Composing a Doctrinal Statement [Church and State]

Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I shared my own doctrinal statement, a section at a time, in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement a church might use that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.

I’ve recently been working on an additional point, covering the relationship between church and state, and the political nature of the local church. I’d like to take the time to make notes on my wording choices, as I did with the other sections; but for now, I’ll share what I have in its entirety, and I welcome any questions or suggestions.

Church and State: We believe the church and state ought to remain distinct as institutions. God has delegated certain authority to various spheres, or governments—namely, the household, the local church, and the civil magistrate. Neither the family nor the church exists by the permission of the state. Nor does the civil magistrate bear the authority of the keys of the kingdom to declare individuals as citizens of Christ’s kingdom. Nor should the church swing the sword as a civil authority.

This distinction between the institutions of church and civil government ought not be construed, however, to mean that religion and politics should, or can, be separated. The religious convictions of individuals ought rightly to shape and direct their every action—including the policies, strategies, penalties, and measures employed by those in governing positions. Christians ought to seek to influence for good the public square, including the policies of the civil magistrate, through whatever course be available to them. Nor ought this be construed to mean that churches must not speak to political issues. Within the commission to make committed and competent disciples by teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded, churches are to teach what accords with proper justice, righteousness, mercy, and peace. Churches ought also to call upon the magistrate to uphold justice and to acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ, demonstrating the peace and righteousness of the coming King, to whom the nations owe their fealty.

The ordinance of the civil magistrate is established by God in Genesis 9 as the means for man to uphold civil justice under the administration of the Noahic covenant. The governing authorities that exist are in place by the providence of God to punish evildoers and to protect the lives of the innocent under their watch. God has delegated to the civil magistrate the power of the sword in order to be a servant of God for good, to establish the justice and tranquility needed for their people to be secure in their person and property and to pursue virtue and godliness. The civil magistracy receives its authority from the ordinance of God, and rulers must never presume to act above or outside the Noahic commission, recognizing rather that they too are subject to the justice mechanism of the Noahic covenant. God has delegated the authority of the sword to civil government for certain ends only, and its rule is legitimate to the extent it pursues just ends by just means.

The church is not the kingdom, but is an outpost, or embassy, of the coming kingdom. Jesus has been given possession of all authority in heaven and on earth; he has been declared Lord over all creation. However, the political reality of his reign is not yet being exercised until he returns in power and glory to sit upon the throne in Jerusalem, thus establishing justice and peace over all nations. As an embassy of Christ’s coming kingdom, the church does not swing the sword for itself, but it does speak on behalf of the coming king who will judge the nations at his return. As such, the church has a prophetic ministry to proclaim Christ’s lordship, and to teach the nations the proper standard of justice. The civil magistrate ought to govern by the standard of Scripture, as taught by the local church, so as to uphold justice and minister for good as ordained by God; yet the church is not to coerce the state, just as the state is not to coerce the church.

Christians are to render submission and respect unto the governing authorities in all things lawfully commanded by them. The Christian’s first and highest allegiance is to Jesus Christ, though Christ calls us to seek the well-being of the country in which we reside and to submit to the governing authorities. The Christian must not obey rulers when they command that which Scripture forbids, or forbid that which Scripture requires. We are to offer supplications and prayers for all who are in positions of authority, that under them we might lead peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness, piety, and dignity—which ought to be the aspiration of all men.

It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto. In the managing thereof, they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth. To that end, they may swiftly carry out the just retribution of the wicked, and may lawfully wage war, upon just and necessary occasion, for the defense of borders. We affirm the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel.

(Genesis 9:5–7; 41:39–43; 1 Samuel 8:10–20; 2 Samuel 23:3–4; Nehemiah 12:26; 13:15–31; Psalm 2; 82; Proverbs 8:15–16; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Jeremiah 29:7; Daniel 2:48–49; Matthew 14:4; 16:18–19; 18:15–20; 22:21; 25:31; 28:18–20; Mark 12:17; Luke 3:14, 19; 19:11–27; Acts 5:29; 17:6–7; 24:25; Romans 1:5; 13:1–7; Ephesians 1:20–23; Philippians 2:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:10–12; 1 Timothy 2:1–4; Titus 3:1–2; 1 Peter 2:13–17)

Moore About that Invitation to “Go Home”

Below, you’ll find some running observations on the unmatchingly emotionally loaded topic of Beth Moore. I pray it may be helpful to some.

