Today I am publishing Tim Sherreitt’s views on reformed theology. Tim is the senior pastor of The Bridge of Newbury Park, California. When I was working through EFCA West I read this and decided to put this church in the Neo-Calvinist/Reformed camp. I want to open the floor to let people discuss Tim’s views and discuss what he has written.
“Most of wars or military coups or invasions are done in the name of democracy against democracy.”
“To put on the garment of legitimacy is the first aim of every coup.”
So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
1 Peter 2:1-3 NLT
Did a coup take place in The Bridge of Newbury Park, California?
I have written about Tim Sherreitt before in “Did Tim Sherreitt Theologically Hijack The Bridge of Newbury Park (Formerly Evangelical Free of Conejo Valley) When Steve Larson Left?” When I was working through EFCA West and I was calculating the rate of Neo-Calvinism/Reformed theology. I was studying The Bridge of Newbury Park’s website and I found this statement (published below) which led me to put The Bridge in the Neo-Calvinist/Reformed camp. But I looked at the age of the church and I had this gnawing feeling that made me wonder if this was a church that was taken over in a theological coup? Many Neo-Calvinists have a stealth modus operandi more representative of politics in a Latin American or African country. But at the time I was consumed with finishing the results of EFCA West. So I put this church aside and took notes and was determined to look at it later.
I want you guys to look at Tim Sherreitt’s statement. How would you evaluate and look at what is said below? While I disagree with Tim Sherreitt on a number of things I do thank him for publishing this as it would help me to avoid his church as I am not into Reformed theology at all. My one question I have however is this…was his views on Neo-Calvinism/Reformed theology made known to the church before he came on board? I will turn this over to those reading. I would be fascinated to have members or former members from The Bridge of Newbury Park comment if they so desire. Again I love you guys!
Timothy Sherreitt Views…
I believe God has related to human beings throughout history in the same fashion – salvation by grace through faith. That said I do believe He has related in different ways to those who are His people throughout history. I believe it to be the case in the same fashion as I will relate to my son in different ways over the course of his life. Right now he is very young, and so I relate to him in an age appropriate manner. When he enters adulthood the basis for my love and acceptance for him will not change, but the methods I use to relate to him will. During this stage of his life I have very detailed rules that he is expected to abide by. I tell him when to go to bed, how to dress, what to eat, where he can go, and what words he is allowed to say. But when he becomes an adult I will no longer relate to him in this way. The basis of our relationship will not change, but we will now relate in a mature way. Does this mean my son, when he is older, will no longer obey my rules? Yes and no. He will no longer be under my law, but my law will be written on his heart, and it will still be guiding his life. My goal with the laws of my house in his growing-up years were designed to do two things – point him to Christ and to teach him what it looks like to live as His follower in this world. In Galatians 3:25, Paul indicates that this was the purpose of the God’s law to Israel. Israel, before Christ, was a child, and following the resurrection, ascension, and coronation of Christ, His people have entered into a “mature” relationship with God.
With regard to those outside the reach of God’s law, they have been under God’s law as well, though of a different sort – the law of conscious. Paul tells us in Romans 2:12-16 that all mankind has God’s law written on their hearts. This law isn’t as specific as the one given to Israel, but it is equally effective in revealing their guilt before God, and thus their need for God’s forgiveness.
One of the ongoing conversations related to the topic of dispensationalism has to do with the nation of Israel’s place in God’s economy. Simply put, has the Church replaced Israel? To this, I believe that passages like Isaiah 49:1-7, Romans 11:11-27, Daniel 9:1-24 and others like those found in Isaiah 60-66, point to Israel being an ongoing pivotal component of God’s work of redemption in human history. The Church has not replaced Israel in God’s redemptive work. Each serves a part of His glorious purpose. I believe that God is currently working through the Church in this time, but will one day restore Israel as His focal instrument. We, as the church should be excited for Israel’s full restoration. After all, Paul says, “For if [Israel’s] rejection means the reconciliation of the world (that’s good for us), what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:15). That’s even better for us.
…on the Ecumenical Movement
The ecumenical movement preaches unity apart from Christ, a privatized faith, and the death of absolute truth. As the Church of Christ our absolute Gospel message cannot waiver (Act. 4:12) nor be silenced (4:18-19), and our faith must be publically put on display (Matthew 5:16). The mission Christ our King has commissioned us with is to go and make disciples of Him, teaching them to obey everything He has commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). His Church must stay focused on this. We are not allowed to compromise our message one iota nor are we permitted to change the mission. So in this sense we cannot embrace the ecumenical movement.
This doesn’t mean that Christ’s Church can’t link arms in service with people or organizations that do not follow Him. We can, and many do. I know that Saddleback Church does this and even if they do it in ways I would not do, I know that their number one mission is to make Christ known, so I will not cast stones. Nor does it mean we are unable to affirm the good in particular religious group is doing. For instance, I can affirm the virtuous morals many from other faiths live out.
