On Jesus, Assumptions, Temptation, And Speculation

In a recent interview posted to the Australian edition of a very popular evangelical website, Ed Shaw, co-founder of the Living Out website, where it is argued that same-sex attraction (SSA) is “natural” and that SSA is not per sesinful—this is the essence of the so-called Side-B approach to the question of the relations between Christianity and homosexuality—made some controversial comments. Among the controversial things Shaw said, was this comment in reply to a question inviting him to respond to “emotional” debates in Australia and elsewhere over SSA and to “hostility.”

Questioning Assumptions

He said:

Sometimes it is confusion around the terminology we use and other times because we have pushed back on investing in methods and thinking of the past in terms of reparative therapy; or thinking that to be godly you have to be heterosexual; and that healing, in the here and now, must mean getting married and having 2.4 children. But overt hostility actually comes from very few people, really.

I do not know who is advocating actual “reparative therapy,” if by that he means an aggressive, intensive attempt to “re-program” someone’s sexual orientation. Faithful pastors and counselors, must, however, encourage Christians to die to sin, including the sin of desiring to have sex with anyone outside of marriage (between a man and a woman) and same-sex sexual attraction. In his reply, Shaw begs the question, i.e., assumes what he must prove: that SSA is not sin.

As has been argued in this space (see below and on the Heidelblog) at length, Scripture plainly describes same-sex attraction as sin. Romans 1:24–27 teach us to think that the very act of desiring to have sex with someone of the same sex is inherently sinful. Paul calls speaks of “dishonorable passions” (πάθη ἀτιμίας) as translated in the ESV or “vile affections” as rendered in the King James Version.

Next we should have to discuss the distinction between a “sexual orientation” and desires or passions. One difficulty here is that “sexual orientation” is not a biblical category. Scripture knows about desires and actions that are natural and unnatural. Paul calls homosexuality (same-sex attraction and behavior) unnatural and sinful in Romans 1. In 1 Corinthians 6:9 he delineates further by distinguishing two kinds of homosexual behavior (μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται), namely the passive, effeminate partner in a same-sex relationship and the dominant partner. Perhaps most importantly, Shaw approach cannot account for Paul’s clause, “And such were some of you” (1 Cor 6:11; ESV). According to Paul, those who have been given new life by the Holy Spirit, who have been given true faith, are united to Christ. They have been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11).

This is not to say that Christians never struggle with sin. Romans 7 says that they do but we should be careful about adopting the category “sexual orientation” and then reading that back into Scripture. Further, we should doubt the notion that people are simply born with a SSA. Typically, people become homosexuals, i.e., develop a same-sex attraction for a variety of reasons, most of them environmental. Studies have repeatedly shown that most homosexuals were themselves sexually abused or raised in the midst of greater than average dysfunction, e.g., alcoholism, physical abuse, emotional abuse, or with an absent father. Sometimes people respond to a failed romance by turning to members of the same sex. In other words, it is not just another normal, ordinary sexual orientation that becomes sin only when acted upon. The very desire to have sex with someone of the same-sex is disordered, unnatural, and sinful. It is what the older Reformed theologians called “concupiscence.” See the resources below for more on this.

We should also reject Shaw’s assertion that heterosexuality is not a part of godliness. Being heterosexual does not make one godly but heterosexuality is normal, it is natural, and governed by God’s moral law, within the bounds of a natural marriage, heterosexuality is part of a godly life for believers.

In the interview he also addressed the problem of inclusion. He speaks of being “‘biblically inclusive’ of sexual minority groups.” Let us be perfectly clear. All sinners are welcome in Christ’s church. They are welcome to visit. Indeed, we implore all sinners to come join with us sinners, to bow the knee to King Jesus with us, to acknowledge with us the greatness of their sin and misery and their need for the Savior. This is what Christians do Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day. We read and hear the moral law. We are again convicted of our desperate need for Jesus. The minister announces Christ’s grace and forgiveness to all who know their sins and who trust in Jesus alone for their righteousness before God.