If you’re on the internet at all—or you know someone who is—you’ve almost certainly heard something about John MacArthur’s now-infamous invitation to Beth Moore to “go home” [video]. Of course, the reactions were immediate and explosive. John MacArthur has “attacked” Beth Moore; there’s no excuse for such a vile, violent, immature mockery of a fellow Bible teacher. Many have declared (with a not insignificant amount of virtue signaling) that, due to this two-word response and the laughter it garnered, they have “lost all respect for John MacArthur.” Mrs. Moore expressed her opinion via twitter that this was a “shameful” example of “misogyny,” even as she asked her followers not to return insult for insult.

I’m assuming you have seen or heard the reactions of others already, whether positive or negative, so my goal here is simply to fill in a few of the cracks in the discussion.

What’s wrong with her preaching?

If by “preaching,” we simply mean teaching the Bible, well, there’s not necessarily a problem with a woman “preaching” in that sense (depending on the context). If by “preaching” we mean the announcing of the gospel, with no reference to context, well, of course there’s nothing wrong with women giving the good news. But if by “preaching” we mean a woman expounding the text authoritatively to a congregation of men and women, in a way that binds the conscience in directing how one might obey Christ, well, others have dealt abundantly with the problem here as explained by Paul in 1 Timothy 2; but, of course, this is what Mrs. Moore and others would prefer to reinterpret in light of our enlightened cultural progress.

Now, if by “preaching” we mean the particular style and homiletical techniques employed in the communication of the Word, then let me explain something that I think most women do not consider, because it doesn’t affect them the way it does men, and thus is not as readily apparent. When a woman “preaches”—in this sense of having authoritative and powerful communication techniques—it actually comes across as aggressive, and is thus repelling to masculine men. This is, at the basic level, because masculine men value and appreciate and are attracted to feminine women; and when a woman preaches in this authoritative, aggressive manner, she’s actually becoming less feminine in order to do it. And just as men assuming effeminate manners is nauseating (particularly in the pulpit), women donning the trappings of masculinity is repulsive. The pulpit is reserved to men because of the inherently combative nature of preaching. And, as Pastor Wilson often points out, when a woman steps onto the front lines of conflict, either the nature of the combat changes, or the nature of femininity changes, and often both.

But the fundamental reason a woman is not to teach or have authority over a man, is not that she is inferior, not because she is incapable of theological study, not because she is unable to effectively communicate truth (obviously none of that is true), but because that’s how God designed it from the moment of creation (1 Tim. 2:13).

What’s wrong with her teaching?

But is there anything actually problematic in Beth Moore’s teaching? The actual content of her instruction? I’ll share more specific critiques at the bottom of the post; but for now, I’ll simply quote Pastor Tom Buck on the matter.

Beth Moore:

1) Claims Jesus talks to her and she recounts the exact words exchanged between the two of them… including things like Jesus telling her to “come out and play” to “build a snowman” and calling her “honey” and “babe” when they talk.

2) Claims to get revelation, knowledge, and directions from God that she records and speaks: “God began to say to me, ‘I’m gonna say something right now, Beth. And boy you write this one down. And you say it as often as I give you utterance to say it.’”

3) Claims God speaks to her in visions. “… something God showed me sitting out on the back porch…. I’m a very visual person. So he speaks to me very often by putting a picture in my head…”

4) Promotes and partners with known false teachers like Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen (just google it). Claims that God gave her a vision that churches that preach a false gospel (e.g., Roman Catholicism) are part of the true church.

5) Violates God’s created order and usurps the role and function of an elder in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. She regularly assumes the function of teaching and leading men, including in corporate worship gatherings.

These are but a FEW examples.

The rest of Pastor Buck’s post is very worth reading, here.

To this list, I would add the numerous attacks Mrs. Moore has made on complementarianism, the issue of contemplative prayer, her increasing emotionalism (treating experience and emotion as a guiding principle, sometimes outweighing objective truth), social justice, her newfound softness on the issue of homosexuality (example)—even calling Christians who unqualifyingly teach that homosexuality is sin “hyper fundamentalists”, and devaluing the writing of the apostle Paul in order to defend her practice of preaching to men.

