Registration is open for the annual SEBTS 9 Marks Conference on Church Discipline in September 2015. This is some analysis of the conference description. In preparation for the conference I analyze Jonathan Leeman’s thoughts on “authoritah” and church discipline regarding para church organizations. My question to Jonathan Leeman is this…according to 9 Marks and CHBC do organizations like Cru and the Navigators have a right to exist?
“You either believe that people respond to authority, or that they respond to kindness and inclusion. I’m obviously in the latter camp. I think that people respond better to reward than punishment.”
“Just because people are in authority, if it doesn’t seem right, don’t do it. If it violates your own principles, don’t do it”
Ohio Representative Steve Chabot
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.”
Colossians 3:23-25 NIV
(some language in the Cartman video)
In today’s post we are going to discuss 9 Marks again. So anything related to Jonathan Leeman or 9 Marks will bring out Cartman saying, “respect my authoritah!” At Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on September 25, and 26, 2015 the annual 9 Marks conference is going to feature Church Discipline. Registration is now open, and I am trying to convince my East Coast Mom to attend as its in her backyard. Dee can tell Jonathan Leeman how much she believes in the doctrines of grace and how valuable TULIP is, then Dee can show Jonathan Leeman her pug dog TULIP! I’ve written about 9 Marks before and I recommend you read this refresher on how Mark Dever made 9 Marks worthless in letting CJ Mahnaey take refuge in Capital Hill Baptist Church. If you want to understand Neo-Calvinism church discipline this brief clip from Lethal Weapon sums up the 9 Marks conference in 57 seconds. There is language mind you…
In the write up of the conference the following is said.
The more the culture turns against Christianity, the more crucial it becomes for churches to figure out where they stand. Church discipline clarifies who the church is, brightens the line between life and death, grows the church in health, and protects the name of Christ. Without discipline, a church will wither. With discipline, it will bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness. How then do we discipline with wisdom and love?
I read that and I wonder…how would a 9 Marks Church have existed and thrived in the days of the Emperor Nero’s Rome? If it can’t handle or deal with the culture changing now could it be their faith is rooted in the wrong area? After all can it not be said that Jesus claimed the world is filled with trouble and to take heart for he overcame the world? (John 16:33) I am beginning to think more and more that giving authority to a Neo-Calvinist is like handing alcohol to an alcoholic. Neither can handle their drug of choice. But I also have another question for Jonathan Leeman and 9 Marks. Did Sovereign Grace wither because they didn’t practice church discipline? If you’re implying the fact that CJ Mahaney fled Covenant Life Church and hid at Capital Hill Baptist can it be said that Mark Dever enabled CJ Mahnaey by letting him avoid church discipline? Is that what this article is getting at? Many people were disciplined in Sovereign Grace was SGM healthy because of church discipline? If so why the existence of blogs like SGM Survivors? Was Christ protected in the scandals that hemorrhaged out of SGM and the Neo-Calvinist movement? Is the church withering today because of a lack of church discipline or the fact that love doesn’t exist?
In the broadest sense, church discipline is everything the church does to help its members pursue holiness and fight sin. Preaching, teaching, prayer, corporate worship, accountability relationships, and godly oversight by pastors and elders are all forms of discipline.
In a narrower sense, church discipline is the act of correcting sin in the life of the body, including the possible final step of excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin (see Matt. 18:15-20, 1 Cor. 5:1-13).
In reading all that it seems to me as if church discipline is not only made an idol but that Jesus died and suffocated at Calvary for the basis of defending church discipline. I mean look at how church discipline is attached to everything…preaching, teaching, corporate worship, etc… How does 9 Marks define “godly oversight?” I mean especially in a pyramid model? Yes I know they will say “plurality of Elders…” but when pastors can control who gets appointed how well does that work in the end? But getting back to the pyramid model who was CJ Mahaney accountable to? Much of this stuff looks fine on paper the problem is in how it’s practiced. As the Neo-Cal movement has proven the leaders are often above their own rules and in a class by itself.
