boston area to arrive home in TN. I am very tired after a wonderful weekend of ministry and may not comment again until tomorrow--but I will still be reading all the comments. Thank you in advance for understanding.

Breuss Wane said...

The use of scripture references doesn't make a statement any more biblical. Nor does text referencing give any more credibility to the statements made or make the difference between truth and assertion. Text referencing is overrated simply for the reason that text referencing doesn't prove the assertions. Hundreds of confessions exist in which the prooftexts provided do nothing of the sort.

If the T4G statement were unbiblical, this *might* be an issue. And if the T4G statement were anything other than a discussion starter, this *might* be an issue. This statement is a glorified "blog" with fancy wording from 4 guys. We don't even tag our own conversational assertions about God with prooftexts (Gee, what a nice day God gave us... oops, better back it up w/ Psalm 118:24 lest someone wonder whether God actually gave us this beautiful day... etc. etc.).

IMHO, this is mountain-making of mohlerhills. :-)

Scruples said...

In reply to Steve's interpretation of 1 tim 2, here is an excerpt from an article written by N T Wright you can read here.

"The key to the present passage, then, is to recognise that it is commanding that women, too, should be allowed to study and learn, and should not be restrained from doing so (verse 11). They are to be ‘in full submission’; this is often taken to mean ‘to the men’, or ‘to their husbands’, but it is equally likely that it refers to their attitude, as learners, of submission to God or to the gospel – which of course would be true for men as well. Then the crucial verse 12 need not be read as ‘I do not allow a woman to teach or hold authority over a man’ – the translation which has caused so much difficulty in recent years. It can equally mean (and in context this makes much more sense): ‘I don’t mean to imply that I’m now setting up women as the new authority over men in the same way that previously men held authority over women.’

This reading of 1 Tim does not support excluding women from pulpit ministry. There is not a consensus among biblical scholars on how this passage ought to be read. Given that this debate is not settled I think it important to recognize the immense contribution women have made to the spread of the gospel. For more on that please visit my blog article "Why not Women?" here.

Breuss Wane said...

> written by N T Wright

well, there goes the neighborhood.

cyd said...

Chad ---

Now THAT'S funny!! LOL

SJ Camp said...


Wright is wrong again. In addition to denying the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; getting it wrong on justification by faith; and affirming that one can deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and still love Jesus and be considered a Christian, he doesn't understand the basics of leadership within the local church and completely twists 1 Timothy 2:12-14 (how postmodern of him).

Mike, you gotta do better than this...
2 Tim. 3:16-17

Breuss Wane said...

> (how postmodern of him)

How Generously Heterodox of him.


Timotheos said...

Got the TG4 messages to work. They have been a blessing.

Like you I would encourage the use of Scripture within the bounds of the affirmations. However, one might wonder - were these affirmations developed in simple conversation or were they developed after serious biblical study? Any pastor with their experience in pulpit ministry could come to the same conclusions loosely based on the Scripture.

Unchained Slave said...

There is a problem with creeds or doctrinal statements as divisors (as previously mentioned).
This past week I was emailed an invitation to 'attend' a distance learning Bible Course.
Reviewing the material, the 'application' included a doctrinal statement (without scriptural references). I emailed the director and told him that there was one area of one statement that I could not in clear conscience sign without revision. I viewed this element as a 'non-essential', but one that I could not 'honestly' sign.
His response was that not only was the item 'essential', that anyone that did not accept it as 'fact' (without supporting scripture) was a cultist.

That is division...
Based on a Doctrinal Statement - not the Scriptures.

Needless to say, they did not find me in their list of candidates...

donsands said...


Interesting point. I am able to attend my church, which is EFCA, and I do not agree to a couple statements on the doctrinal statement, yet I agree they are orthodox interpretations. I am a reformed brother serving with non-reformed, because they allow me to serve, and yet at the same time I am here to challenge and debate the deeper issues that we disagree on.
I may one day have to leave, if that is the Lords will, and relocate to a reformed local church, but for now I am ministering in a mostly non-reformed body of believers.
These brethern are fine servants of the Lord indeed.
Thought that might encourage us.

~Mark said...

