Ligonier Ministries Responsible for Federal Vision Converts?

“Back in the 1990s, Senior Sproul was an outspoken critic of Charles Colson’s, J. I. Packer’s and Cardinal Cassidy’s cult, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, but in the twenty-first century, he remains silent on the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision, both forms of heresy rife in his denomination, the PCA; and he is silent on Norman Shepherdism, the form of Neo-Legalism rife in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Junior Sproul, while he was editor of Table Talk, the monthly devotional publication of Ligonier Ministries used to advance its theological agenda, made sure that Douglas Wilson appeared in the magazine monthly, and that his friends, Steve Wilkins and Steve Schlissel, appeared occasionally…

“The silence of the shepherds in dealing with the heresies in their own churches stems from their compromised philosophy and theology. They cannot clearly articulate their differences with Rome, or practice what those differences require, because at bottom they agree with Rome.”

The Silence Of The Shepherds, The Trinity Foundation

The Federal Vision / New Perspectives On Paul / Auburn Avenue theology controversy has been raging in Reformed circles for several years now, and especially so since the 2002 Pastor’s Conference at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Monroe, Louisiana, pastored by Steve Wilkins, where the theme of the conference was Federal Vision.

I view Federal Vision as one of the most divisive and dangerous doctrines that has ever been introduced into the Reformed church. Federal Vision is a deceptive assault on the doctrines of grace, and in particular the doctrine of justification by faith alone — Sola Fide. As such, Federal Vision is a pernicious belief system with eternal consequences. It’s made just that much more insidious because of the fact that all of it’s leading spokesmen hold themselves out as “Reformed.” Indeed, it’s not outsiders who have crept into the Reformed church to subvert it and lead it back to Rome, but rather insiders.

All of the key Federal Vision spokesmen have come from Reformed backgrounds, and all of them claim that they are still “Reformed.” They say they still believe in the Five Solas, but they have deceptively redefined them. Many of them claim to adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Yet, Federal Vision doctrine is contrary to the Five Solas, and contrary to the Westminster Confession on some of the most significant issues that the Confession expounds, such as the covenant, election and justification.

We haven’t dealt with Federal Vision here before, mainly because others are far better qualified to address it than we are, and some have. If you’re not familiar with this controversy, let me just say that it’s one of the more important theological issues to have confronted the church in many years. There aren’t many theological issues that can be as significant as soteriology — how man is saved.

Federal Vision has already infiltrated many Reformed churches. I say “infiltrated” because quite often the ringleaders would prefer to operate surreptitiously, rather than openly and honestly. If Federal Vision hasn’t already infiltrated your church, you should be prepared for it, and the way to be prepared is to study the issue for yourself. I’ve provided a list of some references at the end of the article, but this is by no means exhaustive. There is also much more available, both online, and in various books.

Reformed Presbyterian churches and their denominations have especially felt the impact of Federal Vision, particularly the PCA and the OPC. Many of their members, and even some of their pastors and elders, have started embracing Federal Vision, and many more embrace it privately and covertly. Indeed, the covert nature of Federal Vision, and the way that its promoters seek to stealthily infiltrate Reformed churches, is one of the things that troubles me so much about it. Its spokesmen have often shown themselves to be crafty and cunning infiltrators, rather than honest and straightforward about what they believe. They often twist words and meanings in a manner that bears striking resemblance to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In response to the onslaught of the Federal Vision within it’s denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America determined at their 34th General Assembly to appoint an “Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology.” The Report was finalized on May 11, 2007 and presented to the PCA at their 35th General Assembly. The Report was overwhelmingly approved by the GA. Only about 50 out of 1400 delegates voted against it).

It remains to be seen what will become of prominent Federal Vision spokesmen who pastor PCA (e.g. Steve Wilkins) churches. For the present things appear to remain in the “discussion” and “recommendation” stages. However, at some point the discussion will need to come to an end and action will need to be taken. The PCA cannot permit heresy in its midst. If it does then it will render itself irrelevant and little better than the PCUSA. The Truly Reformed will have no choice but to leave, and they will leave in droves. The PCA cannot and must not permit its own pastors to be guilty of promoting heresy.

At some point, and hopefully sooner than later, those PCA pastors who are guilty of Federal Visionism will either be required to recant and repent of Federal Vision, or they will be brought up on charges of heresy. Since it’s unlikely that any of them will recant, they’d be wise to flee those Truly Reformed denominations, such as the PCA and OPC, and escape to someplace that’s “Reformed” in name only. Doug Wilson’s Federal Vision boutique, the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, comes to mind.

Timing here is crucial. What they don’t want to do is to force their Presbyteries into a position of having to defrock them, and then they have no choice but to flee to the CREC. That’s what RC Sproul Jr did, and that was a big PR mistake. Better to flee before being defrocked.

It’s not that being defrocked makes any difference to the CREC. They have, and they will continue, to gladly welcome defrocked Presbyterian ministers, even if they were defrocked for very serious things like ecclesiastical tyranny and tax fraud (as was the case for RC Sproul Jr). So being defrocked as a heretic surely won’t pose any obstacle to getting into the CREC. Nevertheless, from an appearance standpoint, it would be wise for all the Federal Vision heretics to flee to the CREC before they wind up getting defrocked.

No doubt Doug Wilson is licking his chops now. The PCA’s Federal Vision Report can only mean one thing for Doug Wilson — church growth.

I recently came across an interesting statement on a blog run by Federal Visionist, Mark Horne:

Great stuff from Ligonier Ministries on the Lord’s Supper
Published by Mark, July 2nd, 2007 in Bible & Theology

Here is a an article from Ligonier Ministries’ TableTalk magazine on the Lord’s Supper. It is really good.

Mark Horne’s blog entry directs his readers to an article on the Lord’s Supper, originally published in Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine. The article was written by Federal Visionist, and PCA Pastor, Jeffrey J. Meyers. Mark Horne himself has had articles in Tabletalk.

Both Horne and Meyers are PCA pastors, and both pastor at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church, Saint Louis, MO. Jeff Meyers is also the author of The Lord’s Service, a favorite book among the Federal Vision crowd, and considered among many of them to be essential reading.

Jeff Meyers’ article had been written for Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine, during the time that RC Sproul Jr was Tabletalk’s editor. RC Sproul Jr not only tapped Jeff Meyers to write for Tabletalk, he also procured writing gigs for multiple Federal Vision / New Perspectives On Paul / Auburn Avenue Theology leaders Doug Wilson, Steve Wilkins, and Steve Schlissel. These and other Federal Visionaries appeared in Tabletalk during the time that RC Sproul Jr was editor. RC Sproul Jr also arranged for various Federal Vision spokesmen to speak at Ligonier conferences.

Not everyone would appreciate the significance of a Jeffrey Meyers article appearing in Tabletalk magazine. However, Mark Horne certainly appreciates it, and he recognizes what a coup it was to have a prominent Federal Vision spokesman’s articles appearing in the “devotional” magazine of the nation’s leading Reformed ministry. Others too had no trouble picking up on the message:

Sean Jul 2nd, 2007 at 3:56 pm

I have enjoyed telling people (especially in the last few weeks) that I first discovered both Biblical Horizons and Credenda/Agenda through Ligonier Ministries back in the early 90’s. R.C. Sproul is the reason I’m FV. -)

I’ve assumed for quite some time that Ligonier Ministries has had a hand in making Federal Vision converts. However, not many people like Sean have been willing to go public with such confessions. So for the Federal Vision converts that converted as a result of the articles that appeared in Tabletalk by Federal Vision authors, we can thank RC Sproul for that. In fact someone else commented on Mark Horne’s blog to do just that:

Mitch Jul 8th, 2007 at 9:56 pm

“R.C. Sproul is the reason I’m FV.”

Sean, I’m with ya bro!

Stop and think about the irony though. The publication of the most Reformed ministry in the country responsible for making Federal Vision converts. Too cool! I knew it was happening. It’s just refreshing hearing someone thank Ligonier Ministries for it.

As much as thanking R.C. Sproul we need to thank R.C. Sproul Jr. I don’t think his old man is FV. I don’t think so, but anyone who’s followed R.C. Jr knows he’s FV. I don’t understand why he tries to hide it. I just wish he’d come out of the closet about it.

However, is it reasonable to just “thank” RC Sproul Jr? Didn’t his father have a hand in his son becoming the editor of Tabletalk? Of course he did, just as his father continues to play a role in ensuring that the defrocked RC Jr continues to speak at Ligonier Ministries conferences. So why would Dr. RC Sproul have permitted his son to invite men who hold to such errant and even heretical theology to publish their articles in Tabletalk?

Was, and is, RC Sproul really ignorant of one of the biggest theological controversies to hit the Reformed world in years? No, he clearly is not. In fact RC Sproul attended the 35th PCA General Assembly, and rose in opposition to a motion to postpone a vote to adopt the Committee’s Report. His speech was compelling. So how could RC Sproul have permitted Federal Visionaries to write for Tabletalk and speak at Ligonier conferences, and yet not also understand that such men deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone? It simply appears inconceivable that one of the most knowledgeable and insightful Reformed theologians of our day could be knowledgeable and insightful, while at the same time being so incredibly ignorant of what those men represent and their attack on a doctrine which is key to the Gospel itself. It’s just not adding up.