How Church Discipline Will Save the Parachurch
In March of 2011 Jonathan Leeman published this article at 9 Marks called “How Church Discipline Will Save the Parachurch.” I find it deeply interesting that Jonathan Leeman starts out the article by saying all authority is vested by Jesus in the local church. To make his point he uses Matthew 16: 13-20. In all these verses the key one I would suggest is when Jesus says, “And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven. I actually grew up Roman Catholic and in the Catholic faith this verse is used to defend Peter who the Catholics believe to be the first Pope. In the Catholic church this verse is used to build the foundation of the papal system. So in this context I find it completely fascinating that Jonathan Leeman is taking a very Roman Catholic approach and translating scripture as Rome would. Mathew 18:15-20 deals with discipline and also the verse, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Funny I remember thinking and wondering upon that verse when I was in a hospital in a medical crisis in the summer of 2012 while also dealing with a faith crisis. A chaplain had shown me incredible love with me and I wondered if Jesus was there in our midst? Nope…said a member from Redeemer Arlington at the time. A Chaplain taking care of people in need and ministering to people is not the church. How warped… But getting back on track consider the following paragraph:
Take a look at Matthew 16:13-20 and 18:15-20. What you’ll find is that Jesus is deeply interested in the composition of the people who gather together “in his name” (ch. 18). They must profess the right things (ch. 16) and live the right way (ch. 18). When we gather in his name, after all, we identify ourselves with him and therefore represent him. We say to the entire world, “Hey, World, want to know what Jesus and God are like? Look at us!”
I find this paragraph to be very interesting because of how they infer and proof text. Many Neo-Cals are masters at proof texting and do it in ways that are slick. In this case they claim this is what Jesus says. If the Neo-Cals want to model the Gospel the most effective way is through loving people. I am not talking about a liberal, or emergent form of love I am talking about a sacrificial way of loving. Actions speak louder than words and for 9 Marks and CHBC to teach about church discipline in such a manner when they gave CJ Mahaney a pass is the major flaw in this approach. I know some people are going to be sick or me mentioning this claim, I will remind them of the pass given to Mahaney until the last breath is breathed from my body. Now consider this next paragraph.
What’s disconcerting, then, is Carl Trueman’s observation that so often evangelicals see the real action as occurring in the parachurch institutions (see his 9Marks article here and an earlier blog post here). Since at least the 1950s, evangelical leaders have made a name for themselves out on the parachurch green, and all of us have turned our heads to watch the fun and games, now to extol, now to excoriate. But two dangers have followed: leaders have been promoted without accountability, and ecclesiological distinctives have been made unimportant. Trueman writes, “For some [the parachurch evangelical institutions] become the key theatres of action, the forums in which little fish can be big shots, and the deviant and heretical can flourish without proper accountability. For others they become the primary centres of Christian identity, the reason why they become evangelicals first, and Presbyterian or Baptist or Pentecostal only second.”
I find this to be quite mocking especially when you consider what some of the para church ministries have done. I was involved in Campus Crusade for Christ (today Cru) and helped plant a chapter at my alma mater Marquette University. Cru has done a number of admirable things such as a Military Ministry. Then there is also the Jesus Film Project. Plus there is the Global Aid Network which works to combat poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. But is working in a ministry like Cru being on a para church green? Is laboring in a Syrian refugee camp being a parachurch green of fun and games? What about bringing food to northern Kenya like Global Aid has done…is that a walk in the park? What about the military ministry? Is Jonathan Leeman or Mark Dever prepared to deploy to Afghanistan to make sure that any Bible studies or ministry activities submit to them at CHBC? Its just a question… Then there is this key sentance that I want to focus on, where Jonathan Leeman says “leaders have been promoted without accountability…” Again not to harp but what about individuals like CJ Mahaney…in the end who was CJ accountable to? He was promoted as the head of SGM. He reigned over SGM and ruled it with an iron fist while claiming to be humble. Can one call him a spiritual Erich Honecker? So despite all this claim about accountability I would like to know to whom was CJ Mahaney accountable? Is accountability a universal truth or are there exceptions to the rule? Its just a question I would pose to Jonathan Leeman. Granted CJ Mahaney fled to CHBC late in 2011 long after this article was posted however since it is still on the 9 Marks website I take it that means it is still being promoted as truth. Plus some of us know the story afterward. I want to jump a few paragraphs to the end and look at what Jonathan Leeman hopes for and compare it with the reality of the Neo-Calvinism scandals post March 2011.
This paragraph Leeman writes is rich…. I will explain more in a second.
Imagine what the evangelical landscape would look like if local churches took their responsibility to correct sin seriously. I expect there would be a few less bad books out there. Fewer media scandals. Maybe less bickering in the blogosphere over whether “so and so” is a good guy or not. Less sheep following bad seminary professors into the crevasses.
