Top 10 Posts for 2016

2016 was a very interesting year. As I compiled the following list of my top posts for the year, I reflected on the hot topics. Doug Wilson and plagiarism was again in the top 10, although a different set of books from 2015. Not surprisingly, several Trinity debate posts also made it to the top 10. I’m so thankful for all those who spoke up to defend Trinitarian orthodoxy. There is still much work to be done.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement. May God bless you all this year.

10. A Reflection and Some Lingering Concerns after the RTS Trinity Conference

This continued insistence on ESS/EFS/ERAS by Grudem and Ware worries me for both complementarianism in general and CBMW in particular. And for these reasons I was not as reassured by Ligon Duncan’s talk as I would have liked to have been. I am extremely glad to hear that both Dr. Duncan and RTS are Pro-Nicene, but that really wasn’t in doubt, was it?

9. “Rules for Thee and Not for Me”

These are merely six examples, one from each volume. Each of these examples is mostly word for word. None of these are from open sources like Wikipedia. The only difference between the Omnibus examples and the Driscoll ones is that there are more of them from the Omnibus. I’m honestly not sure why the “rules” that applied to the Driscoll plagiarism don’t apply to the Omnibus.

8. The Grand Design: A Review

In The Grand Design, Strachan and Peacock ground their understanding of the complementarity of men and women on a relationship of authority and submission in the nature of the Trinity. The result does damage to the doctrine of the Trinity, distorts the gospel, and damages the understanding of men and women and how they should interact.

7. Tim Keller, Redeemer City to City, and the Rise Campaign

Why do Keller and Redeemer want to plant churches and train leaders? To see New York City flourish:

We’re doing this for our city. Our longing is to see New York—and everyone in it—flourish. We believe the best way to serve the city is to embody the gospel in every neighborhood. The gospel doesn’t just change individual lives; it advances the common good. The increase in philanthropy, mercy, justice, racial reconciliation, integrity, and hope that occurs when more and more people live out the gospel is good for all of society, not just the body of Christ.

6. Wilson’s Influence on “Classical Christian Education”

Doug Wilson’s views on theology, history, slavery, patriarchy, marriage, sex, etc. are present in materials that many CCE schools, programs, and homeschools use. In doing my research, I focused on the six-volume Omnibus produced by Veritas Press. Veritas Press is owned by Marlin and Laurie Detweiler who were members of Wilson’s CREC denomination.

5. CBMW’s Blog Series on the Eternal Subordination of the Son

In my previous article on CBMW and the Eternal Subordination of the Son, I gave many examples of why it’s not accurate to say that CBMW is neutral in the current debate. But it is also not accurate to say that CBMW only has the one post on the Trinity. A quick search on CBMW’s website for “eternal subordination” will return a number of hits. There are several posts responding to or reviewing books by egalitarians who have written against ESS/EFS/ERAS. There is also an interesting series of posts specifically on the Eternal Subordination of the Son.

4. Wilson Responds

Let me take these one by one. First, of the almost 70 original sources cited in my post, fewer than 20 of them are from Wikipedia or other “open source” sites. When I cited Wikipedia as the source, I was careful to use the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine to verify that the Wikipedia information existed before the publication of each Omnibus volume. You can click on any of the Wikipedia links to take you to the archived page from a particular date that is older than the Omnibus publication date. So, unless time travel is an option, the Wikipedia sources predate the Omnibus volumes.

3. A Justice Primer: The Investigation

Before I published my article on the plagiarism, I presented my findings to 5 seminary and university professors. I wanted to know what they thought of the significance of what I’d found. All of them said it was plagiarism. They said that if they had done it, they would have been in trouble with their university/seminary/academic community. They also said that if one of their students had done the same the student would face disciplinary action including expulsion. Plagiarism is serious business.

2. Eternal Subordination of the Son and the ESV Study Bible

Given the recent debate over ESS/EFS/ERAS, I thought it would be worthwhile to demonstrate the influence this teaching has had in possibly unexpected places. The following are quotes from the ESV Study Bible study notes on various Bible passages. The page numbers are from the ebook version. The Scripture passages are all from the ESV translation.

  1. Plagiarism, Wilson, and the Omnibus

As these example show, the plagiarism in the Omnibus volumes is extensive and pervasive. These are only a small portion of the more than 100 instances I found.

The Idol of City Ministry

“Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion I:XI.8

One of the things that struck me when I was writing the articles on the new city church planting campaign by Redeemer City to City and Tim Keller was the prioritization of urban ministry. This is hardly new. Keller and others have been writing for more than a decade to encourage city church planting and ministry efforts. As a native of one of the largest cities in the U.S. and a pastor’s daughter, I’m very glad for reminders that cities are important mission fields.

However, several recent articles, like this one, highlight the ministry needs of the rural and suburban mission fields. In the press to remember cities, we are in danger of forgetting the small towns. It’s one thing to encourage urban ministry. It’s another thing to prioritize cities over rural areas. This is the danger I see in the focus on city church planting.

Dr. Keller says in his article “Understanding the City” that it would be “disobedient” for the church not to focus the majority of its resources on cities:

Thesis: As much as possible, Christians should live, serve, and be deeply involved in the lives of our largest cities. They need to be involved in the life of the whole city, not just their own particular enclave. If you can live and serve in the city, you should.

The Christian church must concentrate the great portion of its resources on ministry to the city. It is our “reasonable service”. To fail to render it is as foolish as it is disobedient. (emphasis added)

This is more than simply encouraging urban ministry efforts. This is saying that ministry in cities is more important than other ministries. Keller explained his prioritization of cities in a talk he gave at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization:

Psalm 19 tells us that nature does reflect God’s glory. But human beings, according to Genesis 1, made in the image of God, reflect God’s glory more than anything else in creation. In cities, you have more “image of God” per square inch than anywhere else in the world. A missionary friend of mine once quipped, “The country is where there are more plants than people, and the city is where there are more people than plants. Therefore, because God loves people more than plants, he’s got to love the city more than the country.” … If you love what God loves … you’ll love the city.

I absolutely believe that urban ministry is important. There are lost people who need to hear the gospel preached in every city around the world. But there are also lost people in every town and village and farming community around the world. And they need the gospel just as much. My fear is that for many, city ministry has become an idol, the thing that will give them value, significance, and security.

Dr. Keller is well-known and often quoted regarding idolatry. In his book, Counterfeit Gods, he summarizes what happens when “good things” take a place in our hearts they shouldn’t:

The human heart is an idol factory that takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them. pg xiv, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters)

When “our hearts deify” those “good things” like city ministry, we turn them into idols:

What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…

An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I ‘ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship. (pgs xvii -xviii, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters)

Why do I think city ministry has become an idol for many? Consider the language used in the recent Rise campaign:

We’re doing this for our city. Our longing is to see New York—and everyone in it—flourish. We believe the best way to serve the city is to embody the gospel in every neighborhood. The gospel doesn’t just change individual lives; it advances the common good. The increase in philanthropy, mercy, justice, racial reconciliation, integrity, and hope that occurs when more and more people live out the gospel is good for all of society, not just the body of Christ.

Nowhere in the material is it mentioned that they are doing this to glorify God. “The gospel” is mentioned many times, but the salvation of people from their sins and restoring relationship between God and man are missing. The “gospel” being proclaimed is very much a social justice version.

That isn’t to say that individual pastors and even churches involved in these urban ministries are not preaching the gospel and focused on saving sinners. I’m sure there are good examples. In fact, I’m fairly certain that all of the pastors and churches involved in the Rise campaign would agree that they want to glorify God in what they do.

But here is how the churches describe their purpose and mission:

The values of our church community are drawn out of the life Jesus embodied and our desire to emulate Him, so that Christ’s prayer of renewal “on earth as it is in heaven” may be a reality. Forefront

In fulfilling the great commission, Paul’s strategy was to plant churches in areas of influence to reach as many people as possible. Restoration Community Church

Join us in tearing away the layers of religion that have kept people from church for so many years and discover the joys of TRUE COMMUNITY with the family of God. Sanctuary Fellowship

Through a shared meal, authentic community, and the narrative of Jesus, we are transformed. We live lives of imperfect love and reckless generosity, engaging our neighborhoods in Brooklyn and beyond according to the gospel of grace. Because God invited us freely to his table, all are invited to ours. Hope Brooklyn

We hold a belief that God is at work to heal and renew the world that He created to be good. Our own lives are part of God’s renewal process, and God invites us into the work of making all things new. We do this by pursuing justice, engaging in social and cultural renewal, and being committed to prayer for the flourishing of New York City. Hope Midtown

As a church of Jesus Christ, Redeemer exists to help build a great city for all people through a movement of the gospel that brings personal conversion, community formation, social justice, and cultural renewal to New York City and, through it, the world. Redeemer NYC

Our mission … to create space where New Yorkers of all backgrounds can connect with God through Jesus Christ and move towards him as the center of their lives. We believe this is how we can experience Jesus’ promise of “life in all its fullness.” In John 10:10 Jesus described his own mission this way: “My purpose is to give people a rich and satisfying life.”  He made it clear that we can know God in a real and powerful way, and that this relationship with God is the source of “more and better life than you have ever dreamed of.” River

We believe that God’s unchanging message is so life changing, satisfying, and fulfilling that it must be communicated to each generation in contemporary, culturally relevant language, forms, and styles. Redeemer Montclair

Over and over again the message is that their goal, their passion is to make the city better. I think there are good reasons to be concerned that city ministry is becoming an idol. I think this is the result of misunderstanding cities both theologically and realistically.

The key verse for city ministry that is most often cited is Jeremiah 29:7:

Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. (Jer. 29:7, NASB)

From “Understanding the City:”

The Jews on the one hand did not expect to turn Babylon into a Jewish city- -they had not utopian or literally revolutionary schemes. On the other hand, the Lord’s directive forbid them from having a “ghetto” mentality or having a hostile attitude toward the city. They were to pray for the city, to live in it and grow in it and serve it and work for the common good (Jer.29:5-7).