Scripture, however, knows nothing of “sexual minority groups.” This is an artificial category intended to re-describe sin as a socio-political problem, as if the chief problem faced by those who are same-sex attracted, bi-sexual, transgendered, or “queer” (pan-sexual, rejecting categories altogether) is that their sins are not treasured by the church.  Of course sins should not be treasured or valued by the church. They should be acknowledged for what they are, violations of God’s holy law and repudiated. The first public word out of our Lord’s mouth was “The time is fulfilled. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15; ESV). For more on a biblical view of inclusion see the essay below in the resources.

The Temptation Of The Christ

One of the central issues in this current debate between the so-called “Side B” or “Gay Christian” approach to this question and the historic Christian view involves three doctrines: the doctrine of humanity (anthropology), including the the doctrine of sin (hamartiology), and the doctrine of Christ (Christology).

In response to a question asking for Shaw’s advice “for the average Sydney churchgoer when it comes to attitudes to same-sex attraction” he replies, in part, “we need to work hard to better understand LGBT experiences and how the Gospel treats all people the same.” The first part is probably true, the second part is certainly true, but he omits a third: the law also condemns all sin. Nevertheless, there is more to be said. Scripture does not treat all sins the same. The Apostle Paul explicitly says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor 6:18; emphasis added). The very structure of the verse “every other…but” signals a distinction in kinds and qualities of sins. Sexual sin is particularly grievous and all the more so for Christians. See the resources below for more on this.

Shaw responds to another question by saying, “I’m wanting the young people who come to this event to know that Jesus is the one person that they can fully trust with their sexualities, identities and gender because he is both their Creator God and a human being who knows what it is like to grapple with a sexuality, identity and gender.”

These remarks provoked a considerable amount of response on social media, to which the editors responded thus:

We urge our readers to consider the meaning of Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15. Jesus (i) was genuinely tempted in every way like us; (ii) suffered in the process; (iii) did not sin. Every one of those statements is important—not just the last. The Bible does not tell us what particular temptations Jesus may have experienced in these areas, but it stresses that he had a human nature that was capable of being tempted. Temptation, in other words, is not the same as sin. This article should not be understood to teach that Jesus possessed a fallen nature, lusts or same-sex attraction, but that he experienced suffering and testing through the privation of his human nature.

Remarkably and quite helpfully, the editors point readers to an essay on “The Temptations of Jesus” by John McClean, which largely contradicts the assertions of the editors and the implied interpretation of Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15. McClean quite rightly notes that we may not read our own experience of temptation back into Jesus. Further, our temptations come from within, as James says,

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:13-14; ESV).

The key clause here is this: each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” We may not impute that experience to Jesus. To do so is blasphemy. He did not sin. As we will see below, we confess that that he has a true human nature but not a corrupt human nature. As McClean says, corruption is not inherent to human nature.

We should follow McClean when he distinguishes then, between trials (temptations) that Jesus experienced in the wilderness and throughout his life which came to him from outside himself (objective) and our internal struggles with sin (subjective). Jesus understands us because he is true man. He knows our infirmity and our frailties but he is not a sinner and he did not sin. In that sense, as McClean reminds us by quoting Wescott, he understands sin better than we since he persevered through the offers of the Evil One without giving in as we so often do.

Holding On To Biblical-Creedal Christology

In the Definition of Chalcedon we confess:

one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the theotokos (θεοτοκος), according to the humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten….

Jesus is true man and true God. What makes him like us in every respect, sin notably excepted, is that he has a “rational soul” and a true human body. He is “consubstantial” with us, i.e., he shares our human nature. He suffered the vicissitudes of life. He suffered thirst (John 19:28). He grieved (Luke 19:41). He ate fish (Luke 35:42). The disciples could his true, human body (Luke 35:29). He was in the womb of the Virgin and was born, even though his conception was supernatural. He grew up (Luke 2:52). In short, we are not Gnostics or Docetists, who denied Jesus true humanity. The Apostle John called any such denial, “antichrist” (1 John 4:3) but as McClean notes, this affirmation does not entail imputing to Jesus sinful desires.

