Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Why I cannot and will not sign the "Social Justice and the Gospel Statement"


Throughout history, Christians have banded together to examine and respond to various crises, real or perceived. Creeds from the days of the Church Fathers, and confessions from the time of the Reformation are joined by petitions and tracts from the Puritan era into our own, local church confessions, associational, conventional, and denominational resolutions, and parachurch statements from a variety of pastors, scholars, and concerned parties: the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (1987), and the Nashville Statement among the main ones representing conservative evangelical Christian belief derived from the pages of Scripture. Now a new statement is live and being circulated for signatures, but this is one that I would rather history forgot. 

Purporting to address an alleged shift in evangelical circles away from the biblical gospel towards a false social gospel, the new Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel is driven by people I would like to believe are well-meaning but frankly not at all “getting” what those whom it primarily addresses are saying. That is at best. At worst, it represents a toxic agenda to discredit and undermine godly men and women crying out for biblical social justice, national and ecclesiastical repentance, and meaningful reconciliation. I certainly hope that this statement will not become a litmus test for orthodoxy, as if those who don’t sign it should be written off as “not sound”. If so the people implicated would include (barring the unlikely event one of them were to sign): Danny Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, Matt Chandler, H. B. Charles, Charlie Dates, Ligon Duncan, Mika Edmondson, Carl and Karen Ellis, Steve Gaines, Philip and Jasmine Holmes, Eric Mason, Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, Trillia Newbell, Preston and Jackie Hill Perry, John Piper, David Platt, Kevin Smith, Robert Smith, Walter Strickland, Ralph Douglas West, and so on and so forth. These are names of people off the top of my head listed alphabetically, all of whom have spoken out on abiding racial sin in America and its churches this year and many previous years. In their number are the very people the statement erroneously has in view as in some way abandoning the gospel for a social gospel. An examination of their ministries, their sermons, writings, music, and so forth should decisively demonstrate their Christo-centric, gospel ministries and serve as the context within which, the backdrop against which, the lens through which their (in my estimation very helpful and necessary) contributions should be understood.

Others will doubtless speak out on various part of the statement that concern them – and I may be inclined to later add their contributions as a post-script at the bottom of this post. For now though, here are some by no means exhaustive points on my behalf. I wrote and sent these by email several weeks ago, after receiving a draft of the statement with the request that I sign. I could not in good conscience sign then, and despite areas where the statement has been tweaked and in one instance substantially revised (revisions that I have taken into account to amend my response), I will not now. The statement remains in my view a cynical, misguided document that has been pitched by the wrong people, at the wrong time, in the wrong way, and with wrong ideas and understandings in the background. 
A response to points in the Social Justice and Gospel statement

1. We deny that the postmodern ideologies derived from intersectionality, radical feminism, and critical race theory are consistent with biblical teaching.

True enough, but these terms have been weaponised against godly men and women who are simply seeking justice and reconciliation. The godly men that the preamble says “we have long regarded as faithful and trustworthy spiritual guides.” 

3. We affirm that societies at times must establish laws that correct injustices that have been imposed through cultural prejudice.

 I am glad to hear it, but... establishing laws is not enough. Implementing those laws and their implications across the states of the nation and its structures and systems is very important. Unfortunately some of the people involved in this statement have indicated their belief that America’s systemic racism problem ended in 1968 as though the mere introduction of a law is enough to undo centuries of white against black racial prejudice. Also, when people discuss ways in which existing laws ought to be implemented and the damage of the past undone, some of the people involved in this statement have leapt to exclaim “Cultural Marxism!”, “Critical Race Theory!”, “All Lives Matter!” and similar.

We deny that true justice can be culturally defined or that standards of justice that are merely socially constructed can be imposed with the same authority as those that are derived from Scripture. We further deny that Christians can live justly in the world under any principles other than the biblical standards of righteousness. 