Now if the Jews are given this mandate to Babylon, who surely had a great deal of warrant to hate this city as being cruel and oppressive, then surely any believer today must look at the great cities of their country in the same way. We are also exiles from Jerusalem here to spread the Lord’s shalom in the earthly cities. We must also see that we have been “sent” (Jer.29: 4) to our cities.

Certainly, the Jews in exile in Babylon were told by God to settle in and to pray for the welfare of the city. However, there was a very specific reason. Jeremiah was told to warn the people that they should not believe the other prophets who were saying the exile would be short. The message from God was that the exile would last 70 years. The people should not live as if they were going back to Jerusalem soon. They were told to live in Babylon and continue with their lives while they waited for the completion of the 70 years.

The point was not “be a blessing” to the city. The point was it’s going to be 70 years, be patient. And what did God promise would happen next? They would be brought home to Jerusalem. They wouldn’t be left forever in Babylon. And what would happen to Babylon? God promised to destroy it utterly for its part in the fall of Jerusalem, and the people are told to flee the city when that time comes:

Go out of the midst of her, my people!
Let every one save his life
from the fierce anger of the Lord!
Let not your heart faint, and be not fearful
at the report heard in the land,
when a report comes in one year
and afterward a report in another year,
and violence is in the land,
and ruler is against ruler.
Therefore, behold, the days are coming
when I will punish the images of Babylon;
her whole land shall be put to shame,
and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her.
Then the heavens and the earth,
and all that is in them,
shall sing for joy over Babylon,
for the destroyers shall come against them out of the north,
declares the Lord.
Babylon must fall for the slain of Israel,
just as for Babylon have fallen the slain of all the earth. (Jer. 51: 45-49, NASB)

The point was that Babylon was a temporary home, albeit for many years. This has a very good application to us today as believers. We are strangers and aliens (1 Peter 2:11) living in a city that is not our home. While we are here, we should seek to serve God wherever he has placed us. But we should remember that eventually, we’ll leave these things behind for something greater.  This is not a theology of city ministry, but a truth applicable to all believers everywhere.

Does God prioritize cities? It is true that Jerusalem was a special city with great significance. The heavenly city in Revelation is called the New Jerusalem. But throughout the Scriptures are cities more blessed or more important by virtue of being cities? Not especially.

The people at the tower of Babel were punished and dispersed when they tried to build a city and tower to reach heaven and make a name for themselves. Part of their disobedience was failing to “fill the earth” as God commanded. Making a city for themselves and staying put wasn’t an effort that God blessed then.

Sodom and Gomorrah were part of five cities utterly destroyed by God for their wickedness. After Lot’s family were safe, God wiped those cities from the face of the earth. The city of Jericho was also destroyed. Jerusalem was destroyed more than once. Revelation tells of the coming destruction of the great city Babylon (Rev. 17).

Cities, in and of themselves, are not inherently good or evil. They also aren’t the crowning glory of humanity either. Some cities are full of wickedness. Other cities are filled with those who worship the Living God. Jerusalem was special because of what represented: God’s dwelling place with man. It was a picture of the future spoken of in Revelation 21. There will come a time when sin and death will no longer separate us from God. And that is a glorious thought. But no matter how great our cities are here, they will never be as glorious as the new heavens and the new earth.

On the whole, there is nothing that indicates God’s preference or special blessing for cities. While we shouldn’t be afraid of cities or denigrate them, we should remember what Hebrews has to say regarding earthly cities:

For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. (Heb. 13:14, NASB)

As believers, our priority should be on the city that is coming, and that work can be done anywhere.

My second concern about the prioritization of city ministry is a misunderstanding of the reality of living in cities. A good example of this can be found in Kathy Keller’s article, “Why You Should Raise Your Kids in the City.” In this article, she presents an idealized and romanticized view of the city.

Kathy Keller writes that cities (particularly New York) are better for children all around. She believes they are spiritually better because kids will actually see evil and sin for what they are and that Christianity becomes more plausible. She believes that cities are financially better for families. Because of public transportation, you don’t need a car. There are free events to go to. Renting is cheaper, and city living means no yard or lawn to care for. You have less space, so you have fewer things. All of these make cities financially better.

Kathy Keller also writes that cities are culturally better. Cities have the best of human culture to offer. Restaurants are better, and cities are just more exciting that the boring suburbs. She also believes that cities are better for kids because they have hip, urban Christians as role models. She believes because of the great diversity in cities, there is less peer pressure. And since no one has cars, you don’t have to worry about teens and drunk driving. Thanks to mass transit, you can send your kids off to appointments on their own.

In addition to the ways she lists that cities are better for raising kids, Kathy Keller mentions several perks for urban ministry families. Airfare is cheaper flying from larger cities. You can take great vacations, and wealthy families may loan you their vacation homes when it’s convenient to them. Cities give families access to the best of the best.

While it may reflect her situation as a pastor’s wife in Manhattan, her description of life in the city and the perks of city ministry are foreign to my own experiences as a pastor’s kid in an inner city church. I grew up in the 4th largest city in the U.S. My dad’s church was in a low-income area on the east side of town. Our church was poor and without my mother’s work we would have been too. My mother worked so that there was food on the table and clothes on our backs. We were better off than many, but by no means well-to-do.

Our city doesn’t have a lot of mass transit options, and due to the sprawl, you really need a car. You also are likely to have a house with a yard. Drunk driving is an issue, although the one time we were hit by a drunk driver we were driving through a rural area.

There are lots of great restaurants here, but you have to be able to afford to eat out. The cultural offerings are wonderful, if you can afford to buy tickets and access. There are some great free concerts and events, though.

The schools I went to had great diversity, but there was still considerable peer pressure. Even in Christian schools, there was pressure to do drugs, to drink, to be sexually active, and to reject the faith. Yes, we got to see sin and wickedness. There were a lot of homeless guys who came to the church regularly for help. Sometimes they were drunk. Sometimes they were violent. It was often risky.

One time my dad pulled over, with us all in the car, to stop a guy getting beat up. That certainly wasn’t boring, but it was pretty scary. The city isn’t all bright and shiny. There is a lot of beauty here, but it can be a dark and dangerous place.

As for wealthy families loaning you their vacation homes, I guess that can happen, if you have wealthy folks in your congregation. We did have a sweet older couple with a little beach house that they let us use occasionally. Those were great times.

Don’t get me wrong; I love living in the city. But I don’t idolize it. There are many great and wonderful things here and lovely people too. I have very sweet memories of growing up in the city. I enjoy the opportunities and access we have to events. And yes, airfare is cheaper than when we lived in smaller towns. But very often, the city can be a harsh and violent place.

As Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote in Evita:

The city can be paradise for those who have the cash
The class and the connections, what you need to make a splash
The likes of you get swept up in the morning with the trash
If you were rich or middle class …

I’m not saying people should avoid moving to cities, but I am saying that they should have a realistic picture of what city life can be.

To summarize, I believe that prioritizing urban ministry can lead to making it into an idol. What is good turns into what is necessary to feel complete and secure. This hurts people, both inside and outside of cities, and it diminishes the very real ministry work being done in rural and suburban areas. It also has the potential to draw our attention away from seeking the glory of God to seeking the glory of the city.

When the family that has struggled for generations living inner city finally decides to move where there are better opportunities and less expense, we shouldn’t discourage them because in our minds city ministry is of primary importance.

When rural families are falling apart and communities are in desperate need of the Savior, we shouldn’t turn our backs on them because the towns are small and not influential. When the Shepherd looked for the lost sheep, He didn’t decide that the ninety-nine were more important because there were more of them. Thank the Lord that He cares for even the one lost lamb. Shouldn’t we also, no matter where they are?

When a pastor is called to a small town church, we shouldn’t pity him or look down on him. His work is vital. It’s not merely a stepping stone to a larger, urban church. We need all types: small town, suburban, and urban churches. People are dying every day without knowing Christ. There is so much work to be done.

City ministry is important. It is a good thing. But it is not an ultimate thing.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Gal. 6:9-10, NASB)

Does it Matter?

After my last article on the Rise campaign and the Redeemer City to City church planting, I received comments that fell into two main categories. One group expressed concern over the churches that have been planted so far. The other group saw no problems and were happy that the gospel is being spread in New York. In this post, I’d like to address both groups.

First, yes, I am concerned about the churches that are being planted through Redeemer City to City and for various reasons. The majority of the churches that have been planted so far are outside our denomination (PCA) and our sister denominations (NAPARC). Many of the churches hold to doctrines and distinctives that are at odds with what our denomination teaches. The evidence from the Rise campaign and the various church websites is that the gospel being proclaimed is more social justice gospel and less Biblical gospel.

When I say that the majority of the churches are not PCA (or other NAPARC denominations), my concern is not promoting my “tribe.” The spread of the gospel through faithful churches is a very good thing. I view other Christian churches, not as competition, but as brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m thankful for the work they do and the people they reach. I’m willing to pray for them and to work together with them in taking care of the needs of our communities. I recognize that godly men and women can disagree on various theological distinctives, and I don’t lament the need for denominations.

What concerns me is that when elders in our denominations take their vows they vow that they believe that the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms “contain the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.” If you believe that to be true, why would you want to plant churches that teach views contrary to “the system of doctrine taught in the” Bible? And these are not minor disagreements.

On the issue of baptism, the Redeemer City to City churches cover a wide range of beliefs. Some are paedobaptist. A couple have statements that indicate a level of belief in baptismal regeneration. Most are credobaptist. They believe that in order to be a Christian you must be baptized, by immersion, after making a profession of faith. Those who are baptized by sprinkling and those who were baptized as infants are not considered properly baptized and would have to be rebaptized in order to be received as members.