RC Sproul is one of the leading champions of the Reformed Faith in the world today. He even wrote a book expounding the Reformed doctrine of justification entitled, “Faith Alone.” Federal Vision is one of the greatest threats to the Reformed Faith today, and especially the Reformed doctrine of justification. One would think that RC Sproul would have a vested interest in speaking out long and loud against Federal Vision. Yet, for the most part, he remains strangely silent. Why? If you search Ligonier Ministries’ web site you won’t find one mention of Federal Vision. Yet, his ministry has given a platform to the Federal Visionists. Why?

And what about RC Sproul Jr? Is he too really that ignorant? How can he claim to be “Reformed” while countenancing the very men who assault the very foundations of the Reformed Faith? How can he claim to be Reformed and yet some of his closest personal friends are prominent Federal Vision spokesmen? And why did RC Sproul Jr jump ship to join the one and only “confederation” that has dedicated itself to advancing the Federal Vision?

I just wish that RC Sproul Jr would start being honest and, in Mitch’s words, “anyone who’s followed R.C. Jr knows he’s FV. I don’t understand why he tries to hide it. I just wish he’d come out of the closet about it.”

RC Sproul Jr has already been defrocked for goodness sake. So it’s not like anyone in the Reformed world respects him anymore anyway. With the exception of Doug Phillips, the only friends he’s got left are in the CREC. Why not just admit to being Federal Vision?

Update, July 10: And Federal Vision Is Responsible For Roman Catholic Converts

I received an email from a gentleman, concerned that it took RC Sproul years to respond to the assault against the Reformed faith by the Federal Vision. However, it could be argued that Sproul’s brief little two-minute speech he gave at the PCAGA could hardly qualify as a genuine and substantive response at all, especially in light of the fact that he permitted his Ligonier Ministries to be used as a platform for Federal Visionaries for so long.

The gentleman had an additional concern — the fact that so many Federal Visionaries have become Roman Catholic converts. I too have heard this very thing, and I even know of several people who have become RC (that’s Roman Catholic, not Robert Charles) as a direct result of first embracing the Federal Vision.

Below is a video clip by a Roman Catholic who gloats over this very thing, and who thanks the Federal Visionaries for helping to make Roman Catholic converts. In his words:

“I rejoice with the Federal Vision because I believe that it’s a golden brick road to Rome… So I thank God for the Federal Vision because it’s a termite within Protestantism, and it’s tearing away at the structure, and everything that’s falling out is coming to the Roman Catholic faith.”

I’m sad to have to agree with this Roman Catholic. However, he’s not entirely correct when he says that “everything that’s falling out is coming to the Roman Catholic faith.” There are also numerous accounts of those who embrace the Federal Vision, and then go on to become Greek or Russian Orthodox. Not that there’s even much of a difference between the RCs and Orthodox.


Presbytery Reports On Federal Vision:


Web Sites:


Does Patriarchy Produce Ecclesiastical Tyrants?

“It’s not that any of them are inherently opposed to church discipline. No, in fact they love church discipline, so long as it’s them that are wielding it. Tyranny loves company and bullies love other bullies (it’s for good reason that Hilter and Mussolini were pals).” Christian Leaders Ignore Sin (When It’s Advantageous), by Henry Barnes

One of the hottest blogs right now is “Jen’s Gems; Exposing Doug Phillips’ Ecclesiastical Tyrannies.” I don’t mean that Jen Epstein’s blog is hot just in Christian circles. I mean her blog is hot in cyberspace in general. Jen’s blog has gone from obscurity to being listed several times now on the WordPress Blogs Of The Day. May 2nd found her listed #89 out of over 900,000 WordPress blogs! And that was a low point. She’s been as high as #26! The number of comments she’s getting on some of her articles also boggles the mind. For example, her article “Vision Forum: Culture of Deception by Doug Phillips’ Example?” currently has 560 comments! Surely that’s got to be some kind of new blog record!

All the commotion over Jen’s blog has helped to shed some light on some other things beyond just Doug Phillips and his tyranny. In order to better understand Doug Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyranny, and why he refuses to repent of it, it might be helpful to examine some of Phillips’ values and beliefs, especially where any of those values and beliefs are the very thing that may be motivating and justifying (in his mind) his tyranny. For example, there’s the doctrine of “Patriarchy.”

Doug Phillips RC Sproul Jr patriarchyDoug Phillips is a prominent leader of the “Patriarchy” movement. So is RC Sproul Jr. Phillips and Sproul teamed up with the publisher of Patriarch magazine, Phil Lancaster, to produce The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy. Though “The Tenets” contain numerous Scripture references, a careful read of those references will in some cases show that those verses do not make their case at all. While there may be some desirable aspects to Patriarchy, given the dubious character of the authors of “The Tenets,” we might want to proceed with great caution.

Both Phillips and Sproul are ecclesiastical tyrants. Sproul was defrocked over it (and some other things too). Phillips can’t be defrocked because he’s never been frocked in the first place (he’s a self-appointed non-ordained “pastor” accountable to no one). Phillips and Sproul are apparently very close friends. Doug Phillips says of RC Sproul Jr, “My heart beats to the same drum.” I’m not surprised to hear it.

Patriarchy is starting to find itself more and more under the microscope, and Doug Phillips’ unjust excommunication and shunning of the Epstein family is a major reason for it. Some folks are assuming that there must be a direct cause/effect between Patriarchy and ecclesiastical abuse. I haven’t yet reached a firm conclusion on this, but I do have some thoughts that I’d like to share that I hope will stimulate some productive discussion here.

A number of people have alleged that Patriarchy is inherently a misogynistic extrabiblical belief system that subjugates women and children to autocratic men. If that were true then the potential for abuse would be high and perhaps even commonplace.

It seems logically consistent that autocratic and authoritarian men may not be content to rule merely over their own homes. They would seek to rule over other people as well. As the scope of such a man’s “authority” increased, and particularly where he actively sought out additional positions of authority, the opportunity for his abuses would grow exponentially.

The office of Pastor would be an ideal position for such a man to seek out. The office of Pastor is a position of trust, and it also carries an inherent authority. The Bible has much to say on the qualifications of pastors and elders (1 Timothy 3, 1 Peter 5) and how they are to govern the church of Jesus Christ as His under-shepherds. They are to be servant-leaders, compassionate, caring, and edifying. But because of sin there will always be exceptions, and sometimes bad men will seek to become pastors who have no business being pastors.

God has ordained that we have pastors. Therefore, the office of Pastor does not create bad men. Usually the opposite is the case. Many less than exemplary men have become pastors, and they have soon discovered that the demands and responsibilities of the office compel them to completely change their lives, and for the good. Either that or they soon realize they lack the qualifications and they leave the pastorate for good.

This isn’t to say though that bad men aren’t occasionally tempted to become pastors. However, they were bad men before they became pastors. They sought out the office of Pastor not because of God’s calling, or because of a desire to humbly serve and minister, but because they crave the personal attention and “authority” that comes with being a pastor. It wasn’t the office of Pastor that corrupted their character; they were corrupt long before they became pastors.

I’m currently unable to say the same thing of Patriarchy. I’m concerned that Patriarchy has great potential for taking otherwise good men and making something bad out of them. Again, I’m not decided on that issue, and I welcome more discussion here. However, one thing I am decided on though is that the influence of Patriarchy is the worst possible thing for a man to get involved with when he already has problems with loving his wife and kids, anger management, etc., or if he already has a tendency to govern his home as a dictator. Entrusting an angry man to be a “Patriarch” is like entrusting rebellious teenage boys with whiskey and the car keys.

I can’t think of a more ego-gratifying position for an autocrat like Doug Phillips to seek out, for the purpose of expanding his “dominion,” and the number of people that he can dominate and abuse, than the office of Pastor. Who appointed, who anointed, who commissioned, who ordained Doug Phillips to the office of Pastor? Doug Phillips did. Doug Phillips is an “authority” unto himself. When you add “the tenets” of Patriarchy to that kind of mix you’ve got the makings for a very volatile situation.

Over on Jen’s Gems, Esther posted an interesting comment, and then she asked a question which got me thinking:

Esther Says:
April 28th, 2007 at 12:16 pm
Mark, what I do not understand is the glaring hypocrisy for anyone with eyes to see.

Doug Phillips had no problem with the RC Sproul, Jr. defrocking. Like Sproul, Sr, he ignored church authority and held teaching a teaching conference with Jr. soon after the defrocking.

Yet, you and Jen are excommunicated and shunned for not repenting but are not told your offense that you must repent?

It really does boil down to Doug Phillips’ opinion…not scripture.

Folks, if that is not a cult, I don’t know what is.

Since I do not come from patriarchal type circles, I was wondering if it is normal to ’shun’ children in these situations?

Esther asked an important question that really needs to be addressed. I don’t come from a patriarchal background either, so I’m probably not the best one to answer her question. However, one thing I do know is that it’s not the first time shunning entire families for the alleged sins of the parents has been perpetrated by a prominent figurehead in the Patriarchy movement. The unjust excommunication and shunning of the Austin family by RC Sproul Jr is another recent example of a prominent Patriarchy leader who’s shown his penchant for being an ecclesiastical thug. Apparently Sproul’s thuggery was a major factor in why he and his entire session of elders were defrocked:

Another significant factor in the deposing of the St. Peter Session is the ecclesiastical tyrannies they perpetrated against several families over several years. Noteworthy among these is the John Austin family because it was the first that had been documented, and the first which had petitioned to Presbytery for redress.