Jesus did not entertain Satan’s offer. He suffered in the wilderness as our federal representative, the Last Adam (1 Cor 15:45; Rom 5:12–21). He learned obedience through his suffering (Heb 5:8). He matured. He persevered but he never had a sinful desire. He resisted the offer to entertain sinful desires. He was not concupiscent. He rejected concupiscence. He was utterly and completely obedient to God’s holy law at every moment.

Thus, should we not speculate, as Shaw does, about Jesus questioning his sexual orientation. There is simply not a shred of a scintilla of evidence in the Scriptures of any such doubt or question in the mind of our Lord. We must affirm all the Scripture teaches us to affirm about the truth and reality of Lord’s true humanity, which he retains even in glory and with which he shall return without falling into speculation about our Lord “grappling” with a “sexuality, identity, and gender.”

First, as McClean says, we may not read back into our Lord’s earthly experience everything that we are experiencing or thinking now. Second, though there is an important distinction to be made between sex and gender (the first is a biological category and the second is a grammatical category) we may not read back into the New Testament our very late-modern distinction between sex as biology and gender as politics. This is a gross anachronism. Third, it is beyond unhelpful and unwarranted to speculate about our Lord struggling with his sexuality or identity. If we are worried about Gnosticism, as we should be, then we should remember that it was the Gnostics and not the Christians who sought to fill in the blanks about our Lord’s infancy and childhood. Scripture is intentionally silent about these periods and that silence is not an invitation to speculate. It is an invitation for faithful believers to remain devoutly silent along with Scripture.

As difficult as this discussion may be for some it is salutary. Through it we have been given opportunity to relearn our ecumenical Christology, our doctrine of humanity, and our doctrine of sin. Through all this we have even more reason to praise our Savior and his abounding grace to sinners and that glorious exchange, our sins for his righteousness by grace alone, through faith alone.

Resources On These Issues

  1. Homosexual and Homosexuality in the New Testament
  2. Concupiscence: Sin and the Mother of Sin
  3. Interview with Dr. Rosaria Butterfield – From Victim to Guest: Sexuality, Intersectionality, and Hospitality
  4. AGR Conference Audio—Intersectionality: What It Is And Why It Matters
  5. Gay Christians?
  6. Not Everything Called Christian Is
  7. Same-Sex Attraction Is Not A Means Of Grace Or Why We Distinguish Nature And Grace
  8. Rosaria Butterfield’s Alternative to Revoice
  9. Rosaria Butterfield: Believers Are Not Defined By Their Sins
  10. Rosanne, Gender Bending, and the War Against Nature (1)
  11. Roseanne, Gender Bending, and the War Against Nature (2)
  12. Homosexual and Homosexuality In The New Testament
  13. All Are Welcome. No Exceptions.
  14. All Sins Are Not Alike: Porneia, Chastity, and Wisdom

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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  1. Puzzling that the PCA is essentially split down the middle over this issue if they are truly confessional. The fact that this is being tolerated essentially makes the PCA no longer a confessional denomination. If the other NAPARC denominations want to avoid this teaching creeping into their own congregations, it might be time to admonish the PCA to discipline their TEs who are Side B folks or kick them out of the NAPARC.

    • While it’s undeniable that some in the PCA are more than tolerating this, it’s premature to say that the denomination is tolerating it. There are multiple actions being taken at various levels throughout the denomination. The wheels of presbyterianism roll slowly by design. I’m not saying what the result will be. I’m saying we’re still in a process that could come to the God-honoring conclusion.

    • Jeremiah, what motions were put forward at the GA to discipline the presbyteries who are ok with Side B being taught? And what became of those motions?

    • BLJ, I share your enthusiasm, but you’re judging by the wrong standard. Presbyteries are deciding as we speak what responses will be to reports from their presbyteries as well as the Missouri Presbytery report. This year will determine whether or not it’s being tolerated and by whom.

      • Jeremiah has a point.