What that means is that my children who were baptized as infants and who have made professions of faith and been received as communing members could not become members or take communion at these churches. Why would you plant churches that would deny your children were baptized Christians? Despite the talk of cooperation and unity for the city, ultimately our covenant children would be excluded.

The other concern with planting churches outside our denomination is the issue of oversight. What happens when a Redeemer City to City church misbehaves? Is there any structure to protect the members of the congregations from a wicked pastor? Is there any protection of the other Redeemer City to City churches if one of the churches becomes known for rejecting Biblical truth?

I know that church polity and church discipline are not well-liked topics these days, and I know that discipline can be abused. But the structures that we have in Presbyterian churches were designed to protect the congregations and to protect the purity of the Church. Given the Redeemer City to City church that sees no problem with a gay man leading the Pastor’s small group, the concern over oversight is not merely academic.

Some will ask why these things matter as long as the gospel is being proclaimed. In answer to that, I have two points. First, if we believe that our doctrines and distinctives are faithful to Scripture, wouldn’t we want others to be taught in the most faithful way? Don’t we love others enough to want them to understand the Scriptures as we’ve been taught? Not to build our “tribe,” but so that they would worship and glorify God through their faith. Doctrine matters, and it has a profound effect on our lives and our relationships.

Second, what is the gospel being spread through the Redeemer City to City churches? I do believe that Redeemer and many of the other churches love the Lord and proclaim salvation faithfully. But in the Rise literature and in the materials from many of the City to City churches, the message is one of flourishing, justice, and making New York a better place.

Those are not bad goals. In fact, who would disagree with them? These are extremely popular ideas right now regardless of religious background. If you asked a pagan, an atheist, and a Buddhist, very likely they would all agree with a message of cultural renewal and social justice.

The Rise campaign explains their vision and purpose for planting churches:

We’re doing this for our city. Our longing is to see New York—and everyone in it—flourish. We believe the best way to serve the city is to embody the gospel in every neighborhood. The gospel doesn’t just change individual lives; it advances the common good. The increase in philanthropy, mercy, justice, racial reconciliation, integrity, and hope that occurs when more and more people live out the gospel is good for all of society, not just the body of Christ.

“Philanthropy, mercy, justice, racial reconciliation, integrity, and hope” are good things. But ultimately none of these things are the purpose of the Church. We are to be ambassadors for Christ calling people to repent and believe. Without reconciliation with God, which is only possible through faith in Christ, all the good things in the world are worthless. Our deepest needs are forgiveness of sins and peace with God. We cannot forget our mission as believers and as the Church.

 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corithians 5:18-20, ESV)

As these verses say, God is reconciling the world to himself, but our message is to implore people to be reconciled to God through Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and for His glory. What good are we as the Church if we are simply one more improvement program for the city?

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26, ESV)

If we aren’t preaching a message of salvation by faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone, we are not doing the lost around us any favors. What does it matter if the city is a lovely place if the people are still going to die and go to hell? Yes, let’s work towards better cities, but not at the expense of the souls of our neighbors. That’s not love.

The last thing I want to consider is the disservice we are doing to the people in our congregations if we are preaching a message of social justice and not one of salvation by faith through Christ. In the coming years, professing faith in Christ is likely to become more and more dangerous. Standing for the faith may mean losing your job or home or family.

If we are bringing people in with a popular message of social justice and flourishing, what preparation are they going to have for persecution? Are they being prepared for suffering because they are Christians? And not suffering in the sense of sacrificing their time and money, etc to minister to others, but being reviled and hated by the world simply because they serve Christ.

We should not forget that the world is going to hate us because it hates Him. No matter how kind we are or how much good we do, we are believers and the world is at enmity with Him. Let us love our neighbors enough to tell them the truth of their separation from God and their need of salvation from their sins. And let us love our congregations enough to prepare them for suffering.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved,what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:12-19, ESV)

I would love to see Redeemer City to City focus all of their resources to planting and training pastors in our denomination. There is such a need for Reformed churches throughout our country. We need good churches proclaiming the gospel. There are so many lost people who need to hear the good news of salvation and forgiveness of sins.

A day is coming when our work will be tested. Are we building on His foundation?

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, ESV)

 

Tim Keller, Redeemer City to City, and the Rise Campaign

Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer New York (PCA) has announced this week that he will be stepping down as Senior Pastor in order to dedicate his work towards church planting in New York City:

Tim Keller is devoting the next decade of his life to this vision for New York. He will step down from his role as senior pastor to pivot into the strategic role of teaching and mentoring more leaders to do evangelism and church planting in an urban context. This shift will leverage his credibility and experience planting and leading churches in the New York context to multiply a church planting movement in every neighborhood of New York. He and his wife, Kathy, are dedicating the rest of their lives to serve and minister in New York.

This was also the launch of a new campaign, Rise, to raise funds for planting churches and training pastors through Redeemer City to City and the Redeemer City Ministry Program:

All funds donated to the Redeemer Rise Campaign will be stewarded and held by Redeemer with oversight by the Redeemer elders. The below chart represents our target $80M project budget. If funds raised are above or below that total, the elders in partnership with the staff leadership will determine the appropriate allocation of funds to projects and will report back to donors with those plans.

* We want to be sure you’re aware that a portion of any funds you donate to Redeemer as part of the Rise Campaign may be given to Redeemer City to City, a separate organization affiliated with and founded by Redeemer that has developed expertise in church planting and church leadership recruitment and development over the past 15 years; funds given to City to City will be used for planting non-Redeemer churches and for scholarships for potential non-Redeemer pastors. What portion of your funds is given to Redeemer will depend on a variety of factors, including the total amount raised and the purpose for which it is donated, but if we were to raise $80M, it would be somewhere around $22M.

What is Rise? The website details the campaign:

A gospel movement is rising in New York City. Rise is a campaign to accelerate it.

Twenty five years ago, the number of center-city New Yorkers in gospel-centered churches was 1%. Today that number is 5%. By 2026, we believe it can reach 15%.

Rise is the first part of a 10-year vision to accelerate toward a tipping point of gospel-influence in New York City —and through it, the world.

If more New Yorkers embody the gospel in how they live and work, it advances the common good. It will catalyze growth in philanthropy, mercy, justice, racial reconciliation, more humane workplaces, arts that promote hope, and less crime and institutional corruption.

The Rise website explains their goal and vision:

Tripling the body of Christ in New York City will take much more than a single church or a single denomination. It will take partnership between many gospel-centered church leaders and the start of many more churches to reach our neighbors. We’ve developed a strategic plan to plant 100 new center city churches in the next 10 years. We need to start with at least 10 churches this year and we need partners to help us fund them.

This is a 10 year vision, beginning this year. Redeemer’s own congregation raised more than $32M to support the project this last Spring. But we’re not done. We are excited to invite you into this vision. Will you join us today?

The movement will take many leaders and will be led forward by a new collaborative partnership between Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Redeemer City to City—both founded by Tim Keller.

They believe that if they can increase the percentage of Christians in New York City, they can bring about significant change for the city:

Our vision is to see the body of Christ in center-city New York triple to 15%—which we believe might amount to a tipping point that does more than change individual lives, but enhances the long-term life of our city for everyone in it.

The vision is an entire city renewed by the gospel.

If a critical mass of New Yorkers express gospel values—mercy, friendship, justice, hope—in our work, lives, and neighborhoods, we believe it will help the city flourish for everyone in it. We can’t reach a tipping point by building a bigger Redeemer. We need a people-driven movement of New Yorkers in every neighborhood rising to embody the gospel in how we live, work, and serve.

In order to do this, Redeemer, through the Rise Campaign seeks to plant churches and train leaders:

In order to grow the body of Christ in New York City from 5% to 15%, church planting is essential. We cannot reach a tipping point merely through the transfer of Christians from other churches—we must welcome and serve those who do not currently profess faith. New churches are shown to be the most effective method of reaching those not already part of a church, attracting three to six times more non-Christians than older churches. New churches are also the most effective way to spark renewal for existing churches. That renewal can catalyze blessing in every neighborhood as churches increase mercy and justice through meeting the needs of their neighbors across the city.

Why do Keller and Redeemer want to plant churches and train leaders? To see New York City flourish:

We’re doing this for our city. Our longing is to see New York—and everyone in it—flourish. We believe the best way to serve the city is to embody the gospel in every neighborhood. The gospel doesn’t just change individual lives; it advances the common good. The increase in philanthropy, mercy, justice, racial reconciliation, integrity, and hope that occurs when more and more people live out the gospel is good for all of society, not just the body of Christ.

If you aren’t familiar with Redeemer City to City, it is a church planting network focused primarily on planting churches in the New York City area and other “global cities”

City to City helps local leaders start gospel movements in cities.
We focus on global cities, and there’s no city more global than New York City.

The Redeemer City Ministry Program came about as a strategic partnership between Reformed Theological Seminary and Redeemer City to City with the goal to provide theological education and practical ministry training in New York City. RCM will prepare ministry leaders in the city for the city.  RCM involves RTS providing a Master of Arts complemented by a subsequent year of practical training called the City Ministry Year provided by CTC.

Redeemer City to City is a leadership development organization founded by Timothy Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Redeemer City to City has a list of churches it’s helped start or partnered with to plant churches in the New York area. There are over 50 churches listed. Here are some demographics and details about the churches Redeemer City to City has planted or partnered with.

Many of the churches are either Baptist or non-denominational. Among the churches whose websites give their affiliation, there are PCA, EPC (formerly Metro NYC PCA churches), Lutheran, CRCNA, CMA, Evangelical Covenant, and Anglican churches. Several churches have women pastors or elders: Forefront, New Season, Sanctuary Fellowship, Trinity Grace, City Grace, Lower Manhattan Community, River, Trinity Grace Queens, Hope.

Many also have deaconesses, including all of the Metro New York PCA churches listed. Grace Redeemer PCA says of the diaconate:

From the earliest days of the New Testament Church, deacons and deaconesses have attended to the temporal needs of the church.

