Good shepherds don’t water down God’s truth

Good shepherds don’t water down God’s truth

A couple months ago, I noticed some readers entering Warhorn Media from the blog of a UK pastor. Under the pastor’s post, one poor man made the mistake of suggesting the pastor read some Warhorn pieces and think carefully about endorsing LivingOut and their so-called “spiritual friendships.” To which the pastor responded:

The self-righteous tone and attack on the Gospel Coalition was depressing …no thanks. I prefer to get my theology from the Bible!

And:

[These men] live in some kind of narrow minded and twisted self-righteous bubble…. God has enormously blessed the ministry of many men in the Gospel Coalition – whose shoes I am not worthy to untie. It tires and depresses me when people attack faithful servants – it’s almost as if they think it will compensate for their own small mindedness and failures… I prefer not to be depressed by such nonsense…

This response didn’t irritate or anger me. I felt sorry for the man who bore the brunt of the attack personally, but he’s a big boy and knows what to expect when he departs the party line of Scotland’s clergy.

I have smiled, though, as I’ve read the list: self-righteous, attack, no thanks, depressing, narrow minded, twisted, self-righteous (again), bubble, tires, depresses (again), attack, compensate, small mindedness, failures, depressed, and nonsense.

Still, he managed to say a couple positive things. Take, for instance, “whose shoes I am not worthy to untie.” This pastor thinks those American Gospel Coalition guys should be spoken of with the same sort of reverence John the Baptist spoke of Jesus. Not just one of them, but “many men in the Gospel Coalition.” Was anything so fawning ever said about Steve Jobs? What is it about pastoral ministry that leads clergy to give themselves so utterly to hero-worship?

In passing, we note that guarding their heroes is how pastors guard themselves. Sheep are unaware how much time and energy we shepherds expend maintaining our clique’s prestige. It’s not too distant from the junior high school playground.

Scripture gives us the classic example in its record of the Apostle Peter changing seats during Antioch’s church potlucks. It was the great eminence of the brothers from Jerusalem that led the Apostle Peter to abandon his déclassé Gentile brothers.1 Yet, by the grace of God, the Apostle Paul was humble enough to condemn Peter, doing so publicly. Humble men lower themselves to give rebukes and make arguments. Proud men parade their clique. Their clique is their argument.

Speaking specifically about the homosexualist movement being promoted by the Gospel Coalition, here is the thing readers must get: the approach taken to effeminacy and sodomy the past few years is of a fabric with the approach Gospel Coalition types have taken to other gaps in the wall for decades now.

Christian celebrities specialize in half-measures. They are the trade secret of ecclesiastics who are desperate for advancement. Sneaky compromises of God’s truth are the work-experience required for entry to the Sanhedrin. Scribes and Pharisees love making the sort of distinctions we see Jesus condemning when he warned:

Then he went on, “It is wonderful to see how you can set aside the commandment of God to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother’ and ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death’. But you say, ‘if a man says to his father or his mother, Korban—meaning, I have given God whatever duty I owed to you’, then he need not lift a finger any longer for his father or mother, so making the word of God invalid for the sake of the tradition which you hold. And this is typical of much of what you do.” (Mark 7:9-13 J. B. Phillips)

“Typical of what you do.” So says Jesus. Have we applied this warning to the fallible men of the Gospel Coalition?

The sort of compromises Jesus described are a very old and well-practiced clerical tactic, but exposing and opposing this tactic is dangerous. Pastors are most tender about having someone bring the light of God’s Word to bear on their halfway covenants. After all, those compromises have been designed to prove their pastor’s heroic stature to simple sheep who don’t ask for much. Just green pastures and still waters.

Woke sheep are a nuisance.

The pastor who points out clerical compromises of God’s truth brings himself under blistering attack. Look at Jonathan Edwards when he took on reforming his grandfather’s halfway covenant there in Northampton. The people forbade him preaching on it. They said he had to limit himself to writing against it, but then they refused to read his book. Soon he was expelled from his pulpit, banished to the frontier where, in God’s providence, he was blessed to be given the privilege of shepherding humble Indians. So what the rich men of Northampton meant for ill, God used for good.

Until the invasion of Living Out’s betrayal of Biblical sexuality and sanctification a few years ago, the best example of these halfway covenants here in North America was the compromise of God’s Fatherhood carefully fashioned by the women and men of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).

It was back in 1987 that a small group met in Boston in conjunction with the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society and Society of Biblical Literature. The conclave took place up on Boston’s North Shore in the suburb of Danvers. There these chief scribes fashioned a scrupulously-worded halfway covenant on manhood and womanhood that, since then, has declared itself the orthodox doctrine of sexuality within the English-speaking Protestant church.

Sadly, under the guise of defending it, this small group of women and men conceded a large measure of the Biblical authority God had deposited in men when He created Adam first, then Eve. In other words, what they gave with their right hand, they took away with their left.

Their constitutive document is quite short and what is most notable is its overwhelming emphasis on the two spheres of the home and the church. It speaks of “motherhood,” “homemaking,” church “ministries,” the “family,” the “church,” in “marriage,” in the “home,” “husbands,” “wife,” in the “church,” church “ministries,” “in the family,” “husbands,” “wives,” “wives,” “husbands,” “husbands,” “in the church,” “within the church,” church “ministry” and “ministries,” and “ministry.”