…on Eternal Security
If by eternal security one means that if someone has ever prayed the “sinners prayer,” or had and emotional spiritual experience or season of life, or was even baptized at some point then they are saved, and no matter what course their life takes their subscription of fire insurance is in hand, then no, I don’t believe in that kind of eternal security. Believe me, there are times when I wish I did, but I can’t find any support for this in the Bible.
People can “come to Christ” for all sorts of reasons – they want to have a better life; their parents want them to; their friends are Christians; they like the idea of having a spiritual component to their life, etc. – but not all responses to Christ bring salvation. There is such a thing as “defective faith.” The classic Biblical example of this is Judas. Judas was a disciple of Jesus and was even identified as one of the key players in Jesus’ ministry, but John 6:70-71 records Jesus as saying this about him – “‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!’ 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)” And looking back on the ministry of Jesus, the Apostle John recalls a scene when a woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfume, and Judas says, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages” (Jn. 12:5), to which John adds the following commentary – “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (12:6). Did Judas loose his salvation? No. He was never saved. He “came to Christ” so Christ could fulfill his dreams and when He didn’t Judas stopped following. Sadly, there will be many just like Judas, who associate themselves with Jesus and even believe they are serving Him, but whom Jesus will one day say, “Depart from me, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23). And John wrote in his first letter, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 Jn. 2:19 ).
If, on the other hand, by eternal security one means that those whose names are written in the “Lamb’s book of life” (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 21:27) do not have to worry about having them erased, then yes, I do. After all Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (Jn. 10:27-29). Those who truly belong to Christ can’t be “snatched” away. This doesn’t mean that we can’t be fooled, and is why we are commanded to look for the “fruit of repentance.” People “in Christ,” through the course of their Christian life, will show evidence of their repentance to God and trust in Christ. I do not mean to imply that they will ever be perfect (1 Jn. 1:8). In fact, there may even be seasons in their life when they keep silent about or do not live out their trust in Christ. But even such they will have the convicting presence of the God’s Spirit so they will not be able to feel at rest in their sin.
Fortunately, it is not ours to judge who is saved and who is not. That is the Lord’s alone. Our job is to share and to show the gospel whenever and with whomever we can, and to be long-suffering and persistent in prayer for those who are living contrary to the Gospel.
…on Same Sex Relationships and Marriage
Homo sex is a sin. The Bible labels it as such and I am not at the liberty to call something virtuous and natural that God has labeled otherwise. That said, the person who is living a homosexual lifestyle still bears the image of God, and as such deserves to be treated with kindness and dignity.
I do agree with those who say that people do not necessarily choose to be attracted to those of the same sex. Romans 1 tell us that the consequence of the rejection of God is that humanity has been given over to distorted passions (1:26) and a debase mind (1:28). And this affects every part of who we are. We inherit this from our parents and so come out of the womb as such. This means that the greed we experience is both a product of nature and has been nurtured by my relationships, experiences, choices, and environment. The rebelliousness inside of me is the product of both nature and nurture. And the same way these two vices feel like they are a part of who I am and that I didn’t choose them, so also same-sex attraction is a product of nature and nurture and so feels to be a natural part of a person. Therefore, in the same way that we may not choose to be greedy or prideful and yet find ourselves to be so, so also same-sex attraction may not be a chosen lifestyle. But this doesn’t negate the fact that is still a sinful one.
This means that I believe sexual relationships between two men or two women is outside the parameters God designed people to live in, and as such is sin. Therefore I do not believe I have the liberty to perform a wedding for a same-sex couple.
With that said, while the church must hold its line of holiness and never condone homosexual activity, we must also seek out ways to love across those lines and engage this growing “community” of our society with the good news (1 Cor. 6:9). It is not the churches place to judge those outside the church (1 Cor. 5:12), but be their servant and priest.
…on Reformed Theology
Reformed Theology has its roots in the Protestant Reformation which fought to bring the Church back to the sole authority of the sixty-six books of the Bible alone (sola scriptura), and faith in Christ alone as being the sole means of relationship and favor with God (sola fide). This being the case I am proud to say I subscribe to Reformed Theology. I believe the sixty-six books of the Bible that we read today to be God’s perfect and inerrant word. I am absolutely convinced that people are transformed when the whole council of God is taught and applied. To avoid any part of the Bible because it is messy, complex, or doesn’t align with the popular trends of the culture is to decide that there are portions of it that our sinful hearts do not need. But nothing could be further from the truth. All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), and every single word ‘breathed’ by God is life (Jn. 6:63; 1 Jn. 1:1). To stray from them is to walk in darkness. It is my duty to approach them, not in order to validate my life, but to determine my life. It tells me the way the world works. It alone informs me about God and my standing with Him, which comes solely by faith in the person and work of Christ, apart from any works of my one.
One more thing, it is not uncommon for the topic of election to surface in conversations where Reformed Theology is brought up. So let me very briefly chime in on this. I affirm both God’s sovereign election of those who are His, and man’s responsibility to respond to the teachings of Christ. I recognize the tension this causes, but I hold both of these with all their tension because the Bible unashamedly teaches both, and I cannot throw something out or minimize what God has clearly spoken.