        Presbyterian polity moves very slowly and that can be frustrating. Further, there are different ecclesiastical cultures. My preference would be to do everything (or as much as possible) in public so that everyone, including PCA laity, can see what is being done but my impression of PCA culture is that it is syndical, i.e., a good bit of what happens happens behind the scenes. There are networks that operate alongside sessions and presbyteries. The National Partnership is one of those and it seems committed to tolerating the Side B approach. Simultaneously, the confessionalists seem disorganized. Again, because so much of what happens in the PCA happens behind the scenes, it is difficult for outsiders to know what is happening. There were a number of overtures to GA re Revoice and that signals a fair bit of discontent with the rather tolerant approach taken by the Missouri Presbytery—remember, this is the presbytery is the home of Jeff Myers, who was charged with teaching Federal Vision theology but not convicted by the Presbytery. For more on this:



        The establishment of the GA committee to investigate will slow the process and one might ask about the proportional representation of confessionalists on the committee but I doubt that either the presbyteries or the GA will allow the committee to bury Revoice.

        That’s my impression. I am happy to be corrected.

    • I think that’s fair. I know my own Presbytery moves incredibly slowly. I grew up in a denomination that has gone through similar things. They ended up totally liberalizing. I have no issue with people doing their due diligence. But I do hope that a resolution actually occurs. Greg Johnson stated in his tweet (the one he deleted) that the 60/40ish split at the GA was largely along the lines of age. It’s not the type of situation that is just going to go away. Waiting for it to go away is basically how every single denomination that has liberalized went in that direction. Greg Johnson and people like him have publicly stated they are basically waiting for the older guys to retire and then they can get their way. The main reason I did not pursue ordination in the PCA is because it has been apparent they have been headed for a split for a long while. The PCA is a lot like the Republican Party. There are basically three distinct groups with irreconcilable differences operating under the same umbrella. Worship, creationism, The way in which the standards are binding, etc. And now this issue. The PCA is overall a wonderful denomination. There are many wonderful congregations and many wonderful teaching elders. I would honestly rather the chips fall where they may than for you guys to be fighting with one another about this for the next 20 or 30 years. There is too much good work to be done to spend time arguing about this. The standards are clear. I hope everyone will lay their cards on the table so that everyone knows how y’all should move forward. I think Greg Johnson and many of the other folks in his camp are sincere. I think they love the Lord. But to say they are within the bounds of the Westminster standards is simply not true.

    • Dr Clark, That is helpful. Good to know. In the EPC, most of what happens is out in the open. Or involves so many of the ruling elders and TEs that it is not hidden even if it is not public.

  2. The PCA has become a denomination of, by and for teaching elders. Any overtures to encourage greater participation by ruling elders has routinely been voted down at the General Assembly. Therefore we are seeing a greater and greater tilt toward liberal positions such as tolerance of homosexuality. The crucial aspect which will end up disqualifying the PCA as a true church is the lack of administration of church discipline. It is becoming more and more a tool to prevent the laity from trying to hold leadership to account. I’m afraid the PCA has passed the tipping point of being a viable denomination. It is repeating the same errors of the denomination it broke away from in the early 1970s.

    • Seriously, tap the breaks? We have seen a PCA church host a ReVoice conference two years running. The pastor of that church has come out as a “gay Christian” in the pages of Christianity Today. The pastor’s presbytery has exonerated him. The PCA has formed a study committee to study homosexuality and the Church. It has been estimated that it may take 3 years for a report. If you are a PCA member and want to stand by while these events continue to transpire, that is your prerogative. I will impose my own judgment by voting with my feet.

    • Bob, my thoughts as well. Forming a study committee is another tactic used to stall the process. It gives them time to get people in place to support their position and get rid of people who object. Greg Johnson went on Twitter right after the General assembly saying as much. This is the strategy used by people who end up bringing about the liberalization of their denomination. They play the long game. I definitely admire that Jeremiah wants to allow the governing authorities to do their job. But I spent my entire time growing up in the church watching this play out. It’s textbook stuff. If you’ve been through it or watched it happen before, yeah exactly I definitely admire that Jeremiah wants to allow the governing authorities to do their job. But I spent my entire time growing up in the church watching this play out. It’s textbook stuff. If you’ve been through it or watched it happen before, you know exactly what’s going on. The fact that churches in the PCA have been “commissioning” women deacons (ordaining them but calling it something else) and no one has been disciplined means authority and discipline are not happening. Which, again, is another major part of how denominations move in bad directions. On paper, almost all of the very liberal denominations have strong, biblical confessions. But those confessions mean nothing because they are never enforced.