On April 17, 2005 John Austin sent a letter to the Elders of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, informing them that he was withdrawing his membership at St. Peter over doctrinal disagreements, and that he would be seeking out another church in the area more in accord with his Reformed Baptist views. In his letter he stated, “We in no way want to cause problems or divisiveness,” and for his desire to be at peace with the brethren:


On May 14, 2005 the Session of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church voted unanimously to censure John Austin “for contumacy (failure to repent) by breaking his vows of membership.” John’s punishment included, “The refraining from all contact with your family by the other families in our church.” In other words, the congregation of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church was ordered to shun the entire Austin family, including the Austin’s five children:


The incident with the Austins is an obvious example of an ecclesiastically abusive church. But it might also be fair to refer to St. Peter as a “Patriarchy Church” since its head [defrocked] pastor is a prominent leader in the Patriarchy movement. Are Patriarchy leaders more prone than other pastors to engage in unjust church discipline? There does appear to be a pattern to indicate so.

The Austin family excommunication and shunning sparked debate about the nature of church membership. Doug Phillips had this to say:

Biblically leaving a local church involves transferring covenant duties and privileges from one local body to another. It does not involve breaking a covenant.

To put it another way, the believer’s covenant with the local church can be transferred to another Christ-honoring local church, but it cannot be “resigned,” abandoned, or simply disregarded without the professing believer becoming a covenant-breaker.

But what happens when the pastor refuses to permit a church member to “be transferred to another Christ-honoring local church”? And how can you even have an opportunity to be transferred if your pastor won’t allow you to even check out any of the other local churches so you can figure out which one you’d like to transfer too?

Just how far does a pastor’s authority legitimately extend? Can he actually prohibit you from leaving his church, even when you have just cause for wanting to leave? And if you leave anyway does he really have the spiritual authority and the biblical support to “excommunicate” you, such is in the Austin case, thereby putting you outside the visible church and cutting you off from the grace of God? The RPCGA completely disagreed with RC Sproul Jr about his “excommunication” of the Austins, and he wound up being taken to the woodshed for it.

As the Austin family found out, even though they did their best to leave St. Peter Presbyerian Church “honorably,” and even though they did nothing in violation of the church’s Book Of Church Order, it still wasn’t good enough for RC Sproul Jr and his session of ecclesiastical bullies. The Austins were unjustly excommunicated, and Sproul ordered the St. Peter congregation to shun them, and that included even the Austin children. Punishing entire families by shunning, including even small children, for the alleged “sins” of their parents, is an extremely cruel and wicked thing to do. Punishing children for the sins of their parents is also expressly prohibited by Scripture:

The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. Ezek. 18:20

What was done to the Austin family bears striking resemblance to what was done to the Epsteins. In the name of “church discipline” Doug Phillips abused the Epstein family, the entire family, in much the same way as Sproul abused the Austin family. If ever there could be an act that a pastor could commit that carries with it the risk for causing children to stumble and lose their faith, it would be to punish them for the sins (real or imagined) of their parents. RC Sproul Jr, Doug Phillips, and other Patriarch leaders of their ilk, should take the frightening ramifications of Matthew 18:6 to heart.

Even a pagan knows how unjust it is to punish the children for the sins of their parents. Even cults that are renowned for shunning, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, don’t shun entire families. When it comes to church discipline, these two “Patriarchs” are guilty of perpetrating more injustice and wickedness than any JW pastor ever has. This isn’t to say that a JW pastor wouldn’t be capable of doing the same thing. But even JW pastors have some accountability that prevents them from getting away with it. Sproul was disciplined for his abuses by the Presbyterian denomination that he was ordained by. Doug Phillips hasn’t been disciplined for his tyrannies because he’s not ordained by anyone, and not accountable to any ecclesiastical authority. Doug Phillips is a law unto himself.

Ecclesiastical thugs are prone to defend and support other ecclesiastical thugs. That’s why Doug Phillips continued supporting RC Sproul Jr after he’d been subjected to the severe church discipline of being defrocked. Phillips demands that all churches honor the “church discipline” that he meted out against the Epsteins, without so much as even being permitted to question him about it. But why should anyone honor Doug Phillips’ church discipline when he openly defies the church discipline that was meted out against RC Sproul Jr? Doug Phillips’ hypocrisy should surprise no one. Ecclesiastical thugs demand respect and honor, but they only give respect and honor to others when it advances their personal agenda. To quote Esther again:

“Doug Phillips had no problem with the Sproul, Jr. defrocking. Like Sproul, Sr, he ignored church authority and held teaching a teaching conference with Jr. soon after the defrocking.”

Only several weeks after RC Sproul Jr’s defrocking, Doug Phillips and his father Howard Phillips spoke at a conference hosted by RC Sproul Jr’s Highlands Study Center, an event directly affiliated with St. Peter Presbyterian Church, the church that Sproul continued pastoring, even though he’d been defrocked. Hypocrisy was manifested in full force by the very title of the conference, Generations Conference, Giving Honor To Whom Honor Is Due.

RC Sproul Jr - Doug Phillips Honor Conference

By speaking at that conference, Doug Phillips sent a message loud and clear. By speaking at a conference on “honor” with the newly defrocked RC Sproul Jr, Doug Phillips thumbed his nose at the Presbyterian denomination that had disciplined his pal. But defiance of church authority isn’t the whole of it. As others have already pointed out, RC Sproul Jr had just suffered the military equivalent of being court martialed, found guilty, and receiving a dishonorable discharge. Then he has the nerve to host a conference on “Honor”? The magnitude of this hypocrisy just boggles the mind!

For anyone who’s read the RPCGA’s Declaratory Judgment they shouldn’t have any trouble figuring out exactly why the Saint Peter elders were defrocked. The list of charges was very detailed and specific, and apparently there was a lot of evidence to support the charges. Not only that but Sproul even confessed, effectively pleading “Guilty as charged.” Sproul received due process according to the well documented disciplinary procedures of the RPCGA’s Book Of Church Order. Sproul had sworn an oath to obey that BCO, and to be held accountable to it.

There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that RC Sproul Jr received justice. But oddly enough there is some defiance of the RPCGA’s discipline, at least among a few of Sproul’s fellow Patriarchal ecclesiastical buddies. Aside from Doug Phillips, there is also Doug Wilson. It may not just be a coincidence that Doug Wilson is another prominent Patriarchy leader. Not long after being defrocked, Sproul was welcomed by Doug Wilson into his Confederation Of Reformed Evangelical Churches, a place where other defrocked ministers have also been warmly welcomed. Sproul is “considered ordained in the CREC,” even though he’s defrocked. Go figure. The CREC supposedly has some rules and even makes their ministers swear vows to obey the rules, just like real denominations do. But Doug Wilson appears to be a lot like RC Sproul Jr, in that neither one of them believe the rules actually apply to themselves.

Not that I’m in any way surprised that Doug Wilson has broken his vows to obey the CREC’s Constitution. In fact vow breaking is entirely consistent with how Wilson operates, and he’s very comfortable welcoming into the ranks of the CREC fellow vow breaking ministers who play fast and loose with the rules, including even the defrocked. Witness RC Sproul Jr.

Men of Doug Wilson’s ilk when given any authority at all will always attempt to seize more authority, whether their constitution that they have sworn to obey grants them that authority or not. Doug Wilson, Church Splitter

The disciplinary case against the Epsteins is in stark contrast to the Sproul case. According to the Epsteins, and the primary source documents they posted that back up their story, they were tried in absentia, without any due process, according to procedures that Doug Phillips fabricated out of thin air. The list of charges were vague and unspecific. No evidence was presented. No witnesses were called. The Epsteins weren’t permitted to cross-examine their accuser. The Epsteins pleaded, “Not guilty” and have continued pleading “Not guilty” ever since. The Epsteins have called their “church trial” a “Kangaroo Court” and a “Star Chamber.”

In spite of the sham justice that Doug Phillips meted out against the Epsteins, he demands that all other churches respect his “church discipline.” Yet Phillips has shown no respect toward the church discipline of the RPCGA, a discipline that even he apparently can find no fault with, or at least any fault that he’s willing to make a public statement about. Yet he, just like Doug Wilson, has continued treating RC Sproul Jr as though he’d never been disciplined at all. Yet these Patriarchal ecclesiastics expect and demand that others honor the church discipline that they mete out, even though their own form of church discipline breaks every rule in the book.

Returning now to my original question, “Does Patriarchy Produce Ecclesiastical Tyrants?” Is it Patriarchy that turned men like Doug Phillips and RC Sproul Jr into tyrants, or were they tyrants and bullies all along? Probably the only people who could answer that with some measure of certainty are those who have known these men long enough to know what they were like before they became Patriarchs.

What about at the grass roots level of the Patriarchy movement? Are there a lot of bad Patriarch husbands and fathers? My personal exposure to Patriarchy is somewhat limited, and the only Patriarchs that I personally have known appear to be fine brothers in Christ who treat their wives and children well. They’re true servant-leaders and they’re very biblically minded men. There are probably many godly men involved in the Patriarchy movement who would never be abusive toward their families or anyone else.