…on Church Discipline
Church discipline is the unpleasant, but at times necessary part of a church life. Necessary enough that Jesus laid out a process for dealing with community damaging sins (Matt. 18:18-19), and which the apostle Paul chastised the leadership of the church in Corinth for failing to do (1 Cor. 5). When someone is living in overt and unrepentant sin (i.e., an affair, abusive activity, slander, stirring up dissension, debase living, etc.), while continuing to profess Christ and associate with the local church, it is important that the leadership of that church is not passive in its response. This, though, must be done with great care. Every step of the process that Jesus laid out in Matthew 18:18-19 needs to be appropriated, and not out of anger or frustration, but out of a spirit of desiring to see the individual(s) living a righteous life and restored to fellowship.
The goal with any act of church discipline is first of foremost the reputation of Christ. The elders must be about obedience to Him. Sin cannot be covered over because of the possibility of fall out. Similarly, the actions of the elder board in this regard must never be driven by money. In the body of Christ no individual is more important than another. The other goal is full restoration, both to Christ and amongst the members involved.
Church discipline is not to be carried out by the senior pastor alone. If something serious is brought to his attention (or the attention of any of the elders), then he (they) need to inform the rest of the elder board immediately. This will do two things. First, it will make sure that one individual’s personal vendetta isn’t carried out against another. And second, it ensures all sides of the discussion are brought to light so an informed and wise plan of action can be carried out.
I was involved in this process several years ago. A married staff member, whom I inherited in my ministry, about a year after I arrived it was found out that they had been having an emotional affair with a 17 year old student in our church and the day after they turned 18 it became physical. I found out about it when the spouse of the staff member called me while I was on my way to church on a Sunday morning. That was probably the hardest Sunday I’ve ever had to deal with. After making sure our info was accurate, I informed the senior pastor, who in tern immediately informed the chairman of the elder board. That same Sunday myself and the senior pastor went to the home of the student to inform their parents of the situation. The elders (rightly) decided to not keep this quiet and made a public statement to the church body that both exposed the sin, but tried to protect the student as much as possible. It was a heart wrenching incident, and I believe it was handled properly.
…on Gender Roles
In the beginning God created humanity in His image as male and female (Gen. 1:27). Together they were given the mandate to fill the earth and have dominion over it. Both were/are needed. This was/is to be a joint effort of equals. But even such, in the garden there was a creation order and a different creation process of man and woman – God made the man first, and then the woman from the man. This creation order is significant to the apostle Paul. After all he uses it to justify why a woman was not to have authority over a man. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man…For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:12-13). This is reinforced by the fact that in the garden God gave ultimate responsibility for the care and protection of the garden, and all that was in it, to the man. Before God made Eve from Adam’s side we are told, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep (lit. ‘protect’ from hostile forces) it” (Gen. 2:15). In chapter three we see that he failed to protect it. And although Eve sinned first (1 Tim. 2:14), it was Adam who was ultimately held responsible for the entrance of sin into the world (Rom. 5:12-21).
So what does this mean practically? Let me first say that I am a Complimentarian when it comes to the issue of gender roles. From my understanding of Scripture, women are an indispensable and essential part of God’s kingdom agenda. This is the case in the home, the functioning of the local church, and in the world. Like men they possess wisdom and skills in ways that are sorely needed. With respect to the local church, the only area I believe Scripture places limits is in regard to being a senior pastor or on the governing board of elders. I believe women can teach in countless venues, but not from the pulpit. I believe women can be a part of, and even lead, many different ministries or teams. And I believe they should be invested in and developed the same as the men. But I believe the Scripture teaches that by virtue of their gender alone the church-wide governing board of elders and role of senior pastor are roles reserved for men. In no way do I mean to imply that women are incapable or lack the skills needed for this role, but rather that God, in His sovereign council has established an order of things in His creation. I have come across many women with outstanding leadership qualities and who possess incredible gifts in communication. And churches need them to use these. It is the job of the elder board to see to it that the church is able to be edified by their many gifts.
With respect to the home, “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23), with the primary focus of the head in this passage being to sacrificially give himself for her betterment and beauty. If Christ is our example and we take Him seriously, then while the husband is the head of the wife, he is call to, and will strive to will give more and first to the relationship. The same way the church will never out give Christ, so the husband is to give all of himself in love to his wife.
Now, this isn’t a system of roles as many today think of them. The man doesn’t have to bring in the most money, and the woman doesn’t necessarily have to stay at home. But it is a system with a structure. The question isn’t so much about who brings in the money, but in what way are decisions made. Does he listen and then respond out with her and the relationship’s best interest in mind? And does she affirm his “headship”?
While I believe this to be how God has ordered the two institutions He has specifically established – the home and the Church, I do not believe that those who have come to different convictions do not have the Spirit working through them or their ministry.
 God’s Sovereign election: Eph. 1:3-4; Romans 8:29-30; Romans 9; Daniel 4:. Man’s responsibility to respond: Matthew 12:36; Acts 2:38; Romans 1:21-23. These two are clearly placed side by side in passages like Genesis 50:20, Isaiah 10:5-12ff, Isaiah 53:8-10, Acts 4:24-28, Philippians 2:12-13, and Revelation 17:15-17.