    • Bob, yes, I stand by my original statement that you should tap the brakes. Perhaps I should have been clearer that it was specifically to your statement that it was with regards to the PCA having “passed the tipping point of being a viable denomination”. The first Revoice conference was little more than a year ago (July 2018). The wheels of presbyterian polity operate slowly by design. A typical cycle of presbytery meetings in the PCA will mean that some reports would have been completed around May 2019, which is also when Missouri Presbytery came out with their report. This will mean that a thorough report would need to answer both Missouri and possible the developments of the GA (which happened in June). The first responses to those events from presbyteries are likely to come out in Sept and should continue through the rest of the year. As I mentioned above, presbyteries are responding as we speak to decide what they believe the appropriate response will be to the unfolding events just prior to and after GA. Your aversion to all of those events is shared. I simply do not agree with your timeline. If you’re a member of the PCA and choose to leave for those reasons, I understand. While you depart, I would hope that you would pray for those remaining who are working through the processes and exerting what influence we have where we have it to help to see a Godly outcome. While there is ample cause for alarm, I do know believe we yet know if we have reached the tipping point because we have not seen the full reaction yet.

    • Jeremiah: I have no doubt that there will be reactions from other presbyteries. The problem is that they don’t have any authority over the Missouri presbytery which has a history of protecting its own. They exonerated Greg Johnson recently and Dr. Clark recounted the episode of a few years ago where TE Jeff Meyers was teaching Federal Vision. I believe the presbytery was ordered by the Standing Judicial Committee to bring charges against him. They did so and promptly and overwhelmingly found TE Meyers not guilty. The church polity does not seem to exist to be able to hold a rogue presbytery accountable. I have been given a conscience which doesn’t require me to stand around to see if things will work out. There is ample evidence that the concept of church discipline in the PCA is flawed to the point where it is clear to me that I should leave as a matter of conscience. I trust you would not counsel me to violate my conscience. What if Lot had argued with the angels and said he wanted to see if things would work out in Sodom?

    • Quite the opposite, Bob. In fact an exact quote of my words: “If you’re a member of the PCA and choose to leave for those reasons, I understand. While you depart, I would hope that you would pray for those remaining who are working through the processes and exerting what influence we have where we have it to help to see a Godly outcome.” I simply and plainly disagree with your assertion that the denomination can be said to have “passed a tipping point of being a viable denomination”.

  3. Bob – this is sad news. This is almost the same thing that has happened to the LCMS (Lutherans). Over the years they gradually added so many by-laws to their synodical statement that it has become nearly impossible to get anything passed or overturned during one of their conventions. Further, their district presidents (bishops) have amassed such great control over their congregations that it is tough to get a listening ear over wayward leadership. Finally, smaller, more rural congregations have been slowly dwindling in membership over the decades that they often find it difficult financially to call a pastor.
    Not sure what the future holds for confessional protestants.

  4. Every day I feel my sinfulness, not generally, but in specific categories. I feel shame, guilt, and a sense of being lost. But then I hear the voice of truth. I am forgiven an count just before my Father in heaven because I am hidden in Christ. I don’t want to suffer. But God works good out of evil that I have caused to myself and others. My sin is I wander from the fact of the cross and resurrection. Side b denies the gospel and the law and wants emotional peace not real peace.

  5. Larry Ball addressed the core issue in one of his posts:

    These are important texts that are often overlooked or passed over without asking legitimate questions. In conclusion, let me mention one other large problem that exists in the PCA. It revolves around the issue of polity. Teaching elders are members of presbyteries, and not local churches. My wife and I are members of different ecclesiastical bodies. Presbyteries can insulate their members from complaints and charges from other presbyteries. It’s part of our local autonomy, grass-roots heritage. In the PCA, it is very difficult to contest the ordination of a man in another Presbytery. Contesting the legitimacy of a man’s ordination credentials must come from within his own Presbytery, and it has not happened from within Missouri Presbytery.