What’s wrong with listening to her?

But many who are made aware of the problems with Mrs. Moore’s teaching argue that it’s not all that bad, she doesn’t always say these things, so it’s okay to still listen to her. Indeed, I have long been reluctant to say that you should not listen to Beth Moore at all. But there does come a point (read the apostle John’s letters) when a teacher should be marked and avoided. I think we are there. We are responsible for whose teaching we put ourselves under (Galatians 1), and it’s just not enough to say that she has helpful things mixed in as well. It’s not worth it to sit at the feet of someone who misinterprets and defies the Word of God, simply because she’s an effective communicator and has some helpful things to say. Ideas have consequences, and theological error in some areas eventually seeps into and affects other areas. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Find a faithful pastor. Find solid women teachers who have some talks or have written some studies who may not be as prolific because they are busy serving as a wife and mother. It’s no longer wise to associate with, sit under, promote, or endorse Mrs. Moore.

And while I’m at it, since the damage is done… you ought also to steer clear of many other popular, prominent speakers such as Priscilla Shirer, Jen Wilkin, Rachel Hollis, Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Lysa TerKeurst, Lisa Bevere, Christine Caine, and Joyce Meyer, to name a few.

Now, regarding that heinously insensitive laughter…

Todd Friel asked John MacArthur to give a pithy response to the word (or name) he said. When Pastor MacArthur, who has always conducted himself with a statesmanly dignity and care, came back with the unexpected, and undeniably pithy response, “Go home,” what do you expect the reaction to be? Well, the reaction many people think would have been appropriate is audible gasps from the audience, perhaps with a number of the more mature pastors standing up and walking out of the room in appropriately woke disgust.

Ironically, Phil Johnson was much harsher toward Mrs. Moore than MacArthur, and yet somehow MacArthur seems to be getting all the heat. Yet after his pithy word-association response of “go home,” MacArthur’s comments were all as serious, careful, and weighty as his responses normally are. Do I think Pastor MacArthur was a bit harsher or more blunt than I would be? Yes. He probably would have done better to say his other comments without voicing the infamous “go home.” But our modern inability to objectively evaluate the truthfulness of the content when we find one’s tone distasteful means that I’m going to push the other way. Pastor MacArthur was not really very abrasive. Let’s think about it objectively.

So what was the deal with that raucous laughter? How DARE they?!

It seems that the laughter is the primary target of the internet outrage. The infamous laughter is seen as evidence that the whole event was some kind of locker room mocking and bullying session… an old boys club stuck in their outdated ways having a laugh at the expense of the innocent victim.

I am in no way arguing that Mrs. Moore has not been the victim of real mocking, or of even worse treatment than that. But allow me to offer another interpretation of that hearty laughter, in light of the culture (both secular and Christian) in which we find ourselves.

I believe the ill-famed laughter was not that of a mocking, immature locker room full of boys making fun of a poor victimized woman. In fact, this wasn’t a pastors conference, it wasn’t a room full of boys, you can hear the women laughing more clearly than the men. But this was, it seems quite clearly to me, the laughter of unexpected relief and delight at Pastor MacArthur speaking truth more bluntly and pithily than we’re used to from the politicized, feminized pulpit of today. (Oh, but now I’m in trouble for referring to something as “feminized”). It was the laughter of a congregation relieved to be given, by Pastor MacArthur’s statement, the opportunity to breathe in the midst of a culture that devours with the efficiency of piranhas anyone who would dare, oh, for example, give a pithy rebuke to a public Bible teacher who is out of line.

When Todd Friel said “Beth Moore,” there was initial laughter because of the way Friel introduced it, saying (sarcastically) that he was starting out with an “easy” one, which of course, was humorous precisely because of the tension surrounding the issues. So, when MacArthur gave his brotherly but blunt admonition, “go home,” it was as if he cut through the tension with a machete, and the audience, not knowing exactly what to expect (though the general theological sentiment of MacArthur’s comments would not be a surprise to anyone who knows anything about him; this is the conservative, inerrantist understanding of Scripture), they burst into laughter at the surprisingly light, witty, and straight-shooting response that perfectly spoke to the issue. You are out of your lane; you have ventured into an arena that is off limits; your true glory is in being a wife and keeper of the home (Ps. 128; Pr. 31; Titus 2; Ephesians 5)… reclaim that glorious calling.