I've come to look at the woman as pastor issue through a bit of a different lens. I always ask why it is that so many of us don't want God's given role for our lives.

If God has said that men are to be in one role, and women in another, why don't we treasure that? The problem becomes magnified when we have men not living up to their biblical role, and women not living up to theirs.

The first argument I get when I say that the Scriptures do not allow for a woman to be pastor is that women can be great teachers. I always have to laugh and yes, they can, but that isn't the topic at hand!

I'm beginning to think that another major part of the problem is that we so often fail to recognize and nurture the tremendous depth of the woman's role in kingdom service.

Either that or the role of pastor is too often misunderstood!

Unchained Slave said...

I think you hit the nail on the head, squarely with a sledgehammer.

"Either that or the role of pastor is too often misunderstood!"

I believe that a Biblical understanding of the role/responsibilities/duties of the pastor is the single biggest problem in the modern church - especially when the congregation does not know the pastors' job and does not hold him accountable to it...

Like 4given has mentioned in the past, doing church searches (I think she mentioned it on her blog). Call a dozen churches in the phone book and ask them simply for the Pastor's written job description.

I recently asked a pastor if he led the church and board answered to him or if the board led the church by consensus...

He still has not responded...

Thanks ~mark for your insight.

In Christ

4given said...

Good points Mark and unchained slave... now go read Scruples link and talk to him about why even those women he mentions that appeared to make a vast contribution as pastors or leaders over men are still in sin, usurping the authority of God and wrong for having taken on such roles. I have addressed this extensively on several posts in my blog archives already, but it would be nice to read your perspective.
And Mr. Camp... did you ever expect this discussion to go in this direction? Little gal and I did not. But it has been insightful to see your responses to it here. Thank you for that.

littlegal_66 said...

Steve, ~mark, unchained, and 4given-thank you so much for your latest comments on the thread. More timely & pertinent for me than some of you could know.

Much love & appreciation,


P.S. 4given-at first, given scruples' initial comment, I had hoped the thread was going to go in this direction, and posted something to that effect at the very top of the thread. But then, I saw it going in the direction of "lack of scripture references," so I deleted my original post-it would have been post #3 in the thread. But, no matter, it came back 'round to this gnawing issue (yet again). :-)

(Inevitable, you know?)

REM said...

Scruples wrote:
"There is not a consensus among biblical scholars on how this passage ought to be read."

Which ones? Are they scholars or academiacs? Please don't tell me they also backpedal when asked if Jesus spent time near the Sea of Galilee. If there was a consensus, would they uphold it?

The only specific NT context I gather where a woman should teach instead of a man is in Titus 2:3-5, and that is only over younger women. It still takes place under 1 Tim 2 & 3 and includes teaching submission to a husband. Troublemakers may cite that verse, but they must be reading it outside the rest of Titus (hello, 1:9) and the NT as a whole (and the OT for that matter). It doesn't tear down 1 Tim 2 & 3, but rather, upholds and extends the authority of the teacher/elder.
It would be eye opening to discover how many churches with women pastors eventually abandon other scriptural mandates on their path to rewriting church constitutions to disregard the inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures. On the flipside, how many churches rewrite their constitutions to disregard the inerrancy and authority of the scriptures that end up with women pastors along with the ignorance of other biblical mandates? It is the same problem with the same two threads. It almost seems like a streamlined process for some. Evil hearts can be creative (Romans 1:30).

candleman said...

Hi Steve,

You stated about NT Wright - "and affirming that one can deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and still love Jesus and be considered a Christian."

I admit, I know don't know very much about NT Wright, but after listening to this mesage by him, I would be surprised that he would make such a statement. Can you provide a link to his writings where he made the statement you subscribe to him?



SJ Camp said...


Here is the link you requested.

Mr. Wright's beliefs are very troubling indeed.

Samuel said...

What Irony! Scruples makes a comment about T4G and their prohibition of women having a pulpit ministries, and a godly women(4given) reproves his unbiblical stance...

Praise God for godly women who understand and do not undermine their very important biblical roles.

The Armchair Theologian said...