I agree. The problem again is how in practice some people who are here saying we should not impose or operate on merely socially constructed standards of justice have spoken against biblically derived efforts to reform justice at a social level. If their fire were reserved for mainstream theologically liberal churches in America I would have less of an issue, but the context of this statement is, as made clear in the preamble, faithful and trustworthy spiritual guides who are and been for some time standing up and speaking out. They are finally being noticed, leading especially months of unfair critique of the MLK50 conference and a couple of messages at T4G. At these conferences, theologically conservative brothers from a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds prophetically and practically addressed one of the most abiding sins of the nation and how for centuries it has infected churches across the USA. They did not present “merely socially constructed standards of justice”, but stood on the basis of the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Christ. They were written off and decried, again by some of the very people involved in this statement.

4. We affirm that God’s law, as summarized in the ten commandments, more succinctly summarized in the two great commandments, and manifested in Jesus Christ, is the only standard of unchanging righteousness. Violation of that law is what constitutes sin.

Yes, but the problem with reducing God’s law to its summaries is it misses the sermons. The prophets expounded the Law, particularly concerned with addressing the injustices that permeated their and other societies. Jesus expounded the Law, exposing the injustice run riot in the power structures and people of the Jewish nation. Historically, and doubtless still in the present, racists (especially of the white supremacist or nationalist variety) have taken comfort that there is no “Thou shalt not enslave/segregate/hate/mistreat/needlessly offend black people” in the Ten Commandments. They have also distorted Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbour” : as one Southern Sunday School teacher was recently quoted in the press as saying, he meant “Love your American neighbour.” If the summaries were sufficient, we wouldn’t have all of the writings around them, and we wouldn’t need to preach expositions of them.

We deny that any obligation that does not arise from God’s commandments can be legitimately imposed on Christians as a prescription for righteous living. We further deny the legitimacy of any charge of sin or necessity of repentance that does not arise from a violation of God’s commandments.

I fear slave-holders, segregationists, white supremacists and white nationalists of today could say exactly the same, again because they reduced/reduce the law to its summaries and think “I’m not a murderer” all while hating their brothers and treating them angrily for the colour of their skin. The last sentence sounds good but is a sentiment that has been weaponised against brothers biblically seeking justice and reconciliation in our society. The Calvinists among the signatories will have no problem affirming that people are totally/radically depraved, with every aspect of their being somehow tainted by sin and that from birth we have a nature inclined to sin. They would say that we are sinners not because we sin but we sin because we are sinners, and have been since birth, no commandment needing to have been clearly broken on our part. And yet here is a phrase that has been and doubtless will still be used to shelter people from the charges that their sinful nature is shown in prejudiced, xenophobic, and racist perceptions, attitudes, and actions. A black man says “I’m offended by the Confederate flag, and what it represents” and the response is “There’s nothing sinful about flying a flag”, ignoring a host of heart, congregational, pastoral, personal, and missional issues derived from Scripture. The furore at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in 2016 is a case in point. A resolution against the Confederate flag was finally (after embarrassing and prolonged deliberations) passed, to be met with online hot takes from professing Christian people defending the flag as though it were the gospel. Why? They heard charges made and didn’t believe they arised from a violation of God’s commandments so felt justified in their foolishness.

5. All human relationships, systems, and institutions have been affected by sin.

I am pleased to hear they believe this. The language of many of the critics of the racial reconciliation movement and social justice has sometimes denied this. Indeed, I have heard people say “Individuals are sinful/racist, not systems”. They make such assertions based on sound bites from the ministries of some of the signatories of this document.

We deny that, other than the previously stated connection to Adam, any person is morally culpable for another person’s sin.

Agreed, people are not morally culpable for another person’s sin but due to the federal relationship of all humans with one another in Adam, and the resulting collective, societal, structural link we have one with another what one person is morally culpable for may have meaningful consequences for others. For example, when the British government abolished slavery in 1833, they used £20 million pounds, 40% of the national budget, to buy the freedom of slaves throughout the empire (of course, this money went to the slave-holders not to the slaves which exhibits sinful mankind’s unflagging ability to include injustice in the exercise of justice). British tax-payers only stopped paying off the debts incurred by this transaction in 2015.

Although families, groups, and nations can collectively sin, and cultures can be predisposed to particular sins

 I am pleased they admit this. I have been told by devotees of James White that there is no collective sin, only individual sin. It beggars belief, as it is so contrary to Scripture!

subsequent generations share the collective guilt of their ancestors only if they approve and embrace (or attempt to justify) those sins. Before God each person must repent and confess his or her own sins in order to receive forgiveness. We further deny that one’s ethnicity establishes any necessary connection to any particular sin.