Patriarchy, or at least the biblical aspects of Patriarchy (and yes, I believe there are some), has the potential to motivate men to become strong and active leaders in the home, the very sort of thing that many wives often desire that their husbands would be. Weak and ineffective male leadership in the home is an all too common problem and valid complaint among many wives. Someone may yet be able to convince me otherwise, but at least at the grass roots level I don’t think Patriarchy is much of a problem, and there may be many husbands and fathers that have benefited from it. If there is a problem with Patriarchy, the problem is with Patriarchy leaders like Doug Phillips.

The more I look into Patriarchy the more I’m convinced that men like Doug Phillips are giving a movement that has a lot of good potential a bad name. So we should really label them “Hyper-Patriarchs.” Just like so many other extremists, Doug Phillips appears to be hyper about a lot of things, including church discipline. The leadership of the Patriarchy movement are practicing an extremist and extrabiblical form of Patriarchy. Where his Patriarchy touches the church it becomes ecclesiastical tyranny. The church of Jesus Christ needs loving and compassionate discipline, not ecclesiastical tyrants that masquerade as pastors and shepherds. Doug Phillips is an ecclesiastical thug — a brute, a bully, and that’s not the same thing as being a Patriarch.

Christian Leaders Ignore Sin (When It’s Advantageous)

A failure to hold church and ministry leaders accountable seems to be endemic among Christians of this generation. One of the biggest problems is that pastors and ministers often aren’t holding their ministry friends accountable.

By now just about everyone has heard about the outing of the closet homosexual and drug abuser Ted Haggard, ex-pastor of the 14,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs and the ex-President of the politically influential National Association of Evangelicals.

But what many people don’t realize is that Haggard’s sex and drug problems were well known to his closest friends, including Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition. In a recent interview with Lou Sheldon some truly astonishing things came out:

Then, as if things could not get worse, there was the disgrace of Sheldon’s own friend and colleague, Rev. Ted Haggard, the Colorado mega-church leader and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an even bigger pillar of Republican support on the Christian right. Sheldon disclosed that he and “a lot” of others knew about Haggard’s homosexuality “for awhile … but we weren’t sure just how to deal with it.”

Months before a male prostitute publicly revealed Haggard’s secret relationship with him, and the reverend’s drug use as well, “Ted and I had a discussion,” explained Sheldon, who said Haggard gave him a telltale signal then: “He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn’t. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that.”

His friends knew that Haggard was a pervert and a drug abuser. What did they do about it? They kept silent. They were more concerned about preserving their own positions and power base than they were about preserving the peace and purity of the church. Too many Christian leaders are pragmatists and pragmatists will always compromise.

Confronting a powerful and influential friend about his sins, unethical conduct or hypocrisies could cost them. It could cost them the friendship itself, and all the “benefits” that go along with it. The loss of that friendship could be the loss of the influence, and perhaps even money, that that friendship buys them. So they keep quiet rather than risking the friendship.

Influential men who don’t want to be held accountable will choose their friends based upon what they can get out of the friendship. One of the things they expect is to not be held accountable. They also surround themselves with yes-men in systems that have the appearance of accountability, but which in reality are nothing but shams. They’ll ask close friends and yes-men to sit on their board of directors, which serve as nothing more than rubber stamping committees.

Needless to say such “friendships” are really no friendships at all. A friend who won’t confront a friend in his sin is no friend, but rather a deceiver and a user: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Prov. 27:6

Far too many church and ministry leaders today are very selective, and even opportunistic, about who they’ll confront in their sins. If it’s a close and influential friend they’re far less likely to confront them than if it’s just an ordinary church member.

Many church members have experienced being confronted by their pastors and elders when they’re in sin. That’s never a pleasant experience, but if indeed we’re in sin then we should be grateful for those pastors and elders who have the guts to confront us and call us to repentance. The Word says that they keep watch over our very souls:

Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Heb. 13:17

We all need this accountability in our lives and even when it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable we should be grateful for it.

Unfortunately there are those who abuse their positions of trust and lord it over those souls that have voluntarily submitted to their pastoral care. If there wasn’t such pervasive ecclesiastical abuse there wouldn’t be so many books about it, but even though there are at least a dozen books written by Christians on the subject of ecclesiastical abuse the market hardly seems crowded at all.

Ecclesiastical bullies however are very selective in who they abuse. Of course, they don’t see it as abuse. Rather, they call it “church discipline.” Their “discipline” however is enforced very selectively, and they uphold the discipline of their friends, or against their friends, in a very selective manner. In other words they employ a double standard based entirely on whether you’re a friend or family member, versus the standard they impose for anyone else.

Take for example the recent defrocking of R.C. Sproul Jr. Sproul was deposed from office by the RPCGA for, among other things, “abuse of authority in an inexcusable manner” against several Saint Peter Presbyterian Church families, as well as identity theft and tax number fraud (Sproul stole and illegally used the EIN of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church). Sproul even confessed to the charges, but it appears that the only reason he confessed is to avoid a church trial that would have subjected him to even much greater scrutiny.

Upon being defrocked R.C. Sproul Jr could have appealed the decision (a unanimous one at that) of his Presbytery. If he disagreed with the decision that’s what he should have done. Instead he pled to be released from membership in the RPCGA. Upon his release Sproul immediately whined publicly on his web site that some great injustice had been committed against him — and this after he’d already confessed to the charges!

Sproul is just like the whiny criminal who gets busted by the police in the very act of his crime. He even admits to the cops that he’s the perp. Then when the cops attempt to cuff him and take him into custody he resists arrest. So in order to protect themselves and safely subdue him they mace him. But he still resists. So they tazer him and he whines, “I’m innocent! This is police brutality!” Yet he continues fighting them the whole time, after he’s just confessed to the crime.

R.C. Sproul Jr. wasn’t alone in his whining. He was joined in a chorus of whiny abusive ecclesiastics. It’s not that any of them are inherently opposed to church discipline. No, in fact they love church discipline, so long as it’s them that are wielding it. Tyranny loves company and bullies love other bullies (it’s for good reason that Hilter and Mussolini were pals).

Among the first to join the chorus of whining ecclesiastics was Douglas Wilson. In fact Doug Wilson started whining even before R.C. Sproul Jr started whining! Doug Wilson saw the handwriting on the wall for his good friend R.C. Sproul Jr. He attempted to influence (read “meddle in”) the RPCGA’s internal matters by starting a series of blog articles entitled “A Justice Primer,” articles which clearly attempted to manipulate the unfolding Sproul church discipline matter.

After Sproul was defrocked Doug Wilson continued publicly defending his pal R.C. Sproul Jr, often going to extraordinary lengths to bend and twist justice like a wax nose. Thankfully however a number of commenters showed up on Doug Wilson’s blog to publicly challenge Wilson’s very creative definitions of “justice.” It’s not clear when Wilson rolled out the red carpet to Sproul and offered him a home in the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. It might very well have been before Sproul was defrocked. But in any event Sproul’s tax fraud and ecclesiastical abuse of several Saint Peter families was certainly no impediment to entering the CREC.

Wilson orchestrated the formation of a CREC Commission ostensibly “to provide pastoral oversight.” Yet no one really believed that the real agenda of the CREC Commission just ended there, regardless of the fact that the CREC publicly stated that the Commission “is not judicial in nature ” (original underlined). In spite of the CREC’s proclamations that their Commission wasn’t just a Kangaroo Court, Wilson had for weeks been telegraphing his intentions, and no one had any trouble picking up on it either. Some openly stated that the purpose of the CREC Commission was to “clear RC Sproul Jr’s name” and that article was posted by an ally!

Many were shocked and dismayed that R.C. Jr’s father publicly accused the RPCGA of taking a “fraudulent” action against his son that was based upon nothing more than fraudulent charges and the testimony of false witnesses. At the time many attributed it to the emotional outburst of a deeply hurt and embarrassed father. However, as time has gone on and we have now seen so much sin and corruption being exposed within the ranks of Ligonier Ministries I can only conclude that Dr. R.C. Sproul himself is an autonomist and eagerly turns a blind eye to sin, when it’s personally advantageous to do so.

When the CREC Commission released their Report Doug Wilson publicly thanked the Commission. That brief statement resulted in Wilson being immediately hit with a flurry of comments and questions, virtually none of which he responded to. Instead, he just moved on and posted a new article related to the previous one. This too resulted in a flurry of questions and negative comments and, once again, Doug Wilson failed to respond.

How could Doug Wilson possibly respond? It was all too apparent that his boutique “confederation” had largely glossed over the great sins that R.C. Sproul Jr and his session had been disciplined for. The CREC treated Sproul as though he’d never been defrocked at all. Their Report states of Sproul, “. . .he shall not be required to fulfill the process for ordination and shall be considered ordained within the CREC accordingly.” Huh? How can a defrocked minister “be considered ordained”? In Doug Wilson’s loony world this is called “justice.”

Accountability: Why is the Reformed Community Getting it Wrong?

It is with a profound sadness that I find myself writing yet another piece on repentance so soon after the recent post concerning the leadership of Ligonier Ministries need for resignation and repentance. Yet, it would be exceedingly unseemly to refrain from confronting the evil residing amongst believers subscribing and adhering to Reformed theology by failing to so do.