Hmmm. I have read and listened. Now I will comment:

1. I think many people misunderstand what T4G was, and misunderstand the difference between a biblical creed, a confession, and doctrinal statement and Millard J. Erickson's systematic theology. As much as I understand it, no creed has ever had scripture verses in it (the Westminster confession is exactly that, not a creed). Creeds don't contain scripture. T4G wasn't really a creed. It wasn't official; as I understand it, it was simply a positional articulation of certain biblical stances that have undergone recent attacks...much like the statement put out by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. I wouldn't EXPECT there to be scripture in it.

I mean, read Acts 15:23-29. The council at Jerusalem's confession regarding Gentiles and the law was sent to the church at Antioch. The elders (and APOSTLES) who wrote and delivered it didn't seem to have a problem that there wasn't a chapter and verse for each point. Shocking! Peter didn't give "biblical reasoning" for the council's decision. Why?

I don't know. Maybe it's because it wasn't so much a question of 'quoting chapter and verse' (because people probably ALREADY knew those...much like today...who here DOESN'T know that 1 Timothy 2:9-15 is the watershed text in the whole 'ordination of women' debate? Hmmm?). I'm guessing that the 'masses of the faithful' wanted their ecclesial authorities to take a stance on the issue and make an authoritative ruling.

T4G wasn't an 'authoritative ruling', but you can bet your little white booties that people from Kentucky to Kandahar are going to definitely pay attention to what those brothers laid down. Somebody with 'street cred' had to do something, and I'm thanking the Lord for T4G everyday. I'm encouraged that I'm not alone in the positions that I've taken on those issues; it's encouraging for me to know that I'm theologically running in the same pack as Al Mohler, Mark Dever, John Mac, etc. I know the verses in question and that was never the issue. I wanted to know what those guys had to say about the issues that those verses bring up. One day, I'm going to make each one of them a steak!

2. I'd like to now challenge something that has yet NOT even been touched; the whole attack on the Christian academy.

Now, I AM an academic, and a budding theologian, among a few other things. I've been living in the academic world for almost a decade. I have 2 degrees and I'm working on another 3. Those who know me would know that I am probably a harsher critic of the "Christian" academy than Steve Camp even is, but I definitely still see the need for it.

Steve is definitely correct in pointing out that much heresy has rolled 'downhill' from the hallowed temple of the priesthood of the PhD.

AND, Steve is right in arguing that the contending for of the faith was NOT delivered to the realm of academia.

AND Steve is on the money, most of all, in pointing to the lack of accountability of institutions to the local church.

BUT, I will stand firm in the necessity of training godly individuals in a serious, academic setting. This should be done under the eye of a local church, but this should be done none the less.

Somebody has to be able to tackle the heretics in their own court. Someone must be able to stand up against articulate, rhetorically sophisticated ideas that mis-interpret scripture using complex exegetical gymnastics (Like Wayne Grudems' take on biblical prophesy and his misapplication of Sharpe's rule...). And it's my experience, and constant frustration, that nobody in my church, or even city, can do this. I pray that I’m alone in my frustration.

What’s worse is that I’ve personally witnessed, more than once, a room full of ‘well meaning’ and godly men (who knew the Bible like the back of their hand) get completely shredded to bits by a guy who was a heretic, but had a few PhD’s and some very, very sophisticated rhetorical skills that simply overpowered them.

My problem with mentoring is that mentoring often doesn’t USUALLY have the intensity, nor the excellence, of an academic setting. The academy offers something that a mentoring relationship doesn’t; submission to an accreditation organization that watches over you to see that you’re learning and maintaining high levels of excellence, as measured against a common standard of education.

I’ve met a ton of people who’ve told me, smugly, that they’ve not been to bible college but have instead had a personal mentorship by some godly stud or attended some church's 'super school of sainthood'. They’ve ‘learned’ Greek, and read ‘good theology’, and on and on. Then I talk to them and see that they’ve only learned enough Greek to get themselves into trouble and have been spoon-fed only their mentors favorite theologians. I’ve learned to absolutely dread the comment “Oh, you should meet my friend so-and-so, she/he’s been studying with (insert name of local celebrity pastor or whatever church’s ‘discipleship training program’)…you two would have such wonderful conversations about theology and God”. Every single time I meet the lucky lad or lass, after 30 minutes we’re either in a full on Bible study on some topic that they’ve been completely mislead on, or I’m teaching (on my days off too! AH! ) on how typology really works, what is and is not an ‘inclusio’, or whatever the issue is. Almost everyone who’s been privately trained in the ‘kenjitsu’ of the sword of the spirit has been two strokes away from mistakenly committing ‘spiritual seppuku’.

