Tag Archives: discernment

The marks of the church and social media

As God is more and more exposing the rot and corruption at the heart of what passes for Christianity these days; as one famous church after another is embroiled with scandal; as the weak are driven away and the wicked are exalted, there is a question that is on the lips of many, many faithful Christians who no longer have a home:

How can I find a safe church? How can I find a congregation that is faithful to the gospel and a safe place for the sheep?

I understand the question. How can you “not forsake the gathering together” when false churches and dangerous cults abound. Weird authoritarian doctrine, abusive patriarchy, heretical teaching on Christ and the Trinity, are so pervasive that it is no longer sufficient to simply look at the creeds that they say they hold or the denomination of which they are a part.

The Reformers 500 years ago were at a similar place. Being in the local church was one of the most dangerous places to be. If you professed that Christ was not physically present in the Lord’s Supper you could be burned alive.

But they did not abandon the idea of gathering themselves together. Whether it was in homes, or in fields, or in the woods, God’s people gathered together.

So the question – how do you find a safe church – needs an answer.

Our fathers answered it with the now famous formula: If the word of God is faithfully preached; if the sacraments are administered according to the word of God; and if church discipline is administered according to the word of God.

Since this is a blog and not a book, I would like to focus on the last one – discipline.

This means something different than simply practicing excommunication. Rome in the Middle Ages practiced excommunication. In fact, the Reformers that put together this formula were all excommunicated from Rome.

Rather, it means this: The sheep are led to green pastures, and the wolves are driven away.

And you think to yourself: But how can I tell if the church is serious about driving away wolves and protecting sheep?

And here is where social media is actually helpful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if wolves wore signs announcing that they were wolves? Often times they do.

If they call the rape of a toddler “sexual satisfaction”…

If they defend those who call the rape of a toddler “sexual satisfaction”

If they blame the rape of the toddler on the refusal of the wife to have intercourse…

If they defend those who blame the rape of the toddler on the refusal of the wife to have intercourse…

If they call the abuse and silencing of women “Biblical manhood and womanhood”…

If they call sexual assault “inappropriate conduct”…

If they deny that marital rape is a sin and extreme wickedness…

If they believe that calling the police is “getting the unbeliever involved” and will not report crimes against women and children.

If “Battling feminism” is far, far more important than loving your neighbor and sitting with the wounded.

If battling feminism is more important than the dignity and welfare of their wives and children.

If they absolutely refuse to change their views on these things, and reject all compassion at every opportunity in order to uphold their system.

If their system is more important than the lives of the sheep.

To me, these are, at a minimum, a failure on the part of the church to hold the third mark. Sheep are abused, and wolves are set free on the congregation to prey to their heart’s content.

Jay Adams opened the door and the churches that followed his method became the most dangerous place for the sheep.

There are other signs that a church should be avoided as potentially unsafe:

If Doug Wilson is on the book table.

If they view crying as weakness and manipulation.

If they don’t have a Child Safety Policy in place and enforced.

If the pastor makes “The old ball and chain” jokes, or “You know how women are” jokes.

If the kids all look scared to be in church.

If they continually preach about the “sin” of divorce and never speak of the wickedness of the covenant breaking the leads to divorce.

If it is more important to enforce their view of divorce than to protect the sheep.

These are all red flags. Maybe we should put together a list….

So by all means, check the doctrinal statements. Look at what creeds and confessions they hold to. But don’t neglect the third mark of the true church.

This is where many fail. Check the social media feeds of the elders and pastors and other leaders. Who do they follow? What groups do they belong to?

Can they tell the difference between wolves and sheep? Do they cast away the beaten women and embrace the man who did the beating?

Do they raise funds for the defense of the man who destroyed his family?

Take your time. Look not only at the congregation and the doctrinal correctness of the preaching, but check some of these things as well.

These things are far, far more important than whether you like the music or enjoy the coffee fellowship. A handful of people singing Psalms together in safety is far better than singing with a praise band of wolves.

It is better to meet outside or in your home with the sheep than gather together at the table of the wolves.


Filed under Church

Imperfections and things that are intolerable

We live in an imperfect world. Since this is so, everything from mites to sea horses, larks to katydids, cabbages to kings, will have imperfections.

We know that this is the case because of the fall of mankind. But it also serves a good purpose. We make choices and we are always forced to choose between imperfections. In those choices, our values surface. And when our values surface, we can see what kind of people we are.

