When Shepherds Allow the Sheep to Be Attacked

The calling of a shepherd, by definition, is to care for the sheep. That includes nurturing, feeding, and protecting. On occasion, if the sheep is straying, it can involve correction and discipline. But attacking or abusing the sheep violates that calling and is offensive to the Good Shepherd.

At a recent meeting of a presbytery (not my own), as was reliably reported to me, a young minister, speaking on the floor of the meeting, used the terms a “ruthless wolf” and “Jezebel” to describe a member of the denomination who was not present, a member in good standing. The presbytery meeting, as is normal in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, was open to the public.

My purpose here is not to comment further on the speaker—I don’t think I need to. He may be facing ecclesiastical charges, and I abhor doing church discipline on social media. In any case, he will be afforded due process which he fails to grant the sister whom he attacks.

What appalled me is that, although two presbyters rose to object to that language being used against a member in good standing, the presbytery allowed the speech to continue. While the speaker is accountable for his choice of words, the body as a whole bears responsibility for what it allows as acceptable ecclesiastical discourse. The terms used refer to enemies of the cross. The presbytery permitted them in an attack on a sister who is a member in good standing.

Any attack by a shepherd against the sheep is abhorrent. But when a body which is a group of shepherds allows that kind of speech, it is giving tacit approval to abuse. Addressing my fellow presbyters, this ought not to be. Not only do we need to guard our own tongues and pens (and fingers on keyboards), but we need to take responsibility for what we allow as acceptable discourse. To my brothers in the presbytery involved, I plead with you: you can do better than this.

A presbytery allowing this kind of language on the floor is not the core of the problem. Behind it lie some deep issues, including whether we value one another, male and female, as fellow images of God, and whether we are using our ecclesiastical authority to serve the flock (for which the Good Shepherd laid down his life) or to protect ourselves. Our heart issues will not be resolved by sustaining points of order. But that might be a small, but significant, first step.

Peter addresses those he calls fellow elders: “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:2–4, ESV)

Gaffin on Calvin on Ezekiel

gaffinWhat is the relationship between faith and works in justification? Recently someone pointed me to this post: Faith Without Works is Dead — John Murray, which I forwarded to several people. Dr. Richard B Gaffin was reminded of something he had written some time ago. He forwarded it to me and gave me permission to post it here. If  you prefer a pdf copy, click on Calvin on Ez. 18, 17.

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Calvin on Ezekiel 18:14-17 Justification, Faith and Works

Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: [15] he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, [16] does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, [17] withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. (ESV)

A passage from Calvin’s commentary on Ezekiel 18:14-17 has the distinction of being among the last, perhaps the last, of his comments on the relationship among justification, faith and works (progressive sanctification*), having apparently been written shortly before his death in 1564. Also, it is perhaps as pointed as Continue reading

Advice from Ned B. Stonehouse

kingdom_and_churchOne kingdom? Two kingdoms? How are the kingdom and the church related? Such questions bounce around in books, exchanges of articles, and blog posts. I was recently reminded of a foundational, very helpful work: The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church, by Geerhardus Vos (P&R Publishing, reprinted 1972).

In a side discussion during a committee meeting a few weeks ago Richard B. Gaffin quoted the late Ned B. Stonehouse as telling his students, “Every minister of the gospel ought to read Vos’ The Kingdom and the Church once a year.” Although I have read the little book (about 100 pages) a couple of times, and have used it more frequently as the Scripture index has been helpful in finding sections dealing with preaching texts, I was motivated to take Stonehouse’s counsel. The advice was Continue reading

One reader’s impression of Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views

A few weeks ago on a week of (mostly) vacation I found time to finish reading this book, which arrived in early June. The publisher’s description is:

Publisher’s Description: In recent decades biblical hermeneutics has been an ever-expanding field of thought and research, with new viewpoints unfolding and debated. The views selected for this volume cohere with a broad center of orthodox interpretation of Scripture. But while they share a common ground and a collection of common tools, their distinctive emphases are at points profound.
In Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views five proponents of differing hermeneutical approaches each describe their approach to interpreting Scripture, put it to work on Matthew 2:13-15, and respond to their dialogue partners. The discussion is introduced and concluded by the editors.

The five views and their essayists are:

Historical-Critical/Grammatical, Craig Blomberg
Literary/Postmodern, F. Scott Spencer
Philosophical/Theological, Merold Westphal
Redemptive-Historical, Richard B. Gaffin Jr.
Canonical, Robert W. Wall

Anyone interested in the ongoing quest to responsibly interpret Christian Scripture for the church will find this a wonderfully informative and constructive dialogue.

224 Pages
Published June 2012

As you gather from above, each author presented his view, then each has a chapter responding to the others, focusing on Matthew 2:13-15 and its use of Hosea 11:1. Given the composition of this forward list, it will come as no surprise that it was the identity of the author of the Redemptive-Historical view that prompted me to purchase and read. I have read his two chapters carefully Continue reading