We don’t need to turf seminaries…we need GOOD seminaries, with high accreditation parallel to secular accreditation. We need seminaries that employ articulate, highly trained, exceedingly competent men of God who live righteous lives and aren’t an embarrassment to either the intelligencia or the saviour. The more time I spend in the academy, the more I see how Christians need to push high standards of education and learning cause, uh...well...we're generally really stupid. I know that my saying “secular associations” will make people spit, but I say that because we have to understand where the lines of excellence are drawn. And I’m not scared of standing up to secular standards of academic excellence. We need educated, Christ exalting, articulate, Biblically saturated, SCHOLARS. (And many good pastors are scholars) The church is where it is today because of Christ, but Christ has done HUGE things with a few academics:

Paul, Augustine, Tertullian, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Warfield, Van Til, Zacharias, etc.

Just an idea. G’night!

littlegal_66 said...

samuel wrote:
"What Irony! Scruples makes a comment about T4G and their prohibition of women having a pulpit ministries, and a godly women(4given) reproves his unbiblical stance...

Praise God for godly women who understand and do not undermine their very important biblical roles."

:-) AMEN. It's something I'm personally striving for daily in my own life.

Samuel said...

Cool beans!I personally do not know where I would be at, in Christ, If the good Lord hadn't placed my wife in my life...praise God for the spouses he entrusts to our stewardship-who see our battle wounds,tend to them and encourage us back to the forefront of spiritual battle!

Scruples said...

After reading the comments on my post regarding Women’s role in Pulpit ministry it is clear to me that most commenters never actually took the time to read Wright’s article.

Wright is not the only theologian making this case. Gordon Fee, from which I took a course on Biblical Exegesis, also believes that this passage does not prohibit women from pulpit ministry. (See his book Gospel and Spirit).

Your following could do with a good knock down theological argument between you and someone who has the ability to speak with authority when it comes to interpreting the Scriptures such as Wright or Fee. They are just as committed to Scripture as you are, Steve. Together, Fee and Wright have more years of worth of theological, historical and exegetical expertise in Biblical interpretation than you or I are old in the Lord.

I read my Bible, weigh the arguments of the experts and draw my conclusions. Wright and Fee make a much better case for interpreting that passage in the light of the whole gospel which does not prescribe gifting on the base of gender. Gender ought not to be an issue when it comes to pulpit ministry. The church needs as many gifted men and women as possible to proclaim the good news. We need to move on from such debates. It is not helpful for being “together for the gospel”.

As for your aside on Wright, I challenge you, Steve, to get in contact with Wright. You seem to be quite dismissive of people you have not actually met. But when you get together with them on a cruise you are a lot more gentle in your comments. For example, in talking about Marcus Borg who is the person Wright considers a Christian even though he doesn’t believe in the bodily resurrection, you said, “that on a personal note I am enjoying immensely getting to know the Borgs and Crossans… They are absolutely delightful people: witty, affable, pleasant, good-humored and charming. They do consider themselves to be Christians which was surprising for they deny unashamedly the bodily resurrection of Christ…”

I think you would find Wright to be just as affable and much more biblical than Borg. Not only that but the two of you would agree on much more than you would disagree on. Even in those disagreements there would be mutual edification I am sure.

SJ Camp said...

To my brother Terry:

On the issue of the use of Confessions for us Baptists, Dr. Tom Nettles cites the following:

"For example, a reading of the Confession of the Reformed Churches of France shows that a humble regard for the limits of Scripture governed the making of the confession. After affirming the doctrine of the Trinity as "decided by ancient Councils" the confession continues, "we receive and agree in all that was therein resolved, as being drawn from the Holy Scriptures, on which alone our faith should be founded, as there is no other witness proper and competent to decide what the majesty of God is but God himself." The two natures of Christ calls for our approval because "we hold the Old and New Testaments as the only rule of our faith, so we receive all that is conformable to them."