Unlike the recent resignation of Rev. Ted Haggard, his subsequent deposing, and the personal humiliation and accountability before pastors willing to hold him accountable, his own family, and the flock he shepherded, there are far too many contemporary Reformed teaching elders and leaders caught up in sin that rivals or exceeds Rev Haggard’s.

One of the reasons this is true is based in this regrettable reality: Far too many of our contemporary Reformed elders and leaders have become Christian Celebrities and, in so doing, demand their followers subscribe to the leader’s own view of their absolutized power, thus rejecting any accountability for their actions. As the Rev. Brian Abshire noted in his article, these leaders form an emergent Christian Mafia

In addition to this rejection of accountability providing a prima facie example of imperious behavior, many of these leaders engage in a pattern of authoritarian, even totalitarian leadership; leadership that is not only high-handed, but is often times arbitrary, even to the point of ignoring God’s Word. Although unthinkable outside the Salem Witch Trials (despite one Reformed leader’s attempt to even portray the cessation of the trials as an example of godliness), some of today’s sin-laden Reformed Christian Celebrities have more in common with dictators than loving and accountable shepherds.

Why is this so? What is occurring within the minds of the Reformed leadership, which works itself out in such excesses, and why do these leaders portray a seeming inability to police their own ranks, holding one another accountable?

Perhaps the following may provide a few answers to these questions.

Playing at Orthodoxy

Believers who engage the tenants of Reformed theology do so because they understand the clear biblical dictate to renew their minds through the whole counsel of God. Moreover, these same adherents recognize God’s adamantine requirement for so doing. Yet, when leaders refuse to adhere to accountability in their own lives, they are not subscribing to a presuppositional belief in orthodoxy; rather, they are playing at orthodoxy, and give all the appearance of basing their rejection of orthodoxy in a humanistic rationale founded more on Mencken’s attitude toward the booboisie than in any demonstrably sound biblical reasoning.

Despising Orthopraxy

Likewise, as one writer noted, there appears to be a divorcing of orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the lives of these leaders. However, if there is an obdurate resistance in the hearts and minds of these leaders to personally following the God-articulated path of orthodoxy, then there was never a marriage from which orthopraxy is suddenly divorced. Rather, in despising orthopraxy, one must initially reject orthodoxy at its most fundamental level – God’s Word. In so doing, these leaders reject accountability.

Selfish Shepherds

Though there may appear to be a seemingly foundational lust for power that drives the rejection of orthodoxy in these leaders’ lives, we must not dismiss man’s selfish nature as a root cause. Evident from even birth, mankind’s inherent selfishness can project itself in a number of behaviors, not the least of which is the aforementioned lust for power, a lust that must ultimately reject accountability in order to come to full fruition.

Fearful Peers

Another motivator for avoiding accountability is the coupling of the increasing recognition and awareness of personal depravity with the dread of any other human knowing of one’s sick soul. Yet, the Scriptures repeatedly admonish each believer to fear not, particularly as it relates to man. Furthermore, a true adherence to Reformed orthodoxy demands we confess our sins one to another, and this applies to leadership and laity alike. Thus, no Machiavellian machination can ever justify a leader’s refusal to submit to biblical accountability.

Freedom in Repentance

Lastly, it is important to reflect on the following truth. Dr. RC Sproul Sr, Dr. RC Sproul Jr, Mr. Tim Dick, Mr. John Duncan, Rev. Doug Wilson, Mr. Doug Phillips, Esq., and a host of other Reformed “Christian Celebrities” contradict their public teachings about important doctrines or practices by their personal behavior. This list includes those who refuse to hold the aforementioned celebrities accountable, regardless of the size of the pond in which some of these “celebrities” swim. On the other hand, Ted Haggard is now enjoying the freedom of confession, repentance, and God-ordained discipline. Unfortunately, today’s group of Reformed “celebrities” that appear so willing to engage in or provide the rationale for disciplining others outside the constraints of the Holy and Infallible Word of the Most High God, also appear to avoid any type of accountability themselves, preferring the bluster of threats or the filing of actual lawsuits against fellow believers. This increasingly persistent sinfulness is a stain on the visible church and our Reformed leaders can certainly learn from the non-Reformed example of those willing to hold Ted Haggard accountable for his egregious behavior.

May God quicken the hearts of those Christian Celebrities who currently besmirch God’s visible church, and may we all seek to lovingly hold our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus accountable, as we discipline and restore those in need, in accordance with God’s economy.

Honor As A Defining Principle Of Life: What Should Ligonier Leaders Do?

During this year, much has been written on the topic of honor in Reformed circles. In fact, in May of this year, Ligonier Ministries Chairman RC Sproul spoke at a conference on the fifth commandment and honor, hosted by his son, RC Sproul, Jr. The conference was entitled “Generations: Giving Honor to Whom Honor is Due.”

Ironically, just shortly prior to the conference RC Sproul, Jr. had been defrocked for a number of dishonorable and remarkably unpastoral acts, including ecclesiastical abuse against several families in Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, stealing and illegally using another church denomination’s tax identification number, and a list of additional charges constituting insubordination and vow breaking against the Presbytery that ordained him.

Many were deeply offended that a newly defrocked Presbyterian minister was hosting a conference on “honor” when he had just received the military equivalent of a courts martial and dishonorable discharge.

Unfortunately, some of the recent writing and teaching by several Reformed leaders on the subject of honor has focused almost exclusively on the responsibility of the sheep to act honorably to their shepherds, while largely ignoring the responsibility of the shepherds to lead as honorable examples. Several of these Reformed leaders have openly and publicly sided with the defrocked RC Sproul Jr, not the least of whom was his father.

Frank Vance was ultimately sued by Ligonier Ministries in an effort to silence his criticisms of the dishonorable way that Ligonier Ministries has conducted itself, as well as Ligonier’s obvious lack of accountability. Based upon the Ligonier Ministries lawsuit against a man who professes Christ as Savior, filed only three months after the Honor conference, perhaps it is time to correct the balance of the teaching on this subject by focusing on honor as it applies to leaders.

Honor CodeAs one blogger on the subject of the Ligonier Ministries lawsuit noted, America’s future military leaders (whether saved or unsaved) are expected to adhere to an Honor Code (a code that begins with the words “a cadet will not lie”), while receiving a taxpayer-funded education at our country’s military academies. If unbelieving leaders are expected to uphold such a standard, should not we have even higher standards and expectations of our religious leaders?

The answer to this question is a resounding “Yes.” We should expect more from our religious leaders because the very nature of spiritual leadership involves entrusting the leader with the care and concern for our very souls.

So what is wrong at Ligonier? There are many problems, but one thing in particular especially stands out: a lack of accountability. There is apparently no genuine accountability at Ligonier Ministries, and certainly no accountability comparable with what we would expect to see were Ligonier an integrated ministry of a church denomination, such as the PCA where RC Sproul parks his ordination. One has to wonder why RC Sproul believes his PCA ordination has any real value at all (other than perhaps strictly for image purposes) when he’s done nothing to make himself accountable to the PCA, either through his ministry, or even in the independent nondenominational church that he pastors. In PCA vernacular, RC Sproul is “ministering out of bounds.” In RC Sproul’s case, “Presbyterian” is an impressive label with no real substance.

Just as apparent with Ligonier is the lack of accountability that’s in any way comparable to what we find in our country’s service academies. That begs the question: Why do the unsaved recognize the necessity for accountability in a secular Honor Code, but the ministry led by one of the elder statesmen of Reformed theology has no genuine accountability system in place?

The first part of this answer begins with the rejection of biblical standards: Ligonier’s leaders have tossed aside the Holy and Infallible Word of God. The best current evidence for this is that they filed a lawsuit against a fellow believer. After the fact, when their phones started ringing off the hook with angry calls from their own financial supporters, then they started practicing a form of Pharisaical contortionism in order to justify their unbiblical action. Had Ligonier Ministries been under some form of genuine accountability, it’s unlikely that they would have been able to file the lawsuit in the first place. Until such time as they are brought under biblical accountability, it’s very likely that there will be additional abuses in the future.

During the Exodus, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, suggested a solution to dealing with the disagreements of the Hebrew slaves recently liberated from Egyptian bondage. The system that spared Moses from settling every dispute personally ensured multiple levels of review and accountability. This pattern of biblical accountability, including appeal to higher church “courts” (with “appellate review” capability), is healthy for the church, and for church ministries, for it establishes a hierarchical system of decision-making review.

Again, the secular legal system incorporates just this type of process to protect the rights of either the criminal or civil defendant. Interestingly enough, a good deal of our nation’s Constitutional Republic system of checks and balances, accountability, and right of appeal came as a direct result of the influence of the Presbyterian clergyman and Founding Father, John Witherspoon. Yet the church in America in recent years has, on the whole, largely abandoned these principles of justice that made America the envy of the world, principles that originated back in the time of Moses.

From all appearances, it seems the lack of decision-making review in the Ligonier vs. Vance lawsuit is responsible for the ministry’s failure to examine the second and third order effects of suing Frank Vance. One has to ask “why” no one in Ligonier saw the obvious repercussions associated with suing a fellow believer. The failure to consider fully the ripples emanating from the filing of a lawsuit is a failure of leadership at the highest level of Ligonier, not just the CEO and senior management positions, because it exemplifies the aforementioned lack of accountability and review process.