Many of the churches are credobaptist:

We believe that this body expresses itself in local assemblies whose members have been immersed upon credible confession of faith and have associated themselves for worship, instruction, evangelism and service. We believe the ordinances of the local church are believers’ baptism by immersion and the Lord’s supper.

And congregationalist:

We believe that each local church is self-governing in function, and must be free from interference by an ecclesiastical or political authority and is free to participate with other churches in efforts that are in line with our stated beliefs and purposes.

A couple are charismatic:

We believe that the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit did not cease after the Apostolic church but continue to this day. So we look to the Holy Spirit continually for the power, and direction, and love that we need to be effective witnesses for Jesus in the world.

One, Forefront, appears to be gay-affirming:

As we moved toward the door, he kind of winced, and then he spoke up. “I do have one question. I am a gay man, and my former church asked me to step down from my leadership roles because of it. I believe that God wants me to serve Him, can I do that here?”

Ryan, still seated and without hesitation, responded, “Of course. You can participate fully in our community.”

Eric is now my small group leader, and one of my most trusted and dearest spiritual mentors. He prays for me, speaks wisdom into my life, and teaches me how to listen to the Spirit of God as I lead in Ministry. The conventional wisdom of the American Evangelical culture says that a gay man cannot be a Pastor’s small group leader. But the spirit of God resides in him and flows out from him in profound ways.

We stand with Eric as Jesus stood with the woman in John 8, and now Eric stands with me as Jesus stood with the woman in John 8.

Eric is the love of God wrapped in flesh.

What unites these diverse churches is their love for the city of New York and urban renewal

The values of our church community are drawn out of the life Jesus embodied and our desire to emulate Him, so that Christ’s prayer of renewal “on earth as it is in heaven” may be a reality. Forefront

In fulfilling the great commission, Paul’s strategy was to plant churches in areas of influence to reach as many people as possible. Restoration Community Church

Join us in tearing away the layers of religion that have kept people from church for so many years and discover the joys of TRUE COMMUNITY with the family of God. Sanctuary Fellowship

Through a shared meal, authentic community, and the narrative of Jesus, we are transformed. We live lives of imperfect love and reckless generosity, engaging our neighborhoods in Brooklyn and beyond according to the gospel of grace. Because God invited us freely to his table, all are invited to ours. Hope Brooklyn

We hold a belief that God is at work to heal and renew the world that He created to be good. Our own lives are part of God’s renewal process, and God invites us into the work of making all things new. We do this by pursuing justice, engaging in social and cultural renewal, and being committed to prayer for the flourishing of New York City. Hope Midtown

As a church of Jesus Christ, Redeemer exists to help build a great city for all people through a movement of the gospel that brings personal conversion, community formation, social justice, and cultural renewal to New York City and, through it, the world. Redeemer NYC

Our mission … to create space where New Yorkers of all backgrounds can connect with God through Jesus Christ and move towards him as the center of their lives. We believe this is how we can experience Jesus’ promise of “life in all its fullness.” In John 10:10 Jesus described his own mission this way: “My purpose is to give people a rich and satisfying life.”  He made it clear that we can know God in a real and powerful way, and that this relationship with God is the source of “more and better life than you have ever dreamed of.” River

We believe that God’s unchanging message is so life changing, satisfying, and fulfilling that it must be communicated to each generation in contemporary, culturally relevant language, forms, and styles. Redeemer Montclair

This is consistent with Keller’s prioritization of urban ministry. As Dr. Keller says in his article “Understanding the City”:

Thesis: As much as possible, Christians should live, serve, and be deeply involved in the lives of our largest cities. They need to be involved in the life of the whole city, not just their own particular enclave. If you can live and serve in the city, you should.

The Christian church must concentrate the great portion of its resources on ministry to the city. It is our “reasonable service”. To fail to render it is as foolish as it is disobedient.

For more information on the Redeemer’s Rise campaign, click here.

Why do Reformed Christians still support BioLogos?

An new article at creation.com linked to an interesting article at BioLogos by Darryl Falk, former president of BioLogos. Falk’s article was written in 2010 back when he was still president of BioLogos. In the article, he attempts to show how difficult it is to walk to middle ground between young earth creationism and atheistic evolution. His point, apparently, is that neither side understands them (at BioLogos) and both sides disagree with them. What’s fascinating is the extremely clear description of what BioLogos, as an organization, believes and and what BioLogos exists to do.

Falk is referencing an article by Daniel Harrell on the only options he sees for those who insist on an historical Adam and Eve:

Option #1 is that Adam and Eve were created with apparent age; Option #2 is (in Harrell’s words) “Adam and Eve exist as first among Homo sapiens, specially chosen by God as representatives for a relationship with him.”

Option #1 is the standard argument put forward by those who believe in a young earth created by God in six twenty-four hour days less than 10,000 years ago. BioLogos exists in no small part to marginalize this view from the Church.A fundamental part of our mission is to show that Option #1 is not tenable. Daniel Harrell knows this. All members of the BioLogos community know this. And the leaders of powerful young earth organizations like Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, and, Grace to You know that BioLogos exists to show that Option #1 is not tenable. Reasons to Believe (RTB) knows that we are diametrically opposed to Option #1, just as we are diametrically opposed to their untenable position that there has been no macroevolution. Finally, the folks over at the Discovery Institute know that we exist to remove “apparent age” from the lexicon of evangelical Christianity. Such a view makes a mockery of the entire scientific enterprise and its ability to reveal truths about nature. (emphasis added)

So my question is, given that BioLogos exists to teach Christians not believe in the special creation of Adam and Eve as Genesis 2 details, why exactly do Reformed pastors and believers support and promote BioLogos?

Many of these Reformed leaders assure us that they still believe in the special creation of Adam and Eve. But then why are they part of this organization devoted to undermining that doctrine? Two years ago at BioLogos’ third Theology of Celebration (hosted by Tim Keller in New York), Dr. Keller was quoted as saying:

To develop a Biologos narrative is ‘the job of pastors,’

Is it the “job of pastors” in the Reformed denominations to promote/defend/develop a “BioLogos” narrative that denies the special creation of Adam and Eve?

Engaging with Keller: Thinking Through the Theology of an Influential Evangelical

Dr. Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New York City, is, perhaps, one of the best known figures in the Reformed world. He has written many books and has spoken at numerous conferences for many different groups and organizations. He is frequently interviewed and quoted by the secular media on a number of different topics. It is because of his influence on such a wide audience that a group of pastors have taken up the task of writing a book considering whether specific aspects of Keller’s teaching are biblically accurate ways of transmitting the Reformed faith.

Dr. Iain Campbell, minister of Point Free Church on the Isle of Lewis, and Dr. William Schweitzer, church-planting minister of Gateshead Presbyterian Church, have put together a collection of essays which discuss certain well-known aspects of Dr. Keller’s teaching. The book, Engaging with Keller: Thinking Through the Theology of an Influential Evangelical, was recently published and is available both in print and e-book. Dr. Campbell describes the purpose of the book this way:

It should not surprise us that in developing new lines of thought Dr. Keller has provoked a measure of controversy, mainly within the Reformed churches. It is therefore right that there should be an open and frank engagement among brothers in Christ in order to discern just how faithful to God’s word Dr. Keller’s “new lines of thought” really are (9).

The authors are quick to point out that Dr. Keller’s personal orthodoxy is not in question:

Nor is this book seeking to make any statement about his personal orthodoxy. We gladly acknowledge that Keller intends to teach the orthodox truth; the question is whether or not he fully succeeds in this good intention in the specific cases considered below (15).

These teachings include the doctrine of sin, the doctrine of hell, the doctrine of the Trinity, the mission of the Church, Scriptural interpretation, theistic evolution, and ecclesiology.

The authors believe that the problem with certain aspects of Dr. Keller’s teaching arises from his attempts to explain biblical doctrines to a post-modern audience:

Keller adopts a twofold answer to many questions. He wants to present doctrine to the “moderns” (usually older, more rural and less educated) one way, and to the “postmoderns” (usually younger, more urban and educated) in a different way. Keller’s presentations to the moderns is essentially old-fashioned orthodoxy, whereas his answer to the postmoderns include some of his most well-known – and often most controversial – teachings. This books is almost exclusively concerned with this latter group of teachings. As well shall see, it is not merely a case of using some new language to offer the same answer to the same question. In several cases, Keller’s teaching for postmoderns seems to end up offering substantially different answers to the same questions (21).

The first essay, “Keller on “Rebranding” the Doctrine of Sin”, by Dr. Iain D. Campbell looks at Dr. Keller’s attempt to reinterpret the doctrine of sin:

The idea of “rebranding” a biblical doctrine such as sin is an interesting proposition. To do this successfully would mean that the presentation is altered but the content remains the same. Is Keller’s attempt to “rebrand” sin a success? (28).

Dr. Campbell looks at Dr. Keller’s redefinition of sin as idolatry, lostness, and self-centeredness. Dr. Keller’s rebranding of sin as idolatry is well-known:

Keller concludes that “sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from him” (29).

The problem, as Dr. Campbell sees it, is that sin as idolatry confuses a symptom of sin with the cause of sin:

But the nature of sin is not idol-making but law-breaking, of which the manufacturing of idols is a specific example. The truth of the human condition is not merely that we make idols, but that we are, by nature, enslaved to law-breaking (34-35).

Dr. Keller redefines sin as “lostness” in his book The Prodigal God. He explains that in the parable from Luke 15 both the younger son and the older son are lost: one by way of immoral living, and the other by way of moralism (36).

According to Dr. Campbell, the problem here is that there aren’t two different ways of failing: one by keeping the rules and one by breaking them:

To place oneself in the place of God is breaking the rules; the sin of the elder brother is a violation of the law. It is an over-simplification to suggest that “There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good” (39).