A couple of resources to read for a fuller and better articulation of the biblical response:

Doug Wilson discusses the increasing trend of inviting women to preach on Sundays.

Toby Sumpter has an excellent post here.

Rachel Jankovic (a woman worth following) is helpful both here and in the video below.

Kyle Labosky shares some helpful thoughts on Pastor MacArthur’s tone.

Kyle Mann gives a balanced but not entirely positive (toward MacArthur) analysis of the controversy here.

Here’s a list of more critiques examining the specific issues with Beth Moore. Disclaimer: some of these resources are harsher than I would be, such as calling Moore a false teacher etc. Be willing to look past the angle or specific labels these critiques take, and honestly examine the content of Moore’s teaching they bring to light.

In that regard, I’ll quote Anthony DeRosse, a friend and pastor in Tampa:

Do I think she should stop teaching men? Absolutely.

Do I think she should go home in that regard? I do.

Do I think Beth Moore is being extremely unwise, and potentially misleading for a massive group of people? Yes.

Do I think she’s a heretic and a false teacher? I don’t.

…Being egalitarian and a continuationist is not enough for me to call you a heretic and a false teacher.

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Is Your Faith a Political Threat?

So it turns out that Christian convictions actually do matter in and affect the public square. The world rightly sees the church as dangerous. The Christian faith is a political threat. Not quite in the sense that an invading army is a threat to another country… but in the sense of a herald announcing the arrival of the king coming in judgment… in the sense of a community of citizens sojourning in a foreign land who are fiercely loyal to their king… in the sense of an embassy representing and proclaiming the rights of its coming king over all nations.

There are two groups of people who truly understand that threat of Christianity: those who are persecuted because of their Christian convictions, and those who do the persecuting.

Here is yet one more example of the world’s recognition of the truly dangerous nature of Christianity. Dutch authorities are investigating a number of pastors who signed the Nashville Statement on sexuality. They are threatening criminal charges against these pastors for signing an “anti-gay” Christian confession. (See the article here.)

Unfortunately, Denny Burk’s response and commentary on the subject appears a little soft. He seems to imply that the Dutch authorities shouldn’t feel so threatened by the Nashville Statement. He seems surprised that Dutch authorities care so much about “what is essentially a confessional statement.”

The problem, of course, is in the failure to recognize the public and political significance of Christian confessions. When those Dutch pastors signed their names to the Nashville Statement, they were declaring that their highest allegiance is to Christ, not to the Netherlands. Of course, the fact that they are baptized Christians ought to be enough to make that clear, but that’s not often the case anymore. The signing of a public statement articulating biblical morality (particularly one that has entered into the political eye to the degree that sexuality has) is simply another clear message to the nations that we serve a higher sovereign—we serve a king who demands the allegiance of all nations.

And as our allegiance to Christ increasingly comes into conflict with our ability to obey our earthly rulers, we need to be prepared to say with the apostles, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

To read more about the prophetic and political function of the church, I would recommend the book that shaped much of my thinking in this area: Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule. In that work, Leeman writes this:

Churches do not need to take up arms against the state in order to pose a threat to the state; they only need to oppose the gods upon which a nation’s political and economic institutions depend.

And, while the Nashville Statement is commendable, I would rather recommend the Fortified Nashville Statement as an even more faithful and sound articulation of the biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality.

“Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” — 1 Peter 4:19

Compassion and Common Sense

In his characteristically winsome-though-tart manner, Doug Wilson blogged yesterday about a common issue at the intersection of politics, economics, and Christianity…

One of the central problems that people who are both thoughtless and compassionate have is their simplistic tendency to argue that what is an obvious duty for an individual is therefore an equally obvious duty for a nation.

Read the rest of the post here.

Then enjoy this talk from pastor Wilson on “Winsome Tartness.”