It is not possible to choose any endeavor or any organism or any possession without tolerating some imperfection.

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. (Prov. 14:4)

You can have a clean crib, or you can have an ox. But you cannot have both.

When you purchase a car, you can have luxury, power, comfort, reliability, looks, and affordability, but you cannot have them all. What you choose will show, in part, what kind of a person you are.

You cannot find a perfect human. There will always be flaws. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. This truth can turn us into angry misanthropes or proud Pharisees, but both options are hard ways to live.

The fact is this: we live in a fallen world, and the effects of the fall echo in every state, every church, every organization, every gathering, every human. You won’t find perfection here. This is true whether you are seeking a spouse, a friend, an employer, an employee, a pastor, a counselor. You won’t find one that is perfect.

The deeper question is “what is intolerable?” and how you answer that question shows what kind of a person YOU are.

On the one hand, you cannot tolerate everything without destroying yourself. On the other hand, you cannot be intolerant of everything without locking yourself in a tiny box, alone against the world. If you pull up all the tares, you will have nothing else.

Soon you are left with yourself and will eventually find yourself saying, along with Bob Dylan, “God,  I’m glad I’m not me.”

Which brings us to the point of this post:

Why do so many leaders tolerate Trinitarian heresy, Christological heresy, heterodoxy on justification, Federal Vision (condemned by EVERY NAPARC Fellowship), rejection of the orthodox creeds, while also tolerating unrepentant drunkards, child abusers, spousal abusers, fornicators, pornographers, embezzlers, and thieves? For everyone who says I am being too harsh, I can give you the list of all of the above that are still in good standing, some even in office, who have done all of the above.

When at the same time women writing books, growing in knowledge, studying theology, correcting errors, protecting themselves, and separating from evil are considered intolerable?

To test this theory, ask yourself a question. There are two churches that you might attend. One has a woman leading a Bible study. The other has man in a three piece suit teaching that one must be covenantally faithful in order to be justified. Which do you choose?

One has a woman leading a conference. The other teaches that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. Which do you attend?

Which one do you find intolerable?

At the beginning of 2020, I saw a tweet that claimed that 90 percent of church-goes would tolerate theological heresy over political heresy. I said to myself, “That can’t possibly be true.”

And as we pick up the pieces of our congregations, we realize that it was indeed true.

This blog has been marinating a while. I have written and re-written it. But it needs to be said: what you find intolerable says more about who you are as a person than anything else.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
24 “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matt. 23:23-24)

When I see what is invading the Reformed and conservative evangelical world, I mourn the state of the church. We tolerate racism, abuse, pedophilia, pornography, hatred and violence.

And even worse than all of those: we tolerate using God’s name in vain for the purpose of winning elections, which God hates. We tolerate blasphemy in the pulpits. We tolerate gross errors concerning justification, including federal vision, final salvation by faith AND works, calling Jesus the wife of the Trinity, denial of the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and on it goes.

Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone would actually say they HOLD to those things. They would say, “Yeah. There are some problems there. But he is really good calling out sin. He is really good fighting the culture wars. He is really good on marriage and child-raising…” We carefully strain out the intolerable gnats and swallow the camels whole.

But what we find intolerable, the gnats in our soup,  is women writing books; calling out sexual assault; critiquing celebrity preachers; anything that smacks of being “woke”; crying out for justice; demanding orthodoxy in the pulpit and in our books.

I’ve seen preachers swallow the camel of subordinationism and preach valiantly against skinny jeans and long hair. I’ve seen preachers embrace Oneness Pentecostalism and denounce Harry Potter. I’ve seen preachers say “no creed but Christ” and lead the pledge of allegiance from the pulpit. I’ve seen churches embrace the Ku Klux Klan and condemn women wearing pants to hell.

What is desperately needed are preachers who preach the gospel.

2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations–
21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”
22 which all concern things which perish with the using– according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. (Col. 2:20-3:1)

We have made our home too much in this world. What God desires of us is for us to learn to love what he loves and hate what he hates. We ought to strive to conform our thoughts to HIS thoughts. Our flesh seeks to twist God’s thoughts to conform to our opinions and biases. We search the scriptures for justifications of our pet ideas, when we really ought to be learning to conform our thoughts to his.

When we call our Savior the wife of the Trinity and denounce skinny jeans and long hair as effeminate, we might have problems with discernment.

It makes me wonder what we really worship.


Filed under Wisdom