    If he’s correct, there’s nothing other presbyteries can do about rogue presbyteries. The Missouri Presbytery and several others have been rogue for a long time. A little leaven ruins the lump. The remaining conservatives can stay under a false unity or they can join a denomination where GA rulings have some teeth in the form of the ability to expel rogue presbyteries.

    Johnson et al know that they just need to keep telling emotive stories, keep up the propaganda and lies about their true intentions and nothing will be done about them. In that Tweet he later removed, he said time was on his side. Homosexual activists within the church are using the same strategy as homosexualists within our culture: conceal their true intentions and tell the public this is just about “equality.”

    Western Protestants don’t have the stomach for a fight anymore. We should pray for one and God’s supernatural intervention so the PCA doesn’t go PCUSA.

    • Ball is right about the membership of the TE and about the Presbytery having original jurisdiction, but has omitted some important facts. See BCO 34-1. “Process against a minister shall be entered before the Presbytery of
      which he is a member. However, if the Presbytery refuses to act in doctrinal
      cases or cases of public scandal and two other Presbyteries request the General
      Assembly to assume original jurisdiction (to first receive and initially hear and
      determine), the General Assembly shall do so.”

      Or BCO 40-4: 40-4. “Courts may sometimes entirely neglect to perform their duty, by which
      neglect heretical opinions or corrupt practices may be allowed to gain ground;
      or offenders of a very gross character may be suffered to escape; or some
      circumstances in their proceedings of very great irregularity may not be
      distinctly recorded by them. In any of these cases their records will by no
      means exhibit to the higher court a full view of their proceedings. If, therefore,
      the next higher court be well advised that any such neglect or irregularity has
      occurred on the part of the lower court, it is incumbent on it to take cognizance
      of the same, and to examine, deliberate and judge in the whole matter as
      completely as if it had been recorded, and thus brought up by review of its

      BCO 40-5 gives the ability for entire lower courts to be censured. So there are mechanisms. If they will be used is a different question altogether. But attempts are presently underway to use the legitimate means given to rectify it.

    • If the remedies are on the books, why wouldn’t they be used? To paraphrase Shakespeare: The fault dear Brutus is not in our polity but in our selves.

    • I believe they are. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this thread, presbyteries are even now deliberating on what reaction they will have to the GA and to the Missouri Presbytery report. One of the items being deliberated is to refer the matter to the SJC (meaning to ask them to take jurisdiction).

  6. Has anyone ever seen a denomination maintain their orthodoxy over time or become more orthodox? In my experience the slippery slope doesn’t incline in that direction.

    • Forever is a long time, but if you want evidence of denominations that were headed to or already infested with significant liberalism that righted the ship, the SBC and ARP are good examples. SBC less so perhaps in the last few years.

      • Jeremiah,

        People also point to the LCMS. I don’t know much about the ARP turn around but it seems (from the outside) that what the LCMS, SBC (caveat, as you indicated), and PCA have in common is the importance of networks (syndicates). The SBC turnaround didn’t come from the churches or through assemblies. They don’t have that kind of polity. Arguably, the SBC isn’t even a denomination. It happened via networks behind the scenes. The LCMS fits that pattern. As with the SBC, the LCMS struggle was fought in the seminaries (e.g., the Seminex in St Louis v Concordia St Louis). The Preus clan led the confessionalist charge in the LCMS.

        The question is, I think, whether the confessionalist network(s) in the PCA are going to do their thing, in the courts of the church, whether they’re going to use all the provisions in the BCO and pay the PR price—a ding to their reputations. It’s really hard to stand up for the confession and be regarded as a “good guy.” In the history of the church the two just haven’t gone hand-in-hand. Look at what the critics did to Calvin’s reputation or Beza’s reputation.

  7. Jeremiah,

    “Process against a minister shall be entered before the Presbytery of
    which he is a member. However, if the Presbytery refuses to act in doctrinal
    cases or cases of public scandal and two other Presbyteries request the General
    Assembly to assume original jurisdiction (to first receive and initially hear and
    determine), the General Assembly shall do so.”