Both immoral living and moralism are breaking God’s law. (39)

Dr. Keller as also rebranded sin as “self-centeredness”:

The problem which the gospel of Christ is the solution is the problem of self-centeredness; that Keller suggests, is the essence of the story of the fall and the disintegration of man in Genesis 3 … (40).

The problem here is not that we aren’t self-centered. But, again, our self-centeredness is a symptom of our much deeper sin nature:

Sin as self-centeredness is a symptom of, not a reason for, our condition. The paradigm of Scripture is that we are fallen by nature, and lie under the curse of a broken covenant and the penalty of a broken law. This, however, is not a theme prominent in Keller’s writings (45).

Dr. Campbell concludes by summarizing his concerns with Dr. Keller’s rebranding of sin:

This, ultimately, is where Keller’s rebranding leads – to an attempt to define sin not in terms of what it does to God, in robbing him of his glory, but of what it does to us, in robbing us of our wholeness. … Ultimately, the gospel is not all about me at all. It is certainly for me; but it is about God whom I have offended, and about the Christ whom he punished in my place. The offense? That I have broken his holy law, and break it constantly, of which my idolatry, and lostness and self-centeredness are symptoms. The remedy? That it is possible for the perfect law-keeping life and penalty-bearing death of another to restore my relationship with God (46-47).

The second essay by Dr. William Schweitzer is on the doctrine of hell, ““Brimstone-Free” Hell: a new way of saying the same old thing about judgment and hell?” Dr. Schweitzer commends the importance that Dr. Keller places on the topic of hell. However, he believes that this is another example of Dr. Keller’s attempt to speak in a new way to a post-modern audience:

Keller has two different ways of communicating the doctrine of hell, on for “traditionalists” and the other for “postmoderns”. … Keller’s teaching for the traditionalists seems consistent with the traditional doctrine. The real questions come regarding the message for postmoderns (52).

Dr. Schweitzer lists three basic questions that need to be answered in regards to hell: who sends people to hell, who keeps people in hell, and who metes out punishment for those in hell:

Who condemns people to hell? The Bible would seem to be clear on this matter: God does, through Christ (53).

In a sermon, “Isn’t the God of Christianity an Angry Judge?” Dr. Keller gives his answer to the question:

Summary: hell is just a freely chosen identity based on something else besides God going on forever (55).

Dr. Schweitzer explains:

Returning to Keller’s doctrine for postmoderns, we move on to ask, who sends people to hell if not God? The answer seems to be, no one sends anyone else to hell per se; people send themselves to hell (54).

Who decides that the damned stay in hell? According to Dr. Schweitzer:

God is the One who decides that the damned remain forever in hell, and his edict is known at the very outset of condemnation (58).

What does Dr. Keller say? In Reason for God, he writes:

“No one ever asks to leave hell. The very idea of heaven seems to them a sham.” (58).

Who metes out the punishment in hell? Dr. Schweitzer considers various examples from Scripture to give his answer:

These prototypes of judgment (the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues) very greatly in detail, but in each case it is made explicitly clear that God himself metes out the punishment associated with judgment (59).

Dr. Keller, on the other hand, “suggests in The Reason for God that the punishment in hell is just the inevitable outworking of our own refusal to let go of sin” (62).

In conclusion, Dr. Schweitzer considers whether Dr. Keller’s answers to post-moderns on these three questions is fundamentally the same as the traditional answers:

Keller’s teaching for postmoderns, on the other hand, gives a rather different set of answers. Man sends himself to hell, man never asks to leave hell, and man inflicts upon himself the punishment of hell (69).

Next, Dr. Kevin Bidwell, church-planting minister of Sheffield Presbyterian Church, discusses Dr. Keller’s teaching on the Trinity in his essay, “Losing the Dance: is the “divine dance” a good explanation of the Trinity?”

There is no question as to whether Keller intends to teach the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. He certainly has this intention. The question before us is whether his most prominent and distinctive method of communicating the Trinity – the “divine dance” imagery – is altogether faithful to Scripture, the Nicene Creed and the orthodox Reformed tradition (77).

Dr. Keller uses imagery of a “divine dance” to explain aspects of the Trinity:

In the beginning, according to Keller, was the “dance of Creation”; the Fall was mankind apparently “losing the dance”, the fruit of which was becoming self-centered; salvation supposedly becomes the way back of “returning to the dance” and getting out of self-centeredness; the eschatological conclusion in the new heaven and new earth is summarized as the “future of the dance” (79).

Dr. Bidwell sees several problems with the use of this imagery:

Problem 1: the “divine dance does not uphold the unity of the Godhead based on essence.

God’s essence is redefined as being “love” instead of “the same substance”; thus love replaces substance as the premise for divine unity (88).

Problem 2: the “divine dance” movements portray the wrong kind of motion within the Trinity.

This is the act of the Father eternally begetting the Son, and then sending him as the God-man, along with the actions of the procession of the Holy Spirit. … These divine movements are not captured by “voluntary circles or orbits; but the clear pattern of order is: from the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit (89).

Problem 3: the “divine dance” does not promote a balanced presentation of the Trinity as found in the Nicene Creed.

The Trinitarian order is distinct, clear, unmistakable and without confounding the persons. Contrast this with Keller’s portrayal of the three persons in a pulsating dance of voluntary orbits where it is impossible to distinguish “who is who” among them. It is baffling to imagine how the “divine dance” teaching could be encapsulated in a creedal statement (91).

Problem 4: the “divine dance” undermines the divine order between the persons of the Godhead.

The “divine dance” teaching that lacks the doctrines of the eternal generation of the Son and the distinguishing relational properties of the persons of the Trinity thereby introduces theological weakness into the doctrine of the Trinity, with implications for Christology (92).

Problem 5: the “divine dance” has the danger of tritheism (92).

Problem 6: the “divine dance” undermines the authority structure that is directly related to redemption.

A changed theology leads to theological implications in other parts of our doctrine, and neglecting to teach the ordering of the persons of the Trinity has real consequences for our understanding of Christ as the mediator, his obedience to the Father as the God-man, and redemption (93).

Considering the fundamental importance of the doctrine of the Trinity, Dr. Bidwell believes that these problems are not minor (81).

The fourth essay, “The Church’s Mission: sent to ‘do justice’in the world?” is by Dr. Peter J. Naylor, founding minister of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Cardiff. Dr. Naylor’s essay focuses on Dr. Keller’s teaching on the mission of the church:

Keller’s main thesis is that the church has a twofold mission in this world: (1) to preach the gospel and (2) to do justice, which involves social and cultural transformation and renewal (105).

Dr. Naylor believes that there are several principles that should be considered in determining the mission of the church:

As we consider the church’s mission, we must bear these five principles in mind. (1) The church cannot act without a mandate from God. (2) The God-given boundaries between the three spheres of family, nation, and church must be respected. (3) The distinction between the body and its members must be carefully observed. (4) The distinction between the office bearers and the members must be respected. (5) Jesus’ commission from his Father was unique and the church cannot assume that Jesus’ commission is its own mission (110).

Given those principles, Dr. Naylor considers whether the church is called, as a body, to work for social and cultural transformation. He distinguishes between what individual Christians might have as a calling and what the formal mission of the church is. Any Christian, as a citizen of a country, is free to pursue social and political change (110). Dr. Naylor also points out:

No one is suggesting that “the church is not to do justice at all.” That is a straw man. The church’s elders and deacons serve the interests of justice and mercy (119).

After considering several Scriptures that Dr. Keller uses to support his teaching on the mission of the church, Dr. Naylor concludes:

How shall we respond to Keller’s doctrine of the church’s mission? We must reject it for several reasons:

(1) He fails to establish his case on the basis of Scripture.
(2) He focuses too narrowly on the problem of material poverty and thereby takes away from a concentration on the deeper spiritual plight of man, which is what the church is really to address.
(3) He has misunderstood the Mosaic Law and has taught an unbiblical concept of wealth redistribution.
(4) He has failed to observe proper distinctions between the spheres of church and state and between the Christian and the church (members and the body) (125).

Dr. Naylor is especially concerned that the work of social and cultural transformation can and will divert the resources that a church should use to preach the gospel (125). He goes on to summarize his conclusions:

[W]e deny that the church has a dual mission; we affirm that the Christian should exercise love and mercy in all his relationships; we distinguish between the commission given to the body and the commission given to the member; and we distinguish between the church’s role and the state’s (126).

Rev. Richard Holst, retired church planter and chairman of the International Conference of Reformed Churches, considers Dr. Keller’s methods of Scriptural interpretation in his essay, “Timothy Keller’s Hermeneutic: an example for the church to follow?”

Rev. Holst uses three basic questions to consider Dr. Keller’s hermeneutical approach:

Do the interpretations represent the truth that is chiefly taught in that place? Are the clearer parts of Scripture used to interpret the less clear? And finally, are the deductions from Scripture good and necessary consequences? (138).

Given Dr. Keller’s influence, Rev. Holst seeks to determine if Dr. Keller is a good example of Reformed methodology for others to follow. (138) There are three concerns with Dr. Keller’s hermeneutics, according to Rev. Holst: the use of parables, the use of secondary aspects of passages, and logical fallacies in exegesis.

First, the use of parables:

[P]arables are intended to be ambiguous. Thus, the only safe way to understand a parable is to pay close attention to the inspired interpretation that is usually given in the passage itself, and then by clearer texts elsewhere (138)

Rev. Holst gives the example of how Dr. Keller uses the parable of the prodigal son:

The problem is in the very design of the book (The Prodigal God), which is to use this parable as a lens to understand everything else (139).

Even if the result of such an approach was free from error, Rev. Holst explains that the method is itself problematic:

[O]ne can hardly conceive of a concept more contrary to good hermeneutical procedure than to use a parable to define the Christian faith and, thereafter, to understand the rest of Scripture in this light (139-140).