Moreover, to suggest the organization did not believe Vance to be a Christian is disingenuous at best and, at worst, a lie. Vance has referred to his elders on his website which, by definition, means he is a member of a church with elders and thus should be a presumed believer. If Ligonier had any doubt, they should have just emailed and asked him: “Are you a Christian?” before filing suit. Regardless of Vance’s eternal state, the mere filing of a lawsuit by a Christian ministry is a serious matter, and RC Sproul, Tim Dick, and senior management (John Duncan) should have considered the full range of possible ramifications, as it pertained to their stakeholders (donors and fellow Christians) before acting in such an unchristian manner.

Code of honor -- integrityAnother serious failure that must be placed at all the leadership’s feet is the lack of a dismissal of the lawsuit while simultaneously reporting the suit was dropped via email to a select group of bloggers. Who is in charge at Ligonier – management or the lawyers? The lawyers work for Ligonier, and any senior manager could have easily picked up the phone (even in the middle of the night) and told their attorneys to draft the requisite paperwork for a dismissal and file it when the court opened the following morning. This could have and should have been initiated before releasing a statement claiming that the lawsuit had been withdrawn.

At the very least, Ligonier could have honestly stated, “We have requested our attorney to submit the appropriate paperwork; it is in process, and will be completed soon.” Instead, every member of senior management is now further suspect in light of the blatant distortions surrounding the alleged dismissal, as well as that Thursday’s maneuvering by Ligonier’s lawyers seeking a way to legally serve Vance and thereby prolong the lawsuit.

So what is the solution to the debacle at Ligonier?

To answer this question fully we need to review the chronology of the lawsuit.

  • Ligonier Ministries and Tim Dick, filed a lawsuit against Frank Vance, a professing believer in Christ and author of the Contending for the Truth website, on August 25, 2006, for alleged defamation. (Note that the suit was filed before Vance posted about Don Kistler, so the statement released by Ligonier on this subject is not related to the lawsuit.)
  • Ligonier and Tim Dick requested from the court as relief (1) monetary damages of at least $15,000 plus costs and attorney fees, and (2) an injunction to stop Vance from posting more critical comments on his website in the future (this is known as prior restraint).
  • Along with the lawsuit, Ligonier and Tim Dick filed an “emergency” motion with the court without Vance present (an “ex parte hearing”) to try to obtain an immediate temporary injunction to shut down Vance’s website. The lawyer who signed the emergency motion certified, as an officer of the court, that Vance need not be present to present his side of the story because there was no way to contact him. This, of course, was a lie.
  • Ligonier Ministries personnel repeatedly changed their stories as to the existence of and the nature of the lawsuit. Some even went so far as to deny the existence of the suit, even though it had been reported in the Orlando Sentinel (does anyone read USA Today at Ligonier?).
  • Tim Dick sent an email to a select group of bloggers after close of business on Friday, September 22, 2006, with links to two statements on a private part of the Ligonier website, statements which had been posted two days prior on September 20. Those statements, issued nearly a month after the filing of the suit, included a claim that the complaint had been “withdrawn” which, as we know now, was a blatantly false statement. However, the statements did not include any language of repentance for filing the lawsuit in the first place or for false statements made subsequently.
  • Not only had the lawsuit NOT been dismissed by September 20, 2006, but, based on a court hearing in the case file at the court, Ligonier’s lawyers were petitioning the judge about how to advance the pace of the lawsuit as late as Thursday, September 21, 2006 (the day after Ligonier’s public statements announcing that they had withdrawn the lawsuit).
  • Ligonier ultimately did withdraw their lawsuit, but not until September 27, a full week after they had posted their public statements stating that the lawsuit “had been withdrawn.”
  • Ligonier withdrew their lawsuit, but also stipulated that they did so “without prejudice,” meaning they reserved the right to sue again. Based upon an interview that Ligonier’s attorney, Daniel Brodersen, gave to the Orlando Sentinel, suing Frank Vance again does indeed appear to be their intention.

Regardless of when the lawsuit was finally withdrawn, it is clear that Ligonier management has been the source of too many conflicting accounts and outright lies about the lawsuit. This isn’t just a failure of leadership, it’s a crisis of leadership. No one else is to blame; the lawyers cannot be blamed, the junior-level employees cannot be blamed, the customer service representatives do not share the blame. It is solely the failure of the Ligonier management – including Dr. RC Sproul, Sr. – to provide Christian leadership and to conduct their actions in a biblical and Christ-honoring manner.

So what is the succinct answer to the problem at Ligonier? The leadership needs to do the honorable thing – they need to resign.

If the CEO (Tim Dick) and the General Manager (John Duncan) of a Christian parachurch ministry don’t know the Sacred Text well enough to know that Christians do not sue Christians; if the CEO and General Manager can’t inform the ministry’s lawyers (who allegedly recommended the lawsuit) that Christians do not sue Christians (Are Ligonier’s lawyers professing Christians and if not, why not? And if they are not, then why is Ligonier concerned about Frank Vance’s relationship with the Most High God?); and if the board members are not willing to hold the CEO and General Manager responsible by demanding a public apology (not an unrepentant, self-justifying apology hidden in a special link on the Ligonier website), as well as public repentance, and public contrition on behalf of the ministry; then all the leadership has but one choice: They are duty bound to do the honorable thing, and the honorable thing in this situation is resignation.

A Final Word Concerning Dr. RC Sproul

One of the definitions for honor includes “a keen sense of ethical conduct.” Not only do the machinations associated with Ligonier’s lawsuit demonstrate a complete lack of ethical conduct, the resultant obfuscation, “spin,” and morally bankrupt blame-shifting on the part of Ligonier’s management team demands these individuals do the honorable thing in this instance – resign en masse and spare Christendom any more pain and embarrassment.

However, even if all of Ligonier’s senior managers resign, including Tim Dick and John Duncan, there is still the issue of Dr. Sproul’s, as well as America’s other Reformed leaders’, silence. These men and women (Joni, do you hear this?) need to publicly repent for their poor examples of leadership and failure to hold their fellow leaders at Ligonier accountable for their gross public sin and besmirching of Christ’s visible church. If they do not, then perhaps we need to worry more about the state of their eternal souls than we do about whether these leaders were responsible for filing an unbiblical lawsuit or providing tacit approbation by their silence.

R.C. Sproul When Will You and Ligonier Ministries Repent?

R.C. SproulTime for a Ligonier Ministries and Sproul family recap.

Back in January RC Sproul Jr achieved the incredible feat of getting himself defrocked. Then barely a month later RC Sproul put his defrocked son on a podium behind a pulpit to teach and preach to brethren in Christ as though being defrocked meant nothing at all. By doing that both RC Sproul and RC Jr openly rebelled against church discipline.

The evidence and testimony used in the RC Sproul Jr defrocking case was overwhelming. Even more significant though is the fact that RC Jr and his Elders plead guilty to the charges. But that didn’t deter RC Sproul from publicly stating that the charges against his disgraced son were “fraudulent.”

That kind of an allegation necessarily slandered the RPCGA and every Elder of the Presbytery which voted to defrock RC Jr (which was all of them, since they voted unanimously). It’s one thing to defend your own flesh and blood. It’s another thing altogether to publicly slander the good name of a Presbyterian denomination, and the Elders who make up that denomination. Dr. RC Sproul has yet to repent of his slanderings.

What some people still don’t realize is that one of those RPCGA Elders that voted to defrock RC Sproul Jr is Dr. Donald Kistler of Soli Deo Gloria Ministries. In 2004 Soli Deo Gloria was acquired by Ligonier Ministries under what are being described as very questionable circumstances.

Frank Vance was the first to blow the lid off this incredible story. Vance alleges that Ligonier’s CEO Tim Dick defrauded SDG founder Don Kistler. Now it’s all over the internet. But it wasn’t Frank Vance who’s responsible for it getting it spread all over the internet. Ironically the story spread like wildfire entirely because of Tim Dick. How you might ask? It happened because Ligonier Ministries and Tim Dick filed a lawsuit against Frank Vance.

The actual lawsuit can be found at Ligonier Ministries, Inc. and Timothy Dick vs. Frank Vance.
Now hundreds and maybe thousands of Christian bloggers like Frank Vance are worried about the practical ramifications of Ligonier’s lawsuit. There’s a lot riding on this case and the first amendment freedom of speech rights of bloggers. Even more importantly many thousands of Christians are shaking their heads in disbelief that a stalwart of the Reformed faith and a biblical scholar like RC Sproul could be spitting all over the Bible by permitting his ministry to sue another Christian. First Corinthians 6 is real clear about this. Regardless of anything that Frank Vance has done Ligonier’s actions are inexcusable.

Some are choosing to put all the blame at the feet of Tim Dick, effectively letting RC Sproul off the hook. Even Frank Vance appears to be giving a pass to Sproul. I wish I could share Vance’s optimistic view of RC Sproul. I used to but I just can’t any longer. In my mind he lost all credibility when he claimed that the CREC would clear his son’s name. Obviously that never happened, but even if the CREC would have produced a Report that would have cleared his name every serious Presbyterian would have seen it for what it was — a total sham. RC Sproul is smarter than that, and for him to actually think that Doug Wilson’s boutique “confederation” could have cleared his son’s name in anyone’s eyes other than himself only proves how blind he is in matters that concern his own family.