    Praise God! Sorry to sound like Paul, but what’s stopping y’all from excising this tumor? Why not write what you wrote to us into the Aquila Report, highlight the relevant sections of the BCO, and bring charges against “TE” Johnson?

    If you breach the door and the rest of the team doesn’t follow you through, you’ll know all you need to know about the direction of the PCA.

    • I appreciate your enthusiasm. As I mentioned above, these things are already in process in the courts of the church, and that’s where my and others are exerting their influence. Presbyteries will be deciding what the appropriate response to Missouri Presbyteries Report and the outcome of GA will be with the range seeming to be basically one of three options (nothing, wait for the GA report, refer to the SJC). I would be very surprised if GA does not have an overture (hopefully multiple) to have the SJC take original jurisdiction. What the outcome will be is a different question, of course. But this is why I have been urging those above to not view this as over yet. The processes move slowly and by design. They are deliberate. Things are very much still in process. We will have a much clearer lay of the land after next GA as these things will have run a course. The only major caveat is for those who want to await the study committee report.

  8. Walt: The key phrase is “refuses to act”. The Missouri Presbytery has learned that to blunt that clause they commission a committee to investigate doctrinal cases or public scandal then they issue a report which exonerates the TE. In the case of TE Jeff Meyers who was teaching Federal Vision, the Standing Judicial Committee of the GA compelled the presbytery to bring charges against TE Meyers. They did so and found him not guilty. Case closed. So they have learned that the way to shield their TEs is to “act” by pronouncing their exoneration. The other presbyteries might not like how they acted but they are unable to appeal to the GA on the grounds that they did not act. They have learned to act preemptively before jurisdiction can be taken from them.

    • Bob,

      Jeremiah cited the other parts of the BCO that may be brought to bear in the case where the presbytery “acted” but in the completely wrong way. As Jeremiah said, we don’t know what the SJC will do. Hopefully, none of its members are part of a possible homosexualist conspiracy.

      It’s interesting that nothing was ever done about the Federal Visionists within the same presbytery nor the Presbytery of the NW which has similar homosexualist problems.

      I wonder if any TEs who are members of the “mushy middle” understand that the laity are running out of conservative, confessional denominations to attend? If they fail to act, where will we go to church?

  9. Walt: That is a question I ask myself every day. I believe that the conservative contingent in the PCA is such a minority that it is nearly a foregone conclusion how issues will play out. Jeremiah took exception when I said that I thought that the PCA had passed a tipping point. The thing about tipping points is that when you think they may be approaching, the tipping point has already been passed without you realizing it. I have read that the reason the liberal contingent in the PCA resists provocative action is that it would risk a church split which would mean that a lot of money would leave with the conservatives. How’s that for a motivation?

  10. It’s time for conservatives to think as strategically as the leftists do. Pleading with them to practice discipline and honesty is not a strategy. Perhaps the conservatives/confessionalists should make a voting bloc that attempts to elect the most left TE as moderator, which could stun the moderates to join with the conservatives and get the REs to wake up from their slumber.

    There’s clearly men in the PCA that prefer the doctrines of SJWism over Christianity, and people ought to act as though that is true.

    • Joel: I for one refuse to get involved in an ecclesiastical version of House of Cards. If people want political strategy and intrigue in the PCA that’s their prerogative. It is more straightforward to reform by abandoning those who would seek to destroy the peace and purity of the church to their own fate.

    • Bob- So you’ll be content being run out of church after church, denomination after denomination? I don’t think that this side of the Amish that the left will leave us alone, and I doubt they’ll leave the Amish alone either.

      • Joel,

        I doubt that Machiavellian politics is the only alternative to leaving. In any event, I don’t think we should conduct business in the KOG the way it’s done in the world. “My kingdom is not of this world” is still God’s Word.

  11. Bob, Scott,

    I understand your point but understand Joel’s: conservatives need to find a way to win. There is nothing noble or good about losing yet another denomination and losing can become a habit as it has for conservative Protestants. You can schism again, but the result will be the same: infiltration by liberals. Conservatives need a strategy to win. John Boyd’s definition of strategy is the best: connecting to as many centers of gravity as possible while disconnecting your enemy from as many of his centers of gravity as possible. Applying strategy and winning should not be Machiavellian nor violate the Law of God (see Boyd’s grid).