Yes, so long as such a thing as collective guilt is granted (again, it has been denied quite forcefully to me) and the insidious, subtle ways in which people approve, embrace, and attempt to justify those sins is recognised, owned, and repented of (without the disrespect, disingenuity, deflection, and at times out right dishonesty of some of social justice’s critics represented here). I would rather people veer away from “that’s not my sin problem” toward more invasive self-examination and radical repentance.

6. This also means that implications and applications of the gospel, such as the obligation to live justly in the world, though legitimate and important in their own right, are not definitional components of the gospel.  

I get what is being said here, but Jesus is the good news, and in Jesus is righteousness, purity, faithfulness, love and so forth. A critical part of the gospel missing from their brief explanation is union with Christ and the work of the Spirit to make us like Christ - if these things are not present then we are not saved and we do not possess good news. While the word “saved” is used, the justification, sanctification, and glorification aspects of this crucial gospel word are not at all unpacked and it would seem that as with the law earlier, the understanding of gospel is unhelpfully reductionist - focussed simply on salvation “from” the bad works of sin and their consequences but no reference regarding salvation “to” the good works of Christ as per Ephesians 2:10. Good works are not definitional of the gospel, but they are demonstrable of the gospel, and this is the last thing we need to be watering down now.

8. We affirm that when the primacy of the gospel is maintained that this often has a positive effect on the culture in which various societal ills are mollified.

Yes and no. Read any history book. The primacy of the gospel was maintained in theory by the Reformers, but not in practice: the at times violent and murderous persecution of peaceful baptistic believers they commonly but falsely called Anabaptists is a case in point. The primacy of the gospel was maintained in theory by the Puritans, many of whom were led astray into wickedly enslaving black men and women. The primacy of the gospel was in theory maintained across Bible-belt Southern USA where people died fighting to keep their slaves, and spent a century oppressing and segregating them once freed. I believe the gospel, I am a follower of Jesus Christ, not an atheist sceptic but what on Earth was that all about? And please do not with the Southern gentleman of the 1850s argue that slavery was a more positive life for the slaves than what they would have had otherwise. Tragically today, people who do believe in the primacy of the gospel and are applying its implications to real everyday life are being maligned as embracing a false social gospel, while the real enemies (including real adherents to the social gospel) go ignored.

We deny that political or social activism should be viewed as integral components of the gospel or primary to the mission of the church.

Agreed, but it may very well be an integral component of the ministry of love and compassion given to the church. My Bible does not only tell me of a “Great Commission”, but a “Great Commandment”, and acting like our focus on the former can excuse our horrific inattention to the latter would doubtless raise Christ’s righteous indignation. The scribes and Pharisees preached the Law, but they didn’t have love for their fellow man. “Woe to you”, Jesus cried. 

The draft I first received continued: 
Believers can and should utilize the means, such as voting, that God has providentially established to have some effect on the laws of a society, but we deny that these activities are either evidence of saving faith or constitute part of the church’s mission given to her by Jesus Christ.

My response to this:

Nor is not voting, or voting differently evidence of lack of saving faith, as has been insinuated and even stated by some in the circles represented by this statement. Also, voting is not the only means to have some effect on the laws of a democratic society. Marching, picketing, sit-ins, and so forth are all valid as well in the fight against injustice in an allegedly free society (a far cry from imperial Rome) and not sinfully angry, counter-gospel behaviours as claimed by people particularly in MacArthur’s circle in recent days. The statement has been amended to say: 


Though believers can and should utilize all lawful means that God has providentially established to have some effect on the laws of a society, we deny that these activities are either evidence of saving faith or constitute a central part of the church’s mission given to her by Jesus Christ, her head.
I suppose the addition of the important word "central" toward the end leaves room for scenarios like when MacArthur used his platform to talk about why he was not voting for Trump when in fact, equivocal semantics aside, he was.