Now on top of everything else that’s happened this year in the way of Sproul family scandals we now have this spectacle of Ligonier Ministries suing a Christian blogger. Where will it all end?

RC Sproul when will you repent?


This article is republished here at the request of the author.

RC Sproul Jr to Speak at Ligonier Ministries Conference. AGAIN!

RC Sproul Jr at churchI’ve been an admirer of Dr. RC Sproul for years. God has obviously gifted and equipped the man, and he’s been faithful to “preach the Word in season and out of season.” However given the way that he’s responded to the defrocking of his son, RC Sproul Jr, I’ve grown increasingly disillusioned with Dr. Sproul and must now question the man’s wisdom (I’d much rather question his common sense than his integrity).If you’ve followed some of my other articles here you know that I’ve been amazed by the family nincompoops that Dr. Sproul has entrusted his ministry to, such as Ligionier Ministries President Tim Dick, who also happens to be Dr. Sproul’s son-in-law and RC Jr’s brother-in-law. But Tim Dick is hardly the only evidence of nepotistic buffoonery at Ligonier Ministries. Incompetent and unqualified family members are to be found running around (or sleeping on the desk) everywhere in Ligonier, often in key positions, and generally with little or no understanding or appreciation for the Reformed theology championed by Dr. Sproul.

It would seem that Dr. Sproul’s priorities for his ministry have been seriously compromised by his willingness to use Ligonier as a form of job security for family members. Salaries and “perks” for family members at Ligonier are lavish and multiple times above and beyond what people of such meager job skills and work ethics could hope to secure outside of Ligonier. Ligonier’s credibility has suffered as a result, but it hasn’t caused Dr. Sproul to change course.

Doubly compromising Ligonier’s credibility is the question of RC Sproul Jr’s defrocking. As a father of several sons myself I’ve really tried to be sypathetic to Dr. Sproul over the shame and humiliation that “Precious” has brought on his family, especially on his father. But I’ll have to admit I can’t be empathetic because none of my children have ever done a thing to cause me anything that even remotely approaches that kind of public scandal. It’s a tough situation that I wouldn’t wish on any father.

I’ve tried to put myself in Dr. Sproul’s shoes and I’ve wondered, “What would I do?” One thing I’m confident that I wouldn’t do is to jeopardize my internationally respected ministry by parading out on the stage and putting behind a minister’s pulpit my defrocked son. That should be especially the case given that RC Sproul Jr continues to show no signs of repentance or remorse. What’s called for in RC Jr’s case is some “tough love.” Dr. Sproul may love his son very deeply, but what “Precious” really needs is a good paddling, not just more coddling.

If you’ve followed my brief blogging career you know that my very first blog article came about as a direct result of RC Jr’s appearance at the 2006 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. I’d posted some comments on Tim Challies’ forum about that. It became a hot topic of discussion. In just a matter of days Challies logged over 4000 visitors to just that one thread that I started, far more than he’d ever experienced before in such a brief period of time. Shortly after that Challies jettisoned his forum altogether, offering at the time some very suspicious (and very lame) excuses.

It’s unlikely that I would have ever started this blog at all had it not been for Tim Challies. Thanks Tim! Ligonier has you to thank!

Apparently Dr. Sproul learned nothing from the last time that he invited his defrocked son to speak. Ligonier Ministries has announced their 2007 National Conference. As always the lineup of speakers is impressive, that is until we come to “Our Special Guest, R.C. Sproul, Jr.”

A lot of folks were upset before that Dr. Sproul put his son behind a pulpit so soon after he’d been defrocked. Ligonier lost credibility over that and many questioned Dr. Sproul’s wisdom. Dr. Sproul and Ligonier’s credibility can’t help but be damaged again by RC Jr speaking at the 2007 conference.

Has anything, anything at all, changed since March 2006 and the last Ligonier Conference? Has RC Sproul Jr repented publicly, or even privately, to all those Saint Peter Presbyterian Church members that he tyrannized? Not as far as anyone can tell. Has RC Sproul Jr even been reordained? No, he hasn’t, and it doesn’t look like he ever will be.

In fact RC Jr’s ministerial status is one of the strangest things about this entire debacle. RC Sproul Jr is defrocked, but according to the CREC and their goofy Report “he shall not be required to fulfill the process for ordination and shall be considered ordained within the CREC accordingly.” If anyone is capable of explaining that in terms that the average human being from planet earth could comprehend I’d really like to hear it. It’s not just incomprehensible it’s crazy and bizarre.

To paraphrase a comment I saw recently on another blog, everywhere else in the world RC Sproul Jr is defrocked. But in the loony world of Doug Wilson’s CREC he’s ‘considered ordained’. It’s like saying that everywhere in the world Idi Amin is a murderous dictatorial thug and rapist. But in Libya he’s a dignitary with a clean record.

Now, on top of everything else, it looks like Ligonier has gone and plagiarized the name of my blog, “Contending for the Truth.” Could this be a mere coincidence that they picked that name for their 2007 National Conference? Unlikely. I’d sure like to know who the genius is who came up with that cute idea. Tim Dick? Or maybe the Ligonier “Director of Conferences,” Tim Dick’s 22 year old son Ryan (aka “partyboy”)?

Rules For Posting Comments: Your comments are welcome. All comments are moderated. There are very few comments that I reject, unless they’re off-topic to the subject of the article, or if it’s an issue or a question that I’ve already answered elsewhere. However I especially don’t appreciate Anonymous posts because of the confusion they cause. Use your real name or use an alias, but use a name and continue using the same name if you post here again later.

Kevin Swanson and RC Sproul Jr Team Up to Offend Home Schoolers

Kevin SwansonAs a home school father I’ve attended with my family various book fairs and home school conferences, so it’s inevitable that somewhere along the line we would have heard RC Sproul Jr speak. I’ll have to admit that I liked what I heard. In fact I was really impressed by what Mr. Sproul shared. He seemed sincere. But my life experience has also taught me that talk is cheap and that there are many preachers that don’t practice what they preach. That’s certainly proven to be the case with RC Sproul Jr. If Sproul were a man that practiced what he preached he never would have managed to get himself defrocked.

In the time since Sproul’s defrocking he’s come up regularly as a topic of discussion in our local home school group as well as our church. We’ve had some lively discussions. Some families initially were very supportive of him and critical of the RPCGA for having defrocked him. Some believed that the CREC would “clear RC Sproul Jr’s name.” But it didn’t work out that way. If Doug Wilson and the CREC weren’t capable of clearing Sproul’s name then no one ever will.

At this point everybody in our home school group has come to realize that RC Sproul Jr deserved being defrocked. Now our only remaining concern is when will Sproul get the hint and take up another line of work?

There remain a few Sproul diehards, men who are fiercely loyal, largely because they’re close personal friends of Sproul. They’re the kind of men who’ll put personal friendship above principle. They’re so loyal to Sproul that they’ll even jeopardize the credibility of the Christian home school movement to defend their pal. Among them are Doug Wilson, Doug Phillips and Kevin Swanson.

It’s taken a number of years and a lot of hard work for home schoolers to establish credibility. That credibility was earned long before lads like Sproul and Phillips and Swanson arrived on the scene to mass market their wares. The old-timer home school leaders didn’t home school to make a buck. Some of today’s home school leaders smell a buck and are cashing in. With that kind of leadership there’s just bound to be compromising.

The last thing the home schooling community needs is compromised men lousing things up for us. It’s not just RC Sproul Jr who’s lousing up the credibility of home schoolers everywhere. By stubbornly and obstinately (and blindly) supporting the defrocked Sproul, Doug Wilson, Doug Phillips and Kevin Swanson are also lousing up our credibility as home schoolers.

On February 23 I emailed Kevin Swanson, who’s the director of the Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC), over my concerns that CHEC had a defrocked minister listed as their keynote speaker for their big summer conference. Given that almost a month had passed since RC Sproul Jr’s defrocking on January 26 it seemed to me that they’d had plenty of time to get the news and decide whether or not they were going to keep him on the roster. I wanted to know what their plans were, and I wasn’t the only one. Everyone in our home school group wanted to know too:

Pastor Swanson,

I write to you because of our common interest and support of home schooling, and for maintaining the purity and peace of the church. Our rather large family is grateful to you and CHEC for the what you represent and the work you do. We’re starting to have some successes in our own little church with convincing other families of the importance of home education, but it hasn’t been easy to break through the ingrained statist traditions.

Now we’ve run into a snag, and I’m sad to say that the public impression you and your organization are making is part of our problem. It’s been brought to our attention that you are hosting a home school conference, as well as a family conference, that RC Sproul, Jr. is also a speaker at. Since you’re probably acquainted with Mr. Sproul, Jr. I need not point out to you that he was recently deposed from office by his Presbyterian denomination, the RPCGA.

We are Reformed and would probably be in a Presbyterian church, if there were any good ones around us. We have high regard for Presbyterian government, and so do most Presbyterians. It’s not a minor thing for a Presbyterian denomination to defrock one of their own Elders, and as I understand it the charges against him were grievous in nature.