Excellent qualifiers contained therein that, IMHO, would make the T4G Statement (though not a confession) even stronger and more effective for its intended use.

Read Dr. Nettles entire article.

With much grace; in the Sovereignty of God,

The Armchair Theologian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Armchair Theologian said...

Okay. Scruples, I'll take on your call for a 'knockdown argument'. Here it is:

There is no such thing as a 'knockdown argument'. It's not possible.

To suggest such a thing betrays the reality of the noetic effects of sin and reveals an evidentialist presuppotion somewhere in your apologetic/theology.

I cannot persuade you that 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (or any other passage for that matter) means one thing or another. I can respond tit for tat with Wright, Fee, Stanley Grenz, Marva Dawn, or whoever else you appeal to. For every argument for an egalitarian reading of ANY text, I can produce a complementarian argument that rebuts it. For every 'expert' that you pull out to support your position, I can pull out one too.

Although Steve may not have met and debated with these folks, I can say that I have met them and I have talked to them (with the exception of NT Wright). I have tackled these issues at the post graduate level, sitting in class with these brothers. I have read their works. I'm still not convinced. In fact, I'm even more aggressive in my complementarian stance.

It's not a question of "going to the Greek". Greek doesn't solve the question of interpretation or application. It only moves it into the realm of another language.

It's not a question of "an appeal to logic". What I find 'reasonable and compelling' you may find 'illogical and ironically biased'. The current intelligent design debate tremendously reveals this to be the case.

Why? Because both my language and my logic are subject to my sinful mind. The noetic effects of sin corrupt my actual reasoning ability. That's why I can debate a scholar like Fee and we can look at the same text, do the same greek exegetical work, and come up with completely opposite positions on the passage (not to infer that FEE's reasoning is the corrupted may actually be my own, or both of us...).

The scripture is truth. I don't doubt that for a second. I'm a stinking chimp though; I'm usually not as smart as I think I am...and it's my experience that the more education you get, the wider the gap between how smart you think you are and actual reality grows (All learning leads to worship; but far too much learning leads to self-worship instead of God-worship). I'm just saying that playing the "name that scholar" game or the "what does the greek say?" game don't finish the debate at all.

So where do we go? Well all that being said, I can still attempt to reveal the inconsistencies and faulty exegesis (or eisegesis) in an argument. I can still tackle you with the truth and try to pin you. I can even, possibly, rhetorically back you into a corner and tear apart your position. But, I cannot make you believe anything. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. So where do I start? Well, let’s forget NT Wright. What are the arguments that YOU have? What are your big stumbling blocks as to the complementarian position? Why must women be allowed to participate in pulpit ministry?

Terry Rayburn said...

Brother Campi,

I carefully read Tom Nettles' article supporting creeds.

While I wouldn't go so far as to say that creeds can have no value at all, I still think they can do more harm than good. Or at least need to be read or studied with great discernment with Bible in hand.

Ironically, Nettles introduced me to some dangers of creeds that I hadn't even considered. And then he goes on to say, "...we contend that Baptists have always recognized and avoided these dangers."

And that's where I disagree with him. I've seen every one of those "dangers" in action. And not just with non-Baptists.

Nettles rightly says, "Any use of confessions that does indeed usurp the place of Scripture should be rejected..." I witness this type of usurping the place of Scripture on a regular basis. I've been in many theological discussions where the "evidence" for a view is some creed or confession.

He makes a true statement that Protestant confessions in general *defend* the authority of Scripture within the document itself. But *in practice*, men often assume that the authority of Scripture has already led to the creed being correct, and so they short-circuit the process by dispensing with the Scripture, and going straight to the "proof" of the creed.

And of course, the creed makes strong-sounding "proof", because it's already been worded so as to support the point, even if the Scripture does not.

Then Nettles takes a cheap shot. He holds up Edward Farley as sort of a poster boy for anti-confessionalism, showing how Farley goes so far as to question the authority of Scripture and to leave salvation open to Buddhists, Hindus, etc.