Second, Rev. Holst finds Dr. Keller’s use of secondary aspects of Scriptural passages to be concerning. The example he gives is Dr. Keller’s use of the parable of the good Samaritan and the discussion with the rich young ruler to say that Jesus is explaining a key part of what it means to be a Christian:

“It appears that Jesus sees care for the poor as part of the essence of being a Christian” (144).

Rev. Holst points out that care for the poor is not the focus of either passage but is, instead, a secondary aspect that Dr. Keller has chosen to highlight.

Lastly, Rev. Holst is concerned with logical fallacies in Dr. Keller’s exegesis of certain passages. He uses an example from Dr. Keller’s Ministries of Mercy where Dr. Keller writes:

“The kingdom of God is the means for the renewal of the entire world and all of the dimensions of life. … If this is the ministry of the Kingdom – to heal all the results of sin in all areas of life, then the church must intentionally use its resources to minster to every ‘circle’” (146).

Rev. Holst explains his concern:

The main problem, however, is with the logic of Keller’s “if, then” transition between the future state and his conclusion regarding the church’s mission. Christ will certainly return on the last day to make a new heavens and a new earth in which no trace of the curse remains. … Just because we are promised that there will be no curse in the New Heavens and New Earth, this does not mean that the church’s mission is to try to get their now, in contradiction of Scriptures that speak clearly on the matter (146).

Rev. Holst concludes:

I think the answer would have to be that Keller is not consistent in adhering to these principles [explained above]. … For this reason, we must conclude that his work does not provide us with the best example to follow (147).

Dr. Schweitzer also wrote the next essay on theistic evolution: “Not Quite” Theistic Evolution: does Tim Keller bridge the gap between creation and evolution? The title is drawn from an answer that Dr. Keller gave in an interview where he was asked if his views were theistic evolution. He replied, “Not quite” (161).

One of the major obstacles to faith that Keller identifies is the conflict between the doctrine of creation and the theory of evolution. … Keller suggests that there is a via media wherein we can affirm both the reality of evolution and also the biblical teaching of God’s creation. But what sort of evolution does Keller think is consistent with Christian faith? An evolution that produced Adam? … Or does he mean an evolution that had nothing to do with Adam? 150-151.

Dr. Schweitzer does not share Dr. Keller’s belief that a via media must be found:

There is no particular reason why the conflict of Christianity with evolutionary science is a problem demanding a solution any more than the conflict of Christianity with Islam (an ideology which, much like evolutionary theory, was conceived in self-conscious rejection of Christianity) (154).

In his writings and interviews on the subject of evolution, Dr. Keller explains that belief in some type of evolution can be consistent with Christianity. Dr. Schweitzer explains that this leaves Dr. Keller with two options: evolution that includes the origin of Adam or evolution that excludes Adam. There are problems with both options.

If Adam is the result of evolution, then damage is done to the biblical understanding of Adam and all the doctrines that go with it:

The culpability of the human race, the justice of God, the basis of redemption, the identity of Christ, and the gospel itself are all predicated upon a first man, Adam, who was the biological and spiritual father of every human being. Without this biblical Adam we do not have a biblical Christianity (158).

Dr. Schweitzer notes that some theistic evolutionists attempt to reconcile an evolutionary origin of Adam with special creation:

However, belief in a “literal” Adam – a single human being from whom we all descended – does not necessarily preclude believing that this literal Adam had some form of sub-human ancestor. This would seem to be what the language in Keller’s white paper is designed to allow for; the idea that evolution was involved in the generation of Adam (158).

This approach raises as many questions as it answers, though (158).

Given that Dr. Keller has indicated that he does not share approach to a literal Adam, Dr. Schweitzer considers the second option:

Perhaps he is only talking about evolution somehow being used in various other aspects of creation, but having no role in God’s immediate creation of Adam. This seems closer to Keller’s personal position, which he distinguishes from theistic evolution as “a bit more intervention, more God in there” (159).

Would this option be an acceptable solution to the problem of reconciling evolutionary science with Christianity? Dr. Schweitzer doesn’t think so:

An account that included evolution at some places but left out this capstone of the project would seem to do very little to help Christians live in intellectual peace with the secular elite who regard the evolution of mankind from animals as an inviolable dogma (159).

Dr. Schweitzer concludes:

Not every obstacle to faith is a false dichotomy waiting to be bridged. Some “problems” are quite real and admit of no legitimate resolution. The intellectual conflict over the origins of life on earth is a prime example (160).

The final essay, “Looking for Communion in All the Wrong Places: Tim Keller and Presbyterian Ecclesiology,” was written by Dr. D.G. Hart, Adjunct Professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary, California. Dr. Hart considers whether Dr. Keller’s work, especially through his church planting network, is consistent with a Presbyterian ecclesiology:

Tim Keller is the most famous Presbyterian pastor in the United States today; but whether he identifies his ministry self-consciously with Presbyterianism is another question (164).

Dr. Hart explains:

Keller’s twin commitments to word and deed and to urban ministry have led him into cooperative projects with non-Presbyterians, a further indication of the degree to which his Presbyterianism defines his ministry (172).

One of the examples of Dr. Keller’s work with non-Presbyterians is his Redeemer City to City church planting network:

Redeemer City to City is a church-planting network that started with RPC’s initial efforts to plant churches throughout the New York metropolitan area. It now extend to churches around the world, particularly to congregations in large urban centers, and its aim is to sustain a movement of churches not with a Presbyterian model but with Redeemer’s vision for ministry (172).

What is remarkable about this work is, according to Dr. Hart, that Dr. Keller sees a closer relationship with those who share his ministry goals than with those who share his denominational vows:

In fact, the communion that he has through belonging to the PCA does not seem to be as important or as valuable as the kind of community he hopes to establish through a network of urban churches committed to word and deed ministries and social justice. … What stands out in Keller and RPC’s commitments is not adherence to Reformed theology, worship, and Presbyterian church government, but the priority of mercy ministries, urban sensibilities, and evangelistic strategy for transforming cities and the wider culture (180-181).

Because of this, Dr. Hart concludes:

These contradictions make Keller the most popular contemporary Presbyterian pastor for whom the markers of Presbyterianism appear to matter very little (182).

Having considered these specific concerns with certain aspects of Dr. Keller’s teaching, the authors conclude with their hope for continued conversation and engagement on these issues:

[W]e look forward to the process of clarification which will follow. What is important is not that our own objections be confirmed but that Keller’s own Reformed theology, reflective as it is of the biblical truth, be transmitted in ways that are completely clear (184).

Theistic Evolution: A Sinful Compromise (A Review)

John Otis, pastor of a Reformed Presbyterian Church US (RPCUS) church in Burlington, North Carolina, has written a book on theistic evolution, Theistic Evolution: A Sinful Compromise, based on a series of lectures. His purpose in writing the book was to alert believers, and especially elders, to the danger that theistic evolution poses to the church:

A word of exhortation is needed to my fellow ruling and teaching elders: What is one of our foremost duties as elders? It is to protect God’s precious sheep from the wolves in sheep’s clothing that will devour the flock if they could. … Do I lump all those together as wolves who are not advocating a view of creation as presented in our Confessional Standards? Not exactly, some are far worse than others. … Those that I am really addressing are those who do advocate an evolutionary view, who do believe that man did evolve from lower forms of life, who do teach that God used this means to “create.” These men are the ones who must be silenced; they are disturbing families. In obeying Jude 3, we elders must earnestly contend for the Faith once for all delivered to the saints. This is my purpose (5-6).

Pastor Otis begins his book by considering what Scripture teaches regarding creation, creation days, and the chronologies. From there he moves on to a history of Darwin and evolutionary thought. Lastly, he spends several chapters on what he calls “Compromisers.” He takes time throughout those chapters to address specific concerns about the teachings of specific organizations and individuals.

Pastor Otis’ concern over theistic evolution and its influence in the Reformed church today is due in part to his own background. Before he became a believer, Pastor Otis was an agnostic, evolutionary, Biology student:

I was once an agnostic and an evolutionist in high school, though not a very informed evolutionist. I was a conscious unbeliever. It was God’s sovereign grace that saved me when I was a freshman in college. Upon my conversion to Christ, no one had to inform me that there was a problem with maintaining evolutionary views with my Christian faith. I immediately sensed this, even though I was severely biblically illiterate. I did not grow up in the church; I never read a Bible; I didn’t even understand what chapter and verse in the Bible meant. However, when the power of the Holy Spirit regenerated my deadened soul, and as the Spirit illumined my mind with biblical truth as I faithfully read my Bible, I knew that there was no reconciling of evolution with the Bible’s account of creation (280).

Why does Pastor Otis call theistic evolution a sinful compromise?

  • It robs God of His due glory.
  • It elevates science as an equal authority with Scripture.
  • It adopts a faulty hermeneutic.
  • It assaults the uniqueness and dignity of man.
  • It is insulting to Jesus’ true humanity.
  • It can undermine the glorious gospel.
  • It undermines the Bible’s credibility (281-284).

Beginning with what Scripture teaches on creation, Pastor Otis discusses some basic principles of Biblical interpretation. First, he stresses the importance of considering the plain meaning of the text. Second, he references the Westminster Confession of Faith’s section on Scripture and interpretation:

The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture, (which is not manifold, but one) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly (WCF, I: 9).

He points out that contrary to what many theistic evolutionists teach we do not need “science” to help us interpret Scripture. (15)

Pastor Otis then applies these principles to three of the most discussed issues in the creation vs. evolution debate: creation days, Biblical chronologies, and the creation of Adam from the dust. Theistic evolutionists, and others, teach that the days of creation do not need to be understood as literal, 24 hour days. And, if the days of creation are more symbolic than literal, then there is no problem with making the long ages necessary for evolution fit with the Biblical account of creation. Also, if the creation account in Genesis is read symbolically or poetically, then maybe it’s possible to read the creation of Adam from dust symbolically:

Theistic evolutionists want to take God fashioning Adam from the dust and Eve from Adam’s rib as a literary device, not to be taken at face value; in other words, not in the plain sense of the words which is an important hermeneutical principle. Apparently, we can get quite “creative” (pun intended) in how we interpret Genesis 1:26 and 2:7, 21. The evolutionists, even “Christian” evolutionists say that we need the testimony of modern biology, i.e. Darwinism, to properly interpret these texts. Really? And why do we need them? And why must we NOT take the plain meaning of the words of Genesis? And why must we say that the terms “from dust” and “from Adam’s rib” must obviously mean biological evolution from single cell organisms to man himself?(15).

