Friday, November 11, 2005

Aren't Sovereign Grace Ministries Worth Bothering About?!?!

*Update Friday 9th March 2007* - Mahaney now rates his speaking engagement at MacArthur's church along with speaking in place of John Piper as two of the highlights in his ministry. The question is asked "In summary does CJ's appearance on the stage at a MacArthur conference as a preacher mark the beginning of a new phase for the whole church or the beginning of the end of the charismatic era for some?". It's a good question. It depends whether you think that SGM reflect true charismatic life in the USA. Remember that prior to Toronto they kept themselves to themselves and showed quite clearly that they were not interested in having churches join their ranks. Post-Blessing when they "chose Geneva over Toronto" they were far more reformed than charismatic anyway. The question has to be asked - when was the last time anyone heard Mahaney preach on anything avidly charismatic while appreciating being welcomed into the MacArthur reformed fold?

I read this quote and I couldn't resist a brief comment. If you remember I was particularly interested in the visit of C J Mahaney to John MacArthur's church (the vehement anti-charismatic of "Charismatic Chaos" fame and yes ... the Tortilla Lady who represents all who believe in signs and wonders naturally).

We were assured by Ligon Duncan III that by no means was John MacArthur going "soft" on his anti-charismatic views, therefore I asked the question ... is C J Mahaney and by default SGM going soft on their charismatic views? There is of course no answer, because SGM are too busy thinking about the Cross, and everybody else loves them.

However blogger Phil Johnson (who by the way is John MacArthur's right hand man) wrote this:

"While I'm at it, let me say that if all charismatics were of the Mahaney/Piper/Grudem variety, I probably wouldn't pick a fight over our differences on the charismata. That's not to say I approve of any kind of charismatic mysticism, but if no one ever went any further than, say, the typical guy from Sovereign Grace Ministries, I don't think I would spend much energy arguing against them".

Link: http://phillipjohnson.blogspot.com/2005/11/some-odds-n-ends-before-i-lapse-into.html

Is that a good thing? I suppose it is if you don't think that the charismatic issues are worth fighting about. But what charismatic issues are those? If you are a Reformed Charismatic as I am, then the Word of God tells me that there is a rich glorious inheritance that is called the Sealing of the Spirit that is the birthright of all Christians, and also church life should be a rich glorious tapestry of 'every member minstry' where unbelievers fall down and exclaim "God is truly among you!". Why do they exclaim that? Not because of the preaching (according to my ESV Bible) but because of the prophetic.

Is it a good thing that Philip Johnson wouldn't bother arguing against Sovereign Grace Ministries? Time will tell I guess ... but this only adds to my suspicions as to where SGM are going. I wonder how long that 'charismatic dimension' will survive.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wowwwwwwww ... ha ha ha!!

That is so so interesting!! I didn't think you would be right when I read about Mahaney going into the den of MacArthur ...

But you are!!

J.I.P said...

I think I would be happier if Phil Johnson WAS fighting against me on charismatic issues actually. Hmm ...

x

John said...

You say, “If you are a Reformed Charismatic as I am, then the Word of God tells me that there is a rich glorious inheritance that is called the Sealing of the Spirit that is the birthright of all Christians, and also church life should be a rich glorious tapestry of 'every member ministry' where unbelievers fall down and exclaim "God is truly among you!". Why do they exclaim that? Not because of the preaching (according to my ESV Bible) but because of the prophetic.” And you are right to make a few inferences as you do about every member ministry and that the sealing of the Holy Spirit is the heritage of every believer.

I get the point that Paul was stressing to the Corinthians that the proper exercising of the prophetic gifts among them was what was going to convince strangers coming in. However the contrast is not ‘prophecy versus preaching’ but rather ‘prophecy versus tongues.’

More seriously, those who came in were convinced not only by those who spoke prophetically but by ‘all’ which includes those who heard as well as those who spoke. The hearing of the Word, aye, and the doing of it even outside the confines of the meeting as well, are both parts of that rich tapestry of which you speak.

Still more seriously, it might be conjecture on my part but you seem to give the impression that cessationists can’t have the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Think outside the box for a bit — Will it change your attitude if you come to realise that it is otherwise?

Sorry if my conjecture is wrong, by the way, but if I’m right you have some rethinking to do. And so does your anonymously cowardly correspondent who responded first but I think we should maybe leave him to his own sniggering.

Anonymous said...

I am not so amazed that gifted teachers are accepting C.J. as a charismatic as I am that they are accepting him as a self proclaimed "apostle." I was heavily involved with SG and I left very disapointed by C.J.'s false humility; always claiming to be proud so everyone can call him humble for doing so. The fact of the matter is that he has a serious issue of autonomy (pride) that needs to be repented of. He has no authority to claim himself to be the head of the church!

jul said...

