Thanks Pastor Shaun Nolan. But Will You Repent?

On Feb. 14 Pastor Shaun Nolan posted on his blog R.C. Sproul Jr. Defrocked. In his article Pastor Nolan gives the wise admonishment, both to R.C. Sproul Jr and his defrocked Saint Peter Church Session, but also an admonishment to his readers in general:

In doing this, I am not seeking to “lump further judgment”. (Let us not forget that these men have formally confessed and repented.) I am not in a place to either question the judgments against them nor to question their accusors, but let us take heart to the dangerous waters we enter when we consistently refuse to obey authority (even if we think those authorities are wrong). . .

These are serious things and I am thankful that they have been taken seriously. I hope and pray that other Reformed brethren might not fall into similar sin. I am earnestly concerned that the answer of the guilty would not be simply to “flee elsewhere” but to either stay and make amends or pursue other non-ministerial labors.

Our generation is one that has been raised to “despise authority”. Might we all take these things to heart and repent. How will we teach others to obey Christ in all things if we are not obedient to those Christ has placed over us?

Pastor Shaun Nolan’s statements appeared at the time to be both pastoral and wise, and certainly they seemed sincere. However, it didn’t take long for Pastor Shaun’s true colors to start bleeding through.

On April 5 Pastor Shaun Nolan posted Clearing R.C. Sproul Jr’s Name. Pastor Shaun’s primary source of information for his article was Dr. R.C. Sproul Sr, father of the defrocked R.C. Sproul Jr. That article, perhaps more than any other that has appeared on the internet to date, made it all too obvious what the CREC Commission’s real agenda was (”clearing R.C. Sproul Jr’s name”), and how gravely compromised the CREC Commission was.

No doubt many people were very grateful that Pastor Shaun had exposed the matter (although that certainly wasn’t his intention). No doubt many viewed Pastor Shaun’s article as providential in shedding light on the duplicities of Doug Wilson and the CREC. No doubt Doug Wilson and the CREC would have much preferred it had Pastor Shaun just kept his mouth shut about the whole thing. Even more so they no doubt especially wished that Dr. R.C. Sproul Sr had kept his mouth shut. By shooting off his mouth and making predictions of what the outcome of the CREC Commission’s “examination” would be Dr. Sproul made the Commission out to be the very kangaroo court and rubber stamping committee that many people had already recognized that it was.

For a man who’s demonstrated such wisdom and valuable theological insights Dr. Sproul’s public comments and behavior over the defrocking of his son has been nothing short of foolish and reckless. Dr. Sproul probably thought that by shooting off his mouth he was helping his son. Perhaps he thought by his persuasive speech (and he is a persuasive man after all) that he could manipulate the outcome. But that’s not how it worked out.

Ironically, Pastor Shaun prefaces his statements with, “I will offer you nothing of flammability and I do not wish my name associated with your diatribes.” Yet Pastor Shaun’s own comments, not to mention Dr. Sproul’s comments, are self-evidently inflammatory and their bias equally self-evident. The dozens of heated responses which quickly appeared only proves that point. What could be more transparent about Pastor Shaun’s motives, and the CREC’s intentions, than to entitle such an article, “Clearing R.C. Sproul Jr’s Name”?

If you didn’t want to hear any “diatribes” directed against you, Pastor Shaun, you shouldn’t have served as a mouthpiece for R.C. Sproul Sr’s canard. Ligonier Ministries has a web site and if Dr. Sproul had wanted to publicly vent his outrage over the “fraudulent charges” that had been brought against his son (and quite obviously he did) he should have done it on his own web site. Instead you allowed yourself to be used as Dr. Sproul’s mouthpiece.

In your previous article Pastor Shaun you said, “I am not in a place to either question the judgments against them nor to question their accusors.” What changed? A single lunch with the father of the defrocked minister and now you’re so well informed about the particulars of the case that you’re qualified to pass judgment on the RPCGA?

“Even when I initially addressed this issue, my purpose was only to remind all of us of the deep necessity of Biblical accountability and not to issue judgment.” Given the fact that the RPCGA issued their Declaratory Judgment on January 26, 2006 that kind of statement is completely unnecessary. All anyone need do is take cognizance of the fact that R.C. Sproul Jr was and is a deprocked man. No further “judgments” of any kind would have been necessary.

The only people who have used the phrase “don’t pass judgment” are those who have disagreed with the RPCGA’s Declaratory Judgment, inferring somehow that the RPCGA’s actions were unjust, or that they didn’t have the authority to do what they did, or to do it in the manner that they did. And since the non-judgmental CREC offered to step in and provide “pastoral care” to Saint Peter let’s all just ignore that judgmental RPCGA’s discipline and hope the CREC “clears the name of RC Sproul Jr.”

The problem you now face, and the problem that Dr. Sproul faces, is that the CREC Commission wasn’t able to “clear R.C. Sproul Jr’s name.” If you hadn’t gone shooting off your mouth and making the CREC Commission look like a sham then maybe they could have done their dirty deeds quietly and unscrutinized. The outcome probably would have been far different. So thanks for everything you’ve done (seriously, I mean that). With all the exposure you gave the CREC they had little choice but to issue a CREC Commission Report which stuck far closer to the facts than they had originally thought would be necessary. So in the end the CREC found no injustices or improprieties in the RPCGA’s Declaratory Judgment. In fact the CREC’s Report in many ways appears to be a confirmation of the RPCGA’s judgment.