The plain meaning of “day” and “dust” are simply “day” and “dust.” Two things that are familiar to all.

Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, Pastor Otis considers what the Biblical arguments are for interpreting the days of creation as 24 hour days. He lays out four arguments:

Argument # 1: The Fundamental Use of the Word “Yom” (day)
A word study for the word “yom” in the Old Testament reveals that the preponderant use of this term demands that we understand it to be a literal twenty-four hour period of time. The word occurs 1,704 times in the Old Testament, and the overwhelming usage has to do with a normal day from morning to evening. After all, what did The Westminster Confession say is the surest hermeneutical principle – Scripture interprets Scripture (23).

Argument # 2: Key Qualifying Statements
This is one of, if not the most powerful argument, in supporting the days of creation in being normal days. Inspired Moses qualifies the six creative days with this all important phrase – “evening and morning.” The obvious plain meaning is: This is a typical day since each day is viewed as “evening and morning” the first day, evening and morning the second day, etc. When we leave out Darwinian presuppositions, then the text is rather obvious (24).

Argument # 3: The Use of Numerical Adjectives
Consider this overwhelming evidence. In the 119 cases in Moses’ writings where the Hebrew word “yom” (day) stands in conjunction with a numerical adjective, such as first, second, third, it almost always means a literal day. The same is true of the 537 usages outside of the Pentateuch (24).

When the New Testament says that Jesus was raised on the third day, was it the third literal twenty-four hour day or not? Or could it have been thousands of years? (25)

Argument # 4: Divine Example Regarding the Sabbath Day
This has to be one of the most powerful biblical proofs that the days of creation were literal days. God specifically patterns man’s work week after his own original creational work week. Man’s work week is expressly tied to God’s (25).

What about the passage from 2 Peter 3:8-9? Doesn’t it say there that a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day?

Theistic evolutionists say, See, here is proof that “day” can mean an indefinite period of time. It is plainly obvious that this meaning is to be understood figuratively. The whole context pertains to those skeptics who are denying Jesus’ Second Coming simply because He has not returned yet. Peter says that God is not bound by time. Just because He hasn’t returned yet does not mean He is never coming, for with God, time is meaningless. A thousand years is like one day with God and a day as a thousand years. To use II Peter 3 as some proof for interpreting a day to be millions of years in Genesis is just sloppy exegesis to say the least. It is totally ignoring the prevalent use of the term “day” in Scripture. (25-26)

One of the other common arguments for the synthesis of long ages with the days of creation is that there are gaps in the Biblical chronologies. Appeals to the age of the earth using James Ussher’s dates are often ridiculed even by pastors and other Christians. We are told that there are gaps in the Genesis chronologies and that since “became the father of” can mean “became the ancestor of” there is no way to determine from the chronologies how long ago Adam was created. Pastor Otis responds:

You probably have heard that we cannot adopt a view that the biblical chronologies are accurate history because there must be gaps in the genealogies. Guess what? There are no time gaps in the chronology of the Bible. … The numbers add up precisely from one representative head to another representative head. It does not matter about the other sons and daughters as long as there is precision from one generational head to another (30-31).

Moving on from what Scripture teaches regarding creation, Pastor Otis briefly discusses the “conflict” between science and faith:

[T]he problem with Christianity and evolution, including theistic evolution, is that we do not have a clash between faith and science but a clash of faith versus faith, that is, we have a clash of worldviews (34).

He points out too that evolutionary science is not religiously neutral:

The evolutionist claims that he is neutral, that he is unbiased, and that he is not religious. Such a claim is ludicrous. All views of the origin of life are fundamentally religious (37).

And,

Evolutionary thinking is inescapably religious at its very foundation. It is wholly untrue that the issue is science vs. faith. No, it is one faith in opposition to another faith; it is a clash of worldviews (38-39).

Next Pastor Otis gives a brief history of Charles Darwin and the rise darwinian evolution. Charles Darwin was not the first to discuss evolution processes or to desire an explanation for the origin of universe and life that is not dependent on God. In fact, Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, wrote a book advocating spontaneous generation and millions of years of biological development. But it wasn’t until Charles Darwin wrote his Origins of Species that evolution began to be widely accepted as a theory (63).

Before Charles Darwin wrote Origins of Species, he had already abandoned what little Christian faith he began with:

It is evident that Darwin had lost his faith in Christianity and the miraculous before he formulated his hypothesis of evolution. This does not say he had no evolutionary ideas before this, but he still lost his faith in creation before he set out to discover how life and its varied forms would originate by the working of natural laws. Evolution came in with great force to fill the void left by the loss of his faith in God the creator (53).

Pastor Otis considers it important the order of Darwin’s slide into apostasy:

[P]lease note the process into unbelief for Darwin. It was to doubt the historicity of Genesis, then doubt miracles, adopt an old earth view, and then accept evolutionary views (54).

This is important because Darwin was fully aware that his theory of evolution would draw people away from a belief in God as creator. Darwin even referred to his work as “the Devil’s gospel” (59). Darwin’s theory of evolution was not religiously neutral from its inception. From the start, Darwin and the others who promoted his view actively sought to explain the origin of the universe and of life without the need for a Creator. George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying:

If you can realize how insufferably the world was oppressed by the notion that everything that happened was an arbitrary personal act of an arbitrary personal God of dangerous, jealous and cruel personal character, you will understand how the world jumped at Darwin (73).

The godless nature of evolutionary thought is illustrated by those throughout history who have used the ideas of survival of the fittest and natural selection to perpetual great cruelty:

Evolution provides the scientific and moral (or lack of morality) rationale for many to propagate evil. The field of eugenics is the applied science of improving the genetic composition of the human population. It seeks to achieve this goal through both encouraging reproduction among fit individuals and discouraging breeding among unfit populations. It has an evolutionary basis, and the means used to achieve this goal is population control by abortion and sterilization. But who decides who is unfit and unworthy to reproduce? Those who have the power to subjugate others! (74).

One of the best examples, of course, is Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party:

Hitler was an ardent evolutionist and a true believer. He was probably more consistent than anyone else has ever been. This is why he murdered so many people in the name of trying to perfect a race that would reign for 1,000 years (75)./p

Having discussed that the theory of evolution is not neutral, but is actually an attack on God as creator, Pastor Otis continues by pointing out various weaknesses in Darwin’s theory. He concludes:

As I conclude this chapter, we should realize that evolutionists themselves have recognized the great problem with Darwinism. The view of macroevolution cannot be scientifically verified. Darwin couldn’t do it and neither have any others after him. Living organisms and the fossil record do not give scientific evidence for macroevolution, but it does point to special creation. Hence, evolution is no scientific fact; it is outside the parameters of operational science. It is not a fact; science has not spoken definitively in the factuality of macroevolution; evolution is a worldview, a religious faith held as tenaciously as the most ardent Christian holds to his belief in the Bible (102).

The second half of his book is focused on addressing specific concerns of particular organizations and individuals. Because Pastor Otis is an elder in a reformed, Presbyterian denomination, he is particularly concerned with organizations and individuals either within the reformed world or with considerable influence within reformed churches. These include: the BioLogos Foundation, Dr. Tim Keller, Dr. Ron Choong, Dr. Gregg Davidson, Dr. Jack Collins, and Dr. Peter Enns:

The men and organizations that I will mention have compromised the Faith in my opinion. For some, the compromise is greater than others. Some obviously do not think their views are compromising positions; they think they are being “humble,” “open-minded,” and “diverse,” respecting the differing opinions of honorable men. Grant it, some of those who advocate the value of diverse beliefs and diverse interpretations of Scripture are sincere in their views. The problem is: Men can be sincerely wrong, and they can be responsible for leading the visible church of the Lord Jesus into great peril (109-110).

I will give a very brief synopsis for each of the “Compromisers,” as Pastor Otis calls them.

First, the BioLogos Foundation:

BioLogos is a foundation that touts itself as an evangelical organization that thinks theistic evolution is a true understanding of the origins of the universe and man. I consider this organization as one of the greatest threats to today’s visible church (110).

Pastor Otis gives three examples of what BioLogos teaches to illustrate how their views are compromising positions:

What is BioLogos’ View on Scientific Evidence of the First Humans?
The fossil record shows a gradual transition over 5 million years ago from chimpanzee-size creatures to hominids with larger brains who walked on two legs.

Genetics also tells us that the human population today descended from more than two people. Evolution happens not to individuals but to populations, and the amount of genetic diversity in the gene pool today suggests that the human population was never smaller than several thousand individuals (114).

Were Adam and Eve Historical Figures?
Genetic evidence shows that humans descended from a group of several thousand individuals who lived about 150,000 years ago.

One option is to view Adam and Eve as a historical pair living among many about 10,000 years ago, chosen to represent the rest of humanity before God. Another option is to view Genesis 2-4 as an allegory in which Adam and Eve symbolize the large group of ancestors who lived 150,000 years ago. Yet another option is to view Genesis 2-4 as an “everyman” story, a parable of each person’s individual rejection of God. BioLogos does not take a particular view and encourages scholarly work on these questions (116-117).<

Did Death Occur Before the Fall? BioLogos says:
Humans appear very late in the history of life. The fossil record clearly shows that many creatures died before humans appeared. This appears to conflict with Bible passages which describe death as a punishment for human sinfulness. However, the curse of Genesis 3 was that Adam and Eve, not the animals, should die for their disobedience. Therefore, animal death before the Fall is compatible with Christian doctrine (118).