I would personally be careful of judging a leader of the church if I were you anonymous. Whatever else C.J. may be I believe he really does love God and the churches he has authority over. In over 6 years being involved with SGM, I have not discerned anything truly disturbing in C.J. Yes, I'm sure he has pride, as we all do, but it is actually better to know you have pride and freely admit. The question of him speaking at MacArther's church is truly a problem for me. I am not interested in being a part of a nominally 'charismatic' church. I want to be where all of Scripture is being or trying to be practised, not just the gifts we happen to be comfortable with because they don't require as much faith. However, as we continue the struggle to see what God is doing in our personal lives, it has been good for me to see that God is working in SGM, and it has a part to play in the outworking of the universal church, just as I'm sure MacArthurs church does. Let's remember that just because people don't believe in the gifts, doesn't mean they don't practise any of them! God is sovereignly powerful and in control of all his sometimes foolish children, including me.
Thanks for posting that quote. We will be discussing these issues with our pastors soon and will probably bring that up.

Anonymous said...

I may be judgmental but that does not mean that CJ is right for exalting himself as an apostle. I just don’t see how anyone can look past such a serious assault upon the Holy Scriptures. Many men and women died to proclaim Sola Scriptura so there would be no ecclesiastical abuse of self-proclaimed apostles and popes. Do you know about Wayne G’s book, Bible Doctrine? CJ and his colleagues cut the sections of church discipline and church government out before publishing because they believe that Christians don’t need to know about those subjects. That’s scary!

jul said...

We have been taught on both church discipline and church government, so I'm not sure that's the reason why it was left out. Bible doctrine was meant to be more basic and concise, so some things would have to be cut. I would rather those be cut than a section on the atonement or other more essential doctrine. Anyone who wants to learn more should get Grudem's Systematic Theology. I personally don't have Bible Doctrine but I love the Systematic Theology one.
At our church, (SGM) the founding pastor was asked to step down because of his pride. He had not been responding to correction and his family was not bearing good fruit. (his son was rebellious ect...) We watched church discipline carried out according to Scripture, the pastor read a public confession of his sin and continues to attend our church as a member a few years later. I truly believe that if the apostolic team (or leadership team) saw sin issues in C.J.'s life that disqualified him for Biblical leadership, that C.J. would be asked to step down and I have no doubt that he would comply. Do you have a problem with all the gifts or just apostleship? You do realize that we do not equate the gift of apostleship with the New Testament apostles such as Paul? We believe that basically it is a leadership that involves planting and overseeing churches. Do you go to a church where there is no one functioning as church planters or overseers? Where there is no leadership above your pastor? I'm trying to understand the position you're coming from. I know the word apostle is scary if you misunderstand it. Also, we don't call anyone apostle as a title, it's not Apostle C.J. Our own senior pastor is also on the apostolic team. It is more of a term to describe how he functions in our group of churches. But again, maybe you don't believe in the gifts of the Spirit?
It's strange that I'm here defending a group of churches that I'm almost convinced we'll be leaving soon. I know SGM is not perfect and have their own problems, so don't get me wrong. I'm just not seeing this one.

Anonymous said...

SG does emphasize that a pastor should have his household in order. This is great because most Reformed neglect this very important qualification. But it seems that SG neglects the command that a man must be able to teach. Our old SG pastor was clueless about theology and I know others that are as well (some are very good with doctrine). This lack of biblical knowledge may be the reason why CJ is still above everyone. Church government is extremely important! The early church fathers insisted that there be no “pastor of pastors” (I can look this up for you, if you’d like). They knew that there would be men that would try to lord over the church, and sure enough out comes the papacy! I don’t believe in apostolic succession except for the fact that authority has been handed to the elders. I just can’t see how everyone can look over the numerous passages about how the church is to be ran by a plurality of elders. SG churches can do very little without the approval of one of the “apostolic members.” The people cannot even vote for the pastor of their choice. This is disturbing and unheard of since the days of Rome. Charles Spurgeon – whom they claim to just love –passionately stated that the church should be able to choose their pastor. Those men in SG are on an authority-high, not a spiritual high. This is not to say that there is no godliness to them. They do have some great qualities, but that lording-over must stop. It’s bad! Trust me!

Can I ask why you are leaving?

Sincerely,
Mike Spreng

jul said...

My husband feels called to be a pastor and we want to go back to Canada (where I'm from) to plant churches eventually. Our pastors have been very supportive of us and wanted to send us to the pastor's college, but we are unsure of what God wants us to do. We think he may be leading us to go back to New Frontiers. (this is a long story, there's a bit more about it on my blog) One of our concerns is the practise or lack of practise of some of the gifts. There are some other concerns that would become more important if we did plant a church, such as spiritual warfare. We have had no teaching on this in our 7 years here. We will be meeting soon with a couple of our pastors to discuss this stuff. We love the reform theology and teaching on marriage and parenting and I know God sovereignly brought us here, but it may now be time to go. I guess you probably don't feel much better about New Frontiers though! I have no problem with this church government, and see nothing in Scripture to refute it. Let me know if you have Scripture to support your view. I grew up in a congregationally run church and saw many many problems with it. Frankly, if any of my pastors were 'lording it over" us I would confront them right away. I have not experienced anything like this yet, in two different SGM churches. I'm sure it probably happens, but I know it does also in the voting system. Do you attend a church now?

Anonymous said...