Two More on Social Justice

Two more issues in the whole matter (I mentioned before another crucial distinction) are the definition of justice and the direction of obligation. The definition of justice is not what progressives would have us make it, and this is crucial in understanding the whole conversation. Justice is rendering to each person that which he is due. It’s unjust to murder you because you have a God-given right to life, for lack of a better term (“rights” has been grossly misunderstood and misused of late). You can’t appropriate my iPhone without my permission, because it’s mine, and I have a right to my own property. But do I have a judicial obligation to send $20 to a village in Africa to help provide them with clean water? Well, no; but it would be kind. That’s not justice, that’s charity. The social justice movement has so conflated the two that when they speak of “justice,” they almost unswervingly are referring to a matter of charity, or of skewed equity, but rarely matters of actual justice and injustice.

By “direction of obligation,” I simply mean that to argue that caring for the poor is not a matter of justice in the strictest sense, is not to say that we have no obligation in that area, only that our obligation is not to man, but to God as someone who calls on us to have compassion.

This article explains well the necessary distinction between justice and charity, or, to use another biblical word, between justice and grace. This, in fact, has serious implications for our understanding of the gospel itself, and that’s exactly why this distinction is so imperative.

Giving your money to the poor is not justice; it’s mercy. Taking other people’s money by force (whether through the government or any other means) and giving it to the poor is neither justice nor mercy; it’s injustice.

The folks at Cripplegate have made this crucial distinction before, and they say it again in this article critiquing those who claim that the SJ&G Statement is opposing the poor, with an excellent point about the validity of a “preach the gospel” approach to social change.

Tim Keller is one of the primary leaders of Christian social justice compromise, even though he seems to be oblivious to the fact that he’s one of the men the SJ&G Statement is specifically addressing. He recently responded to a question about his opinion on the statement. He danced around for a few minutes spewing nonsense, and this critique of his comments is well worth reading through.

Here are a few other articles of note:

Races Don’t Reconcile, Hearts Do

Does the Bible Require Wealth Redistribution and Equalization?

The Theological Problem with Tim Keller’s So-Called Social Justice


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Blogmatics—On Confessions of Faith

Blogmatics (i.e. what we at Ancient Paths believe)

You can find my own articulation of our beliefs in this post. But, the title of this blog being Ancient Paths, I thought it appropriate to also point to some of the old historic confessions that accurately represent the doctrinal beliefs we hold. So then…

Ancient Creeds

Though I take some exception with the specific wording here and there, I think the creeds have tremendously valuable formulations that, sadly, have been forgotten and ignored in much of modern Christianity. And, for that reason, we no longer have any moors by which to define historic Christian orthodoxy.

Confessions of Faith

I come from a tradition that typically has some rather considerable disdain for confessionalism. This is unfortunate for various reasons, and not necessarily characteristic of the older tradition of which I am a beneficiary. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself confessional, simply because of some of the connotations that term now carries. However, I think the historic confessions are indispensable to a robust understanding of theology, and I would consider myself to be more or less in line with these four confessions.

Some Modern Declarations

Again, with some minor differences in preferred wording, I have found the following declarations on specific topics (and two modern confessions) to be of considerable public value, and of tremendous personal benefit as well.

Extra Reading

I’ve found these confessions to be particularly helpful in their wording, for the most part, but unfortunately have some significant disagreements with the views expressed in one or more places.

  • Helwys’ Confession (1611) (with the exception of article 7 on falling from grace; but I especially appreciate his wording on election in article 5; particularly relevant to our day is article 16 on the appropriate size of a congregation—as Voddie would say, if you can’t say amen, you ought to say ouch)
  • The Standard Confession (1660) (a helpful Baptist confession, but my discomfort lies primarily in articles 12 and 14)
  • The Orthodox Creed (1679) (This is an important confession, but it’s problematic when it comes to the Adamic Covenant, and thus the active obedience of Christ)
  • A Short Confession or a Brief Narrative of Faith (1691) (This confession has some unfortunate wording concerning original sin and justification. Despite this, the sections on the extent of Christ’s death, providence, and election, are especially helpful)
  • New Hampshire Confession (1833) (This is a well-written Particular Baptist confession based loosely on the 1689; I disagree with their wording on Perseverance, and the Christian Sabbath, but the majority of the confession is solid)

For the Uncomfortable and/or Curious

If the idea of subscribing to historic confessions is new to you, you may find these articles from Founders Ministries helpful. Of course, Founders subscribes to the 1689 Second London Confession, which I disagree with at various points; however, their arguments and explanations are still valid and a very valuable introduction to the importance of utilizing the creeds and confessions.


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