CBMW’s founders do speak of the third sphere of civil authority—authority outside the home and church:

In all of life Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women, so that no earthly submission-domestic, religious, or civil-ever implies a mandate to follow a human authority into sin.

Yet note how, even speaking of the civil realm, these men and women cannot bring themselves to testify to God’s call to men to exercise authority in the civil realm. Rather they speak of authority-in-general without reference to manhood and womanhood.

How good it would have been if they had shown zeal to preach all God’s truth to our culture drowning in father-rebellion. How wonderful if they had pointed all souls back to God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Instead, they limited the father-authority God placed in Adam to the family and the church:

Both Old and New Testaments …affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant community.2

Inventing the equivocating moniker “complementarians,” these scribes carved out a cave where they could hide from their culture’s patricidal insanity, all the while assuring the simpleminded sheep that they were the faithful ones defending God’s Word and church against our world’s hatred of the Fatherhood of God.

And sadly, still today the sheep remain convinced CBMW’s halfway covenant defends God’s order of creation of Adam first, then Eve. This while CBMW gives away Adam’s federal headship over all creation.

Nevermind. Original Sin and the Fall aren’t big points of emphasis for celebrity pastors.

Thus simpletons are left unguarded. Never having been weaned from their milk diet, rank and file Christians remain unaware of CBMW’s scrupulous limitation of male authority to the Christian church and home. As the sheep see it, the main thing to note about CBMW is their bravery, faithfulness, Biblical allegiance, courage, and prophetic commitment.

Yet try to imagine what would have happened if the Apostle Paul had fought for God’s Creation Order as CBMW has (inserted words are in italics):

For the Christian man does not originate from the Christian woman, but the Christian woman from the Christian man; for indeed the Christian man was not created for the Christian woman’s sake, but the Christian woman for the Christian man’s sake… For as the Christian woman originates from the Christian man, so also the Christian man has his birth through the Christian woman… (1Corinthians 11:8ff.)

Christian husbands ought also to love their own Christian wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own Christian wife loves himself; …for this reason, a Christian man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his Christian wife, and the two shall become one flesh. …each Christian individual among you also is to love his own Christian wife even as himself, and the Christian wife must see to it that she respects her Christian husband. (Ephesians 5:28ff.)

But I do not allow a Christian woman to teach or exercise authority over a Christian man, but to remain quiet. For it was Christian Adam who was first created, and then Christian Eve. And it was not Christian Adam who was deceived, but the Christian woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But Christian women will be preserved through the bearing of Christian children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.(1Timothy 2:12ff.)

Or, for that matter, Jesus:

And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made Christians male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a Christian man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his Christian wife, and the two Christians shall become one flesh’? So these Christians are no longer two, but one flesh. What Christians therefore God has joined together, let no Christian man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Church celebrities now have taken their compromise over male authority and have fashioned a similar compromise for the LGBTQ rebellion. As they put it, “nowhere does Scripture command anyone to be heterosexual. Effeminacy is no sin. Being gay is no one’s choice—it just happens. Reparative therapy is evil and must be outlawed. Hire a gay pastor. Hire a gay youth pastor. Accept two lesbians living and raising children together as members of the church. Because, you see, godliness is not heterosexuality.”

The King is dead, long live the Queen!

Really, who can blame them? Things are scary. Because of this issue, people are being hounded out of their professions, getting booted from degree programs, being denied admissions to the university, being slandered as “haters,” losing visitation rights and custody of their children, and getting fired from their jobs. In a time of such hostility, the temptation to design another halfway covenant similar to complementarianism is intense.

So the fix was in. We’d make much of our oh-so-faithful-and-sacrificial commitment to hold the line against sodomitic copulation and same-sex marriage while declaring an allee-allee-in-free to the entry of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer and questioning “sexual minorities” into the church.

How could anyone fault us? After all, we live in such an evil day.

But then, some had the temerity to point out that everything we said about welcoming lesbians and transsexuals to the Lord’s table applied equally to welcoming the polyamorous, zoophiles, and rapists.

This made some clergy really really mad. Even in Scotland.

They justified themselves, saying “couldn’t these twisted self-righteous bigots see we were holding the line on sodomitic copulation and gay marriage? Did that courageous stand we were taking count for nothing with them? Could they not keep their small-mindedness and failures under wraps?”

They called us pathetic losers.

Well, speaking for myself and the sheep I pasture, we want God’s truth to remain sharper than any two-edged sword. To remain a hammer. To remain a fire. To continue to divide joint and marrow.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 2;12-16)

We hunger and thirst after God’s perfect righteousness.

To quote my dear Mother when she was in her eighties, “God is God! We aren’t!”

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1. Galatians 2:11ff.
2. Danvers Statement.”

About The Author

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Tim Bayly has been senior pastor of Clearnote Church, Bloomington since 1996. Married to Mary Lee, the Baylys have five children and twenty-something grandchildren. Tim's book on fatherhood is titled "Daddy Tried" and he is co-author of a book on homosexuality titled "The Grace of Shame.’

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