Just as troubling is the fact that Mr. Sproul, Jr. appears to be functioning in open rebellion to the denomination that stripped him of his ordination by continuing to serve as “Elder,” merely by the majority vote of his own congregation. Even though we’re not Presbyterians ourselves, we know better than that, and certainly Mr. Sproul Jr knows better too. As a Presbyterian minister yourself I’m sure you’re well aware that Mr. Sproul Jr has no authority to call himself a “pastor.” Why then are you advertising him as “a pastor of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church in Southwest Virginia” for your Renewing the Family Conference?

What we can’t comprehend is why are you having a defrocked man speak at your conferences at all? How can you do such a thing? We don’t know if you’re asking Mr. Sproul Jr to speak at your conferences merely because you’re friends, but if that’s the case you should know better than to allow your personal friendships to trump your own principles.

It’s impossible for me to explain what you’re doing to our friends at church, including to those who have expressed an interest in home schooling and are now checking it out, to our homeschool group, and the incredible confusion you’re causing us. None of us can figure it out. It looks bad because it is bad, and it’s made worse by the fact that you haven’t made any public statements on your blog, or anywhere else that we’ve seen.

Perhaps you haven’t bothered to read the public documents on the defrocking of RC Sproul, Jr. Perhaps you believe by neglecting to do so you can avoid having to make a determination about what your moral obligations are. If that’s so then I’m even more disillusioned and disappointed, because that would be a matter of willful ignorance.

This isn’t a minor issue. It’s a matter of being consistent with what you publicly state about the values you claim to hold dear. I’d really like to know what you’re thinking about all this. Please do respond at your earliest convenience.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Frank Vance

To his credit Mr. Swanson did respond:

Dear Frank,

We too are concerned about RC Jr, and the situation relating to the RPCGA…

Here are several notes to be made, and lessons we have learned thus far from this sad situation.

1. We solicited RC’s participation and advertised his participation in our events prior to knowing anything whatsoever about any “trouble in River City.”

2. We do not require a man to be a pastor to be a speaker for our events.

3. I trust you have called R.C. Jr., and you have been in contact with the Presbytery of the RPCGA handling this over the last week or two, and you know that he has been “deposed without sanctions.” Our OPC Book of Church Order indicates this as a legitimate way to remove a man from office. This is done for “reasons other than delinquency in faith or life.” Please reference F.O.G. XXVI.2, 3

4. We have learned to never trust the ever-present bloggers with agendas. The “Flesh” is horrifically present on the web and pours out like a sewer into the minds and hearts of thousands (especially within the reformed world).

5. Presently, we are in a bit of holding pattern, as we are concerned about the way conflicts are handled in the reformed world, and the presence of flesh everywhere we look. We are studying the case, and whereas we cannot try the case in a formal judicial setting, we hope to gain some wisdom as to how we can arrange a future relationship with RC Jr.

In short, our session of elders are grieved.

I do thank you for taking the time to communicate with us and I wish God’s blessing on your family.

Kevin Swanson

Dear Pastor Swanson,

Thank you sir for your prompt and gracious reply. This is indeed a very sad situation.

I quite agree with your analysis of various blog commentary. Yes, there’s a lot of derogatory things I’ve seen as well. But I’m equally concerned about the propensity of some to want to just sweep it all under the carpet.

I’m equally concerned about the issue of homeschool groups and others hosting a newly defrocked minister for speaking engagements. I think it sends the wrong message, a stamp of approval if you will. It’s also causing a lot of people a lot of confusion. We can’t help but look to pastors as moral leaders, and when our moral leaders fail to act decisively and consistently with the judgment of a Presbyterian denomination that, for the most part, appears to be widely respected, it can’t helped but cause a lot of disillusionment.

Being deposed as an Elder is no minor thing, irrespective of whether or not it was done “without sanctions,” as you say. Before you draw conclusions about that though I’d recommend you study the RPCGA’s BCO, as have I. I don’t think you’ll find similar language in there. They seem to treat deposing itself as a very serious “sanction,” about as serious a sanction as it gets for a minister.

In trying to sort this all out (which is one reason I went to all the trouble of reading the BCO) I’ve tried to stay away from the blogs and rely instead on the RPCGA’s own official documents. The only place I’ve found them thus far is at

If you haven’t reviewed them I would urge you to do so.

Thank you Pastor Swanson for demonstrating that you are indeed concerned over this matter, as are we. You and your church will be in our prayers, as we know that you have some very difficult decisions to make.

Thank you for having taken the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me.


It turns out that I was completely wrong to have thanked Kevin Swanson for “demonstrating that you are indeed concerned over this matter, as are we.”

In the end my concerns, and the concerns he heard from others as well, didn’t in any way serve to dissuade Kevin Swanson. He and his CHEC board of directors went forward with their decision to have RC Sproul Jr speak at their Denver home schooling convention. Swanson’s friendship with RC Sproul Jr is more important to Kevin Swanson than maintaining the integrity and reputation of Christian home schooling.

I’ve heard several reports that numerous CHEC members are very displeased with their board of directors, and in particular with Kevin Swanson. Swanson should think seriously about stepping down as director for CHEC.

There’s another chapter to this story, but I’ll save that for another day.

R.C. Sproul Jr Defender Admits He Was Wrong

It’s not everyday that a defender of RC Sproul Jr can admit that he was wrong. In fact it hasn’t hardly ever happened yet, at least that I know about. When it does happen it’s worth publicly noting.

Blogger Carson Allen is truly to be commended. Hopefully others will soon start following Carson’s noble example. Really, it’s not all that difficult. Just take a deep breath, gulp, and say, “I was wrong.”

I’ve posted several comments to Carson’s blog in the last few months, including a few which he’s either not seen or perhaps even ignored. A few days ago I posted this comment to his article, Presupositions Apologetics Is Biblical”:

Thanks for the article Carson. Glad to hear that you’re a presuppositional apologist. Me too. However presuppositions that are devoid of scriptural or factual support can quickly just turn into Jean Dixon-like prognostications. Take for example this presupposition: “Bottom line: The C.R.E.C. will exhonarate the defroked R.C. J.R. they will bring there plight before the reformed world for all to see and make a decision for themsleves. You must be willing to at least hear the other side of the story.” Well, actually that was a prediction. The presupposition on which it was based was “The charges against RC Sproul Jr are fraudulent and therefore he’s innocent.” That presupposition led you to make the prediction that the CREC would “exonerate” Sproul. But the CREC didn’t exonerate Sproul did they? We’ve all now heard “the other side of the story” and it’s a story that doesn’t seem to differ in any significant way from the RPCGA’s Declaratory Judgment.

So what went wrong Carson? Was your presupposition wrong? Or could it be that the presupposition was correct and the CREC acted contrary to it? Are you now prepared to abandon your presupposition and admit that you were wrong, or will you continue to argue that your presupposition is correct and everyone else is wrong?

Then today I received the following email from Carson:

Dear Vance

My presupposition was never that the accusations by the R.P.G.A. where fraudulent. Please consider the following.

1. I have only met R.C. J.R. once in my life. He came and spoke at a local Church in my Town in 2002. I still attend that church. I would have never found this Church had it not been for R.C.J.R. coming and speaking there. By the Grace of God I have formed many life long relationships with those of my church body.

2. I have no clue of what relay hapens at the Highlands Study Center or S.P.P.C. Obviously you do.

3. I just couldn’t Bare the thought that J.R. Would be such a tyrant that you and others accuse him of being. I have read all of his books, and the book “Bound for Glory” completely changed my life.

So if he is the tyrant that you say he is, I believe he needs to repent. He has caused me to stumble. I looked up to him, and I don’t even know him. I would love to have a cup of coffee with him one day and ask him some questions. I just wish he would publicly come forth and repent. I also believe it is unfair to use the tithes of s.p.p.c. to fund the Highlands Study Center without them knowing. If they want to then great, but if not, there is some explaining to do.

Be that as it may; I will no longer come to the aid of his defense, because I don’t know enough about him to do such.

Thank you and God Bless

Carson Allen

I emailed Carson back and said, “You’re a brave young man. It takes a big man to be able to admit that he was wrong. I commend you for that.”

It’s a pity that there aren’t more young men with Carson’s integrity. Carson probably has a good pastor/shepherd who’s a humble man that sets a good example for his flock. You can tell a lot about a pastor by the behavior of his flock. If a shepherd is humble, compassionate and caring generally his flock will be as well.

But if a shepherd is proud, self-righteous, and defensive with a big plank in his eye generally his flock will be as well. From everything I’ve heard of the foolish self-righteous defenses that have been thrown up by the followers of RC Sproul Jr it’s obvious that he and his followers fall into the latter category.

I’m much encouraged by Carson’s reversal. Now if we could only get Doug Wilson to admit that he’s all wrong about RC Sproul Jr. Okay now Doug, try this. Really, it’s not all that difficult. Just take a deep breath, gulp, and say, “I was wrong.”

Rules For Posting Comments: Your comments are welcome. All comments are moderated. There are very few comments that I reject, unless they’re off-topic to the subject of the article, or if it’s an issue or a question that I’ve already answered elsewhere. However I especially don’t appreciate Anonymous posts because of the confusion they cause. Use your real name or use an alias, but use a name and continue using the same name if you post here again later.

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.