Your first article, Pastor Shaun, was a good one, and I like many others thought that you were being sincere. So what happened to change your mind? What happened to all that non-judgmental objectively? What happened to those godly admonishments and solemn warnings that we all must take cognizance of the need for submission to authority? Star-struck over having had lunch with the great Dr. Sproul? Did you actually sell out for nothing more than a lunch?

Why did you suddenly feel free to pass judgment against the RPCGA? Why did you suddenly become a cheerleader for “clearing R.C. Sproul Jr’s name”? That’s precisely what you did when you said that you “trust R.C. and believe he is telling the truth about his son.” Dr. Sproul’s opinion on the defrocking of his son was (and still is) 180 degrees out of sync with the RPCGA’s Declaratory Judgment. So in believing Dr. Sproul’s opinion weren’t you also repudiating and passing judgment against the ecclesiastical judicial proceedings of the RPCGA?

Aren’t you saying that it’s perfectly okay to not submit to church courts, and that if you don’t like the judgment of a church court you can just go shopping around until you find one that will “clear your name”? That being the case why should any of your own church members submit to you and your Presbyterian church Session if there comes a time that they don’t like the decisions and judgments that you issue? Aren’t you by your example just condoning rebellion to church authority? Aren’t you just part of the very problem you speak of when you say,

“Our generation is one that has been raised to ‘despise authority’. Might we all take these things to heart and repent. How will we teach others to obey Christ in all things if we are not obedient to those Christ has placed over us?”

You need to repent, Pastor Shaun Nolan, and don’t think that by just taking down your article now that that’s repentance. Besides which it wouldn’t make any difference now — your article has been reposted all over the internet (including here too). Your sins in this matter were committed publicly and you need to repent publicly, on your blog.

Clearing R.C. Sproul, Jr’s Name

It was a great privilege to have lunch with R.C. and Vesta Sproul this afternoon. (Some of you may know that Vesta’s brother is our assistant pastor at View Crest. So, lest you think me important, the occasion had nothing to do with yours truly.) During the course of conversation, we turned to a discussion of the recent allegations against R.C.’s son. At the close of our conversation, I asked R.C. if I could share what he had told me via Postscript Posthaste. He said that would be fine.

Please understand that what I am saying here is by no means “official”. I recognize that many of my readers have a deep respect for both R.C. and R.C. Jr., and I want to ease their consciences about this matter. I also understand that there are those out there who find no greater pleasure than to slander another man’s character. For those in the latter group, you’ll want to stop reading now. I will offer you nothing of flammability and I do not wish my name associated with your diatribes. Even when I initially addressed this issue, my purpose was only to remind all of us of the deep necessity of Biblical accountability and not to issue judgment. Further, anything I say here is technically “hearsay” so it won’t stand up in any court. Nevertheless, I trust R.C. and believe he is telling the truth about his son.

So then, what is going on with R.C. Jr.?

Of late we have heard little about the situation surrounding R.C. Jr’s “defrocking” and this is for good reason. I am told that most, if not all of the charges brought against the session of St. Peters were themselves fraudulent. (I will address some of them below.) In case of point, no trial actually took place before the pronouncement of deposition was issued. This is highly irregular and because of this, the elders of St. Peters have sought to clear their names via examination apart from their former denomination, the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly (RPCGA). As I write, the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals (CRE) is conducting a detailed examination of the charges. What this means is that the trial they did not receive is being conducted by a third party. The results, soon to be released, will then be examined by other groups for the purpose of validating conclusions and clearing the name of the men involved.

The Charge of Tax ID Misuse
The elders of St. Peter’s were charged with using the ARP (Associate Reformed Presbyterian) Tax ID number instead of the RPCGA number. According to R.C. Sr., a consultant had been called in to help St. Peter’s with their finances. That consultant discovered the ARP ID number being used (which was there because the church had formerly been ARP) and informed them they needed to fix that. R.C. Jr. promptly called both the ARP to apologize and the IRS to apologize and initiate changes.

The Charge of Lording It Over the Congregation
The elders of St. Peter’s were charged with not allowing members to leave. I am told the members in question were under discipline of the church and were told they would not be allowed to flee discipline. This is the normal process with members under discipline in Presbyterianism. We don’t want folks running from accountability. That people do leave anyway is beside the point. After they did leave, they complained to the General Assembly and their charge was thus included.

The Charge of Planting a Church and Ordaining a Pastor Without Permission of the Presbytery
What the documentation of the RPCGA fails to note regarding this charge is that a separate presbytery of that same denomination did, in fact, do these things. As I understand it, the church that was planted was not within the bounds of the presbytery which St. Peter’s was in. It was only later that the Moderator of the denomination ruled that church “unofficial”. (Please don’t ask me how a Moderator can do this. My understanding is that this is a very small denomination that places a great deal of power in the hands of its denominational Moderator.)

The Charge of Practicing Paedo-Communion
This simply wasn’t the case. Young children were examined by the elders for the purpose of discerning a credible profession of faith and some were admitted, but no infants were allowed to partake. Even the PCA Book of Church Order says that it is up to the discretion of the elders as to the age at which a child can demonstrate faith. This was the process at St. Peters.

In Conclusion
In conclusion, I must say that I am pleased to hear the “other side” of this story and I sincerely hope that justice is served in the most positive sense. I would love nothing more than for their names to be cleared and their ministries continue unhindered. I am making this information available only to do my part in maintaining balance, easing consciences pricked by what they had heard, and to inform you, my readers, of the upcoming report from the CRE.

I urge you to continue to pray for these men and for the Reformed Church at large that is impacted by events like these. May God be glorified even through this.

posted on 4/05/2006 | permalink |


This article is republished with the permission of the author.

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