I am a church planter in America for a small reformed "denomination." I don't see why the lord would be bringing you to "Frontiers." You are safer in SG. Read this article and then let me know if you want more on this.

http://opc.org/OS/html/V4/1d.html

Mike

jul said...

I found the article interesting, but still no Biblical reference to voting. I believe in a plurality of elders also, as does SGM and I believe New Frontiers. I still think this government comes closest to New Testament church government. Obviously, we don't have a clear cut instruction book for this. As far as being safe, I'm not really interested in it. I'm only interested in following God wherever he leads and trusting him with our lives. We've been hurt before, and I grew up in a pastor's family where we were hurt far more ( in the good old congregational run churches). These things will happen and God will use them to change us and correct us and grow us. In the end, they should humble us and make us more godly. Thanks for the info. I would be glad to read more on it as I haven't studied it a great deal and am just telling you my overall understanding of Scripture. I've gone from arminian/non-charismatic to reform charismatic so I guess I would consider myself open to change as God reveals truth to me. But unless He reveals it (according to Scripture of course), there will be no change. I happen to consider the issue of church government very important.

Joel said...

I come at this from a different perspective: I see no problem with truly constituted Biblical authority, but believe that it was handed down via the apostles. Who gave SGM the right to go out and start yet another denomination? Can they truly not work with anything else out there? Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

Joel, you must be a Roman Catholic. They are those that claim to come from the apostles. If you believe in apsostolic succession you should definitely be in th RC church.

Jul, you sound like a very zealous person; this is good if bridled by good doctrine, which I don’t believe you will find at Frontiers! SG says they believe in a “plurality” but they don’t. They believe that the “senior” pastor has more authority than the other pastors. This is not a plurality. They us the Roman philosophy of “first amongst equals,” which is NOT SCRIPTURAL. Look at that article again and look up the verses. They will show you that all pastors have equal authority. There is no Scripture that shows a Pope or “pastor of pastors.” Also, where are the deacons at SG? Paul COMMANDS that we have deacons. Paul is an apostle and prophet, and the words of the prophets are the words of God; Law! This is not the only doctrine that CJ is erroneous in. He also preaches “Sonship Theology;” worshiping the doctrine of justification rather than the one who justifies, and thereby denies the process of sanctification. He thinks we are always trying to earn our salvation so we always need to be preaching the doctrine of justification (or, “the gospel”) to ourselves rather than loving the Law as the Psalmist and Christ says we should. This is grievous error! Your best bet is to study correct doctrine (I would be more than happy to recommend a list of books) and plant a church on your own.

Who's blog is this anyway?

Mike

jul said...

You are giving me some intesting things to think about. I just read Romans yesterday as my Dad challenged me to do , and especially looking at the issue of indwelling sin, and life in the Spirit ect... Yes, I am a passionate person and my husband is sometimes trying to calm me down, but in 10 years it has yet to have an effect! But seriously, if we go with Newfrontiers, it will be because we agree in doctrine with them, at least for the most part. This is after studying Scripture for ourselves. I'm not sure how we all get such different things out of the same Bible, especially since we have the same Spirit, but it appears that we do. Some things are obviously subjective, but hopefully we agree on salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the only saviour Jesus Christ our Lord. By the way, I already looked up all the Scripture in the article. I would be happy to hear what books you recommend , however, I was taught at an early age the Bible is the only authority. Not that I don't read other books, but I hope to be a discerning reader. Ironically, it was this very teaching (that the Bible is always right) that eventually led to me leaving that denomination. I love how God works! How can I be bitter against the church that gave me so much, whether they are right or wrong about a host of other things? God is indeed gracious and works sometimes in the unlikliest of places.

Anonymous said...

We don't have the authority to learn the Bible without teachers. This is why there are so many cults and sects out there.

Joel said...

No, I am not a Roman Catholic, I am an Anglican. Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans also believe in apostolic sucession. The early church, the one right after the close of the NT believed in it too. Unless you believe that you can start at the NT, and leapfrog to the Reformation, then you should believe in it too. Study the church fathers, they emphasized the necessity of succession as a safegaurd of doctrine.

Who gives anyone the right to simply go start a new church or churches simply because they feel like it? Even Paul submitted to the Apostles at Jerusalem, he didn't just go start a new church of Paul.

Anonymous said...

Joel,
you bring a valid point. Many don't understand that the Church was in the hands of Rome up until the reformation. We have to believe in some kind of succession, otherwise the church could not continue in time itself. With that, we must believe that Rome has the succession, although grievously in error. We were and should be her "Protestants" but today Protestants do not believe in protesting and reforming, rather, most believe in autonomy; starting their own succession and claiming to be superior (not in these words but by their actions) over the other churches. It seems that Protestants today are not willing to work through problems, rather, they are willing to "agree to disagree," which is found nowhere in the Scriptures. Splitting is endless and will only bring the church into more termoil.

Mike

Joel said...

I agree Mike. I think the origins of the Reformation in 'divorce' from Rome have produced a divorce culture in which churches split all the time, denominations split all the time, and marriages split all the time.