The next chapter focuses on Dr. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA), New York. Pastor Otis goes into much greater detail, but he summarizes his concerns with Dr. Keller this way:

In summary, the main strikes against Dr. Keller are:

  • He allows his name to be used on BioLogos’ home page as a reference for the purpose of encouraging others to see the great value of this foundation, a foundation which openly embraces theistic evolution.
  • He has allowed his church to sponsor the workshops of BioLogos.
  • He has allowed Dr. Ron Choong to teach in his church, who has adopted views that not only embrace theistic evolution but which assault other precious truths of the biblical doctrine of creation.
  • He accepts evolution as a plausible explanation of the origin of all life, including man (137).

Connected to Dr. Keller is Dr. Ron Choong:

One of the men who is listed as a missionary and member of Metro New York Presbytery (PCA) is Dr. Ron Choong, who has taught classes in Keller’s church. Dr. Choong founded the New York based “Academy of Christian Thought,“ and he has written a book titled, Project Timothy: The New Testament You Thought You Knew. … Ron Choong’s views of Scripture, the relationship between Scripture and science, and man’s evolution is most illuminating and disturbing, especially since he is an ordained elder within the PCA (138-139).

Pastor Otis concludes his chapter on Dr. Choong with this summary:

Let us summarize briefly the main points of Choong’s doctrine of creation:

  1. The Bible’s reliability cannot be affirmed by its own historicity, literary, or theological components.
  2. Modern science corrects the historical and scientific inaccuracies in the Bible.
  3. Each generation with new discoveries need to revise their theological understanding.
  4. The Bible is silent on the mechanism of creation.
  5. The first eleven chapters of Genesis are not to be understood literally or even historically.
  6. Special creation is biologically untenable.
  7. Adam may or may not have been a single person, but he could be a representative of a community of hominids (ape-like creatures).
  8. Regardless of the singular or communal view of Adam, he was a hominid, having evolved from lower forms of life.
  9. God’s image conferred upon an existing hominid makes this hominid the biblical Adam.
  10. God’s conferring of His image upon Adam and Eve as existing hominids was done after they ate the forbidden fruit, not before.
  11. The image of God in man is the acquisition of moral knowledge, namely fear and guilt.
  12. Adam’s fall into sin is best seen as “rising beasts falling upwards to moral awareness.”
  13. Original sin as The Westminster Standards describe man’s fall is not true.
  14. The Westminster Standards are archaic, needing revision. They are an obstacle to fruitful science and theological conversation.
  15. Adam was not created with an immortal soul.
  16. Adam was not created righteous.
  17. Adam was not created with the law of God written on his heart.
  18. Adam’s sin was not a violation of God’s moral law.
  19. Adam and Eve were made loaded with sinful desires.
  20. Adam cannot be blamed for an existence of sin per se (158-159).

Dr. Choong, in response to questions about his teachings on Adam, said:

All my views about Adam and Eve have been published for more than 10 years and Redeemer as a church as well as Dr Keller as a minister have never had any objections to my non-doctrinal interpretations. This means that while I hold to a certain view of who Adam might mean, no church doctrine in the history of the church has ever made this a litmus test of faith. No one should get their knickers in a twist over whether Adam was a collective or a singularity (151).

Also, Pastor Otis notes:

At the 2011 meeting of Metro New York Presbytery, one presbyter suggested that presbytery look into the teachings of Dr. Choong. Did this happen? Was he disciplined by this PCA presbytery? No! The presbytery refused to look into it with strong vocal opposition to such a thing, and in fact, a request was made and granted that the idea of looking into Dr. Choong’s teachings not be recorded in the minutes lest his name be illegitimately besmirched (160).

The next chapter is on Dr. Gregg Davidson who gave a seminar on the age of the earth at the 2012 General Assembly of the PCA. Pastor Otis is very concerned that Dr. Davidson was allowed to speak given his published evolutionary views:

I believe that those who gave permission to Dr. Davidson to hold this seminar at the PCA 2012 General Assembly did a great disservice to their denomination and opened the door for further deterioration. Surely, someone knew of Dr. Davidson’s position on evolution prior to the invite. Surely, someone knew of his avowed commitment to viewing man as having descended from ape like creatures (163).

For those who are not familiar with Dr. Davidson’s work, Pastor Otis addresses both Dr. Davidson’s seminar at the General Assembly as well as his book, When Faith and Science Collide.

At the end of the seminar, Dr. Davidson was asked a few questions. One of the questions was particularly of note:

The question was: Did he believe that Adam was specially created and directly created by God from the dust, or if Adam was a hominid adopted by God? … In his answer, he said he did not see a difference between an Adam specially created by God from the dust and an Adam as a hominid adopted by God and given a soul. Either way, Adam was the first human and father of mankind. In other words, Dr. Davidson admitted to being an evolutionist, who thinks that Adam and Eve were descended from ape like creatures (164).

Dr. Davidson’s book, When Faith and Science Collide, gives a much fuller picture of what he believes:

Davidson’s bias towards evolutionary views is quite explicit. He says that science teaches us that “life began on earth 3.5 billion years ago.” Even though scientists are not cognizant of how life began from non living material and how everything evolved from single cell organisms to man, Davidson thinks there is a plausible synthesis with Scripture. This synthesis is: the Bible says that God commanded the earth to bring forth and it did; science says that man was formed from the same dust of the earth as all other creatures. In other words, science provides us with the accurate understanding of the mechanism of creation. Again, it is not biblical exegesis that is in the “driver’s seat;” it is the scientific views often postulated by unbelieving men (169).

And,

There is no question of Dr. Davidson’s commitment to macroevolution, meaning that all life forms evolved from simple, single celled organisms throughout millions of years. He accepts all of the presuppositions and arguments of the evolutionists in terms of their so called “scientific” findings. Davidson wants to maintain the science of evolution over the non-Christian agnostic and atheistic views held by many evolutionists. In other words, Davidson wants to accept the evolutionist’s conclusions but within the framework of God doing His creative work through the mechanism of evolution (174-175).

The next chapter deals with Dr. C. John (Jack) Collins, Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Seminary, and author of Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care. Dr. Collins’ book is an attempt to address the issue of the historicity of Adam:

His book’s title is not intended to deny the historicity of Adam. Collins says that he affirms Adam’s historicity, but he does so in such a way as to definitely allow for the possibility of non- traditional views to be considered as acceptable (211).

Pastor Otis explains his concern:

Here is the crux of the matter. For Collins, it is not really necessary for us to believe that God literally made Adam from mere dust on the sixth day, which is a twenty-four hour period. Literal trees or a talking snake are not necessary for us to get the point. All that matters is the worldview that from Adam sin came into the world. While Collins may be distancing himself from the conclusions of Ron Choong and Peter Enns, he will still consider the legitimacy of an evolutionary view of man’s origin (220-221).

And,

In conclusion about the views of Jack Collins, we can say rather conclusively that he has admitted to being a type of evolutionist; he just isn’t in the camp of being one who adopts the philosophy of evolution. His latest book argues for a type of modified monogenesis for Adam’s origin. It is a revision to the traditional view, but it falls within the parameters of sound reasoning nonetheless. Are we to be encouraged by this? Absolutely not! Covenant Seminary has an evolutionist on its faculty. It is wholly misleading to the public, and probably to its supporters for the Seminary. So, when Covenant Seminary says that Jack Collins does not subscribe to a Darwinian or a Neo-Darwinian view of evolution, it is totally misleading. And when the official seminary statement states that Dr. Collins may allow for some differences of opinion on some of the details, it fails to specify those details that Collins makes known in his books – he subscribes to a form of evolution, and he is very critical of young earth creationists and the whole field of “creation science” (250).

Lastly, Pastor Otis addresses Dr. Peter Enns, formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary and also formerly a Senior Fellow at BioLogos. Dr. Enns has written several books and essays including: The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Does not Say About Human Origins.

Pastor Otis sees Dr. Enns as the logical conclusion of the theology that begins with theistic evolution:

Peter Enns is the last person that I will analyze simply because he probably best typifies what can happen once one begins the downward spiral on adopting an evolutionary view to Scripture. This does not mean that all theistic evolutionists will end up theologically where Enns has, but it does show how one can easily end up with views purported by Enns. I would say that Enns’ views are the logical outcome of an evolutionary perspective, and the result when one views science as the best interpreter of Scripture (251).

Dr. Enns has written that it is not necessary to believe in an historical Adam, that evolution should make Christians rethink traditional views on things such as sexual promiscuity, and that death is not an enemy:

Evolution is a serious challenge to how Christians have traditionally understood at least three central issues of the faith: the origin of humanity, of sin, and of death… sin and death are universal realities, the Christian tradition has generally attributed the cause to Adam. But evolution removes that cause as Paul understood it and thus leaves open the questions of where sin and death have come from. More than that, the very nature of what sin is and why people die is turned on its head. Some characteristics that Christians have thought of as sinful – for example, in an evolutionary scheme the aggression and dominance associated with “survival of the fittest“ and sexual promiscuity to perpetuate one’s gene pool – are understood as means of ensuring survival. Likewise, death is not the enemy to be defeated … death is not the unnatural state introduced by a disobedient couple in a primordial garden. Actually, it is the means that promotes the continued evolution of life on this planet and even ensures workable population numbers. Death may hurt, but it is evolution’s ally (258-259).

Pastor Otis concludes:

Conservative men in the PCA ought to be very concerned about the present trend in their denomination. The debate over the doctrine of creation and the place that evolution has in it is nothing new. They have the dismal track record of the PCUS to observe and serve as a warning. Sadly, the warning is going unheeded (267).

Pastor Otis’ book, Theistic Evolution: A Sinful Compromise, is available for free download here. You can also order a printed copy here. The lecture series is available on Sermon Audio here.