Man the irony…this article was published in March of 2011. But focus on this part of the paragraph here where it says, Imagine what the evangelical landscape would look like if local churches took their responsibility to correct sin seriously. I expect there would be a few less bad books out there. Fewer media scandals. So what has happened in the Neo-Calvinist world from 2011 until 2015? I mean consider…
- You have the creation of SGM WikiLeaks that dumped all the documents on SGM on the internet in the summer of 2011. You can read about the fall of CJ Mahaney here.
- You also had the resignation of Mark Driscoll in the fall of 2014. You can read about that here. Remember up before that you had plagiarism, cheating the New York Times Best seller list, and the claims which came out on the internet which were made in 2000 about a pussyfied nation.
- In 2012 information starts to hemorrhage out of James McDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel of both spiritual abuse, extravagance, and waste. It is documented on the blog The Elephant’s Debt.
So again I want to ask the question…does Jonathan Leeman still stand by that claim? In March 2011 Leeman asks us to consider “what would evangelicalism landscape look like if local churches took their responsibility to correct sin seriously...” Has Neo-Calvinism been able to correct sin in their local church? Was CJ Mahaney’s sin dealt with in the local church? What about Mark Driscoll? At least James McDonald confessed his ways but neither could CJ Mahaney or Mark Driscoll confess their sin. But it also begs another question. Do you remember when T$G (have to attribute that to Deb!) put out this racket of a statement from Mark Dever, Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan? Here’s my question…why didn’t Capital Hill Baptist Church discipline Mark Dever for lying? What about Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan? Shouldn’t their home churches have disciplined them for lying? Dever, Duncan, and Mohler lied about Mahaney in this statement, what a racket!
Do Organizations like Cru, Navigators, IVCF Have a Right to Exist According to Jonathan Leeman?
I want you to read these three paragraphs and then we will discuss below.
Third, we who work for parachurch ministries should be willing to heed—somehow—acts of local church discipline. Now, I’m a congregationalist, which means that I don’t think one church’s act of excommunication formally binds another church or a parachurch ministry, the way I would if I were Roman Catholic. But I do believe that prudence recommends some measure of deference in the face of this kind of action by the Jesus-established local church.
No doubt, prudence-guided deference will look different from case to case. When a parachurch ministry (or another church) has the luxury of carefully investigating the circumstances of such an action, it might choose either to affirm or to contravene the original church’s decision. When it does not have the luxury to investigate, time being scarce, I would encourage the parachurch ministry, in most circumstances, to defer to the local church. Yes, that might mean reconsidering someone’s employment status or publishing future.
I expect this might sound radical to people, but let me point again to two biblical principles. First, a Christian ministry’s primary concern must be with the reputation of Jesus Christ in the world. Second, Jesus authorized the local church to exercise the keys. Every other ministry must understand, therefore, that it plays a subordinate role.
So let me just come out and say it…do ministries like Cru, Navigators or Intervarsity Christian Fellowship have a right to exist? Should they exist according to 9 Marks and Jonathan Leeman? From what I read and see above it seems like para church ministries have no right to exist or function independently. Now I am not opposed to ministry members being members of a church; but I think its hogwash to force parachruch ministries to submit to the authority of a local church. This may be going a bit too far but do Jonathan Leeman and 9 Marks view ministries like Cru and Navigators as being Christian? If the local church defines what faith is and how it is to function can it also define who is and who is not a Christian? So that military chaplain with Cru’s Military Ministry who is deployed to Afghanistan is questionable, but a person from CHBC’s college ministry at George Washington University is legitimate. Am I reading this right or am I off base? I am open to correction if I am mistranslating or misquoting the article.
So an organization like Capital Hill Baptist should make all calls on church discipline on para church ministries in the Washington, D.C. area? Talk about arrogance. This sounds more like a papacy than anything else. So an organization like CHBC would decide the fate of the staff of Cru or the Navigators in the DC area? They would determine the employment status of Cru or Navigator employees in the local area? And since this is 9 Marks theology that means that a 9 Marks Church would control Cru discipline and Cru issues amongst staff I love in Milwaukee or California? Am I reading this right?
This article from 9 Marks is garbage. I would like to explore this more in time, but this is a start. Here’s the problem Jonathan Leeman and Mark Dever are lording over the church. They think and act like its theirs. I have news for them…it doesn’t belong to Jonathan Leeman or Mark Dever. The church belongs to Lord and they are but stewards of it. They need to understand that point.