A clear case of guilt-by-association. One could just as well show *many* pro-confessionalists who have flat-out apostasized, but that would be an equally cheap shot.

He does the same sort of guilt-by-association using Alexander Campbell as an example.

Nettles denies that confessions infringe on the rights of individual conscience, but I've seen many abuses over the years where one dare not disagree with the WCF or 1689 without being viewed as "off the reservation" and someone to keep and eye on, and "probably not even a brother".

The outcome is studying the Scripture and interpreting it by the creed one has already bought into, never really looking at Scripture *fresh*.

Finally, Nettles ends his comments with, "Confessions have a positive and edifying contribution to make to the life of the church and the individual Christian." But he never told us what those "positives" are.

He instead spent his whole article refuting *objections* to creeds, and that not successfully, as far as I can see.


Taliesin said...


I don't disagree with you that creeds, confessions, and other man-made statements (including books, sermons, blogs, etc.) can be misused. While some may refer back to creeds and confessions as if they were scripture, others refer to their favorite author, theologian, or political pundit as if they were infallible. That doesn't mean any of these don't have a use.

At their best, a creed or confession does for a church, denomination, or other group what a doctrinal statement does for the faculty of a seminary. It removes ambiguity and ensures a general consensus. I have seen too many who want to claim they believe the Bible, yet want to deny doctrines like the Trinity (after all, they argue, that term isn't found in Scripture).

To that end, I think the T4G statement does a good job identifying most of the major attacks on the gospel today. It clearly defines the concerns and objectives of the men who put on the conference. While I understand Steve's concerns that the statement is not as complete nor always as clear as some would like, I think it serves it's purpose well.

Steven Loeffler said...

Steve, thanks for your post.

Here is what I said on my blog:

For the most part, the T4G confession is a great start.

I appreciate its clarity on God's knowledge, on the trinity, on justification by faith alone, on the necessity of faith (a conscious belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving acts), on the purity of gospel preaching, on the necessity of expositional preaching against other man-made schemes, on the atonement of Christ, on the proper means of evangelism, on the imputation of Christ's righteousness, and on the disctiveness of men and women especially at it relates to gospel ministry. These and more are positives about the confession. I could easily sign it myself.

Having said that, the confession should still be a work in progress for the following reasons:

First, I believe the confession should footnote the Scriptures. The Scriptures are confessed to be our final authority; yet, it is not quoted or referenced. Those who are weak in faith and those who are antagonistic to the confession need to have the Scriptures before them.

Second, It is a start because the confession misses some rather critical concerns about the gospel, such as the ordinances and the church and its function. The confession does refer to the Lord's Supper, but discipline and the purity of the table is emphasized, not the content of the supper - which is the gospel of the cross. Baptism is nowhere mentioned (I wander if this is because of the Presbyterion influence at the conference). The gospel is the message of the church in visual and verbal form within the community of the church (1Tim. 3:15). We demonstrate our union with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ by baptism (Rom. 6:1-4). We proclaim the Lord's death, the cross, in our communion around the Lord's table. The cross is our message. (1Cor. 11:26; 2:1-5)

Third, Article VII needs refinement and clarity especially in what is denied. Maybe it is just me, but I do not understand what the following statement means:
"We further deny that Jesus Christ is visible only in weakness, rather than in power, Lordship, or royal reign, or, conversely, that Christ is visible only in power, and never in weakness." Visible to whom and for what and when? This needs help.

Fourth, Article XVII is in need of clarity.
"We deny that any church can accept racial prejudice, discrimination, or division without betraying the Gospel." What discrimination or division? Could this statement refer to other cultural forms of discrimination such as sexual or religious discrimination? What types of division is unacceptable? Could this be read to mean that ecclesiastical seperation is always wrong? I think I can presume what the authors meant, but I do not know if this denial can hold up to close analytical scrutiny. It may need some work.

This is a quick review. Praise the Lord for our leaders who desire to lead us in the right direction. May we all be Bereans and continually prove all things under the lens of Scripture.

In a day where clarity is needed, I offer these remarks for that end. The confession is clear, but I think it can be clearer.