    My understanding is that the fathers of the first three centuries of the Christian church defeated heretics, right? What would’ve happened if they kept losing to them?

    • Walt,

      The weapons of the KOG are the Word of God and the Spirit of God. I’m not opposed to confessionalists (a better category than “conservatives” — failure to distinguish conservatives and confessionalists or failure to understand the distinction between confessionalists and non-confessionalists whether “conservative” or “liberal” is a big part of the problem) organizing to promote the confessional theology, piety, and practice but we best be very careful about transposing secular politics into the church or else we have already lost what we were trying to save.

  12. The weapons of the KOG are the Word of God and the Spirit of God. I’m not opposed to confessionalists (a better category than “conservatives” — failure to distinguish conservatives and confessionalists or failure to understand the distinction between confessionalists and non-confessionalists whether “conservative” or “liberal” is a big part of the problem) organizing to promote the confessional theology, piety, and practice but we best be very careful about transposing secular politics into the church or else we have already lost what we were trying to save.


    I think we’re talking past one-another here. What actions should conservatives take to discipline rogue presbyteries within the PCA? I’m defining a conservative as someone who wants to conserve something like a confession, a piety, and a practice. There are a set of duties that are required by the Word of God as understood in the Westminster Standards for many situations, but particularly church doctrine and discipline. Were this not the case, the Standards never would’ve been written nor the BCO.

    For example, if a minister intends to indict a minister in a rogue presbytery, does he submit charges to the SJC and call it a day or does he do that AND make phone calls to gain support for his cause? Does he wait until next year’s GA to persuade other ministers, or does he start well in advance? Is the latter sinful “human politics?” If so, why haven’t the members of the National Partnership been disciplined for doing the same?

    • Walt,


      Confessionalists ought to be using the means given to us:

      1) Prayer
      2) The teaching & preaching of the Word
      3) Discipline

      I’m not expert in the PCA BCO. There may be some structural impediments to cross presbytery discipline because of the de-centralized way in which the PCA is organized. Still, I suspect that, if confessionalists are willing, there are mechanisms, overtures, complaints and the like, that can be employed. They may fail. I’m more concerned about the process than the outcome. I’m more concerned about whether confessionalists are willing to use the spiritual tools to hand rather than defaulting to partisan politics to accomplish an end.

  13. Scott,

    Still, I suspect that, if confessionalists are willing, there are mechanisms, overtures, complaints and the like, that can be employed. They may fail. I’m more concerned about the process than the outcome.

    I realize this is not your denomination, but you don’t sound very confident.

    I’m more concerned about whether confessionalists are willing to use the spiritual tools to hand rather than defaulting to partisan politics to accomplish an end.

    As are we all. Man’s efforts will fail. However, duty still calls and there’s probably a fairly wide latitude within the bounds of the BCO, the Standards and conscience for action. I’m concerned, as are many younger conservatives, that we believe it’s our end to show up and take the loss for the other team’s record. We seem to be “gentle as doves” but have neglected to be “wise as serpents.” Isn’t Jesus, spiritually speaking, fierce towards wolves and robbers? Shouldn’t our church leaders be the same? Doesn’t the Lord want us to have heart?

    Where can I educate myself on how these problems were handled in the past?

  14. I think part of the problem with thinking that liberal or non-confessional elements within the PCA can somehow be thwarted with polity is thinking that they are somehow a minority which has gained control of the levers of denominational power. People point to the 60/40 vote at this year’s General Assembly which affirmed the Nashville Statement as biblically faithful as a victory. The more telling and ominous action was when a large number, if not the majority, of TEs at the GA broke out in spontaneous applause at the “testimony” of Greg Johnson. Neither does this address the fact that the membership in our individual PCA churches may not be as conservative or confessional as you might believe. What kind of teaching have these congregations been getting week after week? I believe the problem may be much more deep rooted than you might expect. Therefore, if one believes that the PCA is worth saving, the only effective measures are those which Dr. Clark outlined and not clever political strategies.

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