We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts. 
No one that I have read or listened to is saying that they do. But they are saying laws and regulations need to be made and enforced anyway, because that is how God has designed things. 

9. We deny that the charge of heresy can legitimately be brought against every failure to achieve perfect conformity to all that is implied in sincere faith in the gospel is heresy.

Heresy is an overused word in some circles. But it is not overused with reference to racism and its underpinnings. This really is where the mask of this statement well and truly falls off, and once again we see the ugly monster of self-righteous, unconfessional, nonrepentant deflection. Racism is not only hateful - it is heretical. It is not only bigotry - it is blasphemy. Ligon Duncan has said it well: “Anti-racism is not the Gospel, but the Gospel is anti-racism, and racism is anti-Gospel, hence heresy of the deepest dye” (Defending the Faith; Denying the Image – 19th Century AmericanConfessional Calvinism in Faithfulness and Failure). Perhaps read literature that further demonstrates this - I would also recommend “The Heresy of RacialSuperiority: Confronting the Past and Confronting the Truth” by Dr. Albert Mohler  and “Frederick Douglass: America’s Prophet”, a spiritual/theological biography by D. H. Dilbeck as introductions to this quite biblical idea. Really I cannot fathom why anyone would deny the heresy of this wickedness, which is precisely the subtext going on here.

10-11 are on Sexuality and Marriage, and Complementarianism

I agree with the points made but this is a bizarre conflation of racial reconciliation and biblical pursuit of social justice being promoted in Christian circles with a wholly separate and quite dangerous cultural shift on matters of human sexuality. Matters of skin and sin are totally separate and the insertion of an important but bit of a pet theme for conservative evangelicals into a document critiquing the social justice and racial reconciliation movement in the church shows that the point has been completely missed. What hath MLK50 to do with Revoice? My black brothers and sisters would look at them and for the most part probably say “Nothing.”

12. We deny that Christians should segregate themselves into racial groups or regard racial identity above, or even equal to, their identity with Christ.

Indeed, but there are as stated different ethnic groups and nationalities. In the US context where everyone’s heritage - except First Nations’ - involve people who either left their nation or were stolen from it, colour has historically till today been more important than national origin. Unfortunately, at least some of those involved in this statement have used the idea stated to support the privileged false narrative of people who may suffer but not for the colour of their skin: the idea of “colour-blindness”. Furthermore, they have unhelpfully critiqued the messages of faithful brothers who insist that Sunday morning still hosts "the most segregated hour in America", and have been quite vocal in arguing against the importance and pursuit of biblically multi-ethnic churches. 

We deny that any divisions between people groups (including everything from an attitude of superiority to a spirit of resentment) have any legitimate place in the fellowship of the redeemed.

Indeed, but sadly the focus in white majority circles is on criticising the perceived resentment of black brothers and sisters, instead of rooting out the causes of that resentment - attitudes of white superiority in church and state.      

The original draft went on to read:     

We further reject any teaching that encourages racial groups to view themselves as entitled victims of oppression. We further deny that one person’s feelings of offense or oppression necessarily prove that someone else is guilty of sinful behaviors, oppression, or prejudice.
To which I replied: 

But what if they have been oppressed? What if they are victims? What if there is a wealth of statistical, anecdotal, experiential, photographic, and recorded evidence to prove it? When white men like Matt Chandler and David Platt tried to sprinkle such evidence into recent sermons, they were lambasted as more like Marx than Moses, followers of James Cone not Jesus Christ. I wonder if this is the first confessional example of gaslighting (look it up)? May God have mercy!

Whether in response to my protestations or not, this section has been reworked to appear much more even handed: 

We reject any teaching that encourages racial groups to view themselves as privileged oppressors or entitled victims of oppression. While we are to weep with those who weep, we deny that a person’s feelings of offense or oppression necessarily prove that someone else is guilty of sinful behaviors, oppression, or prejudice.

Better, perhaps, but based on the writings and clear agenda of some of the initial signatories, I fear the draft version more accurately represents the spirit of the document, and certainly the way it will be used. Also, better is not best. Red scare paranoia seems to have blinded people to the brutal oppressor/oppressed reality of America's racial history and its ripple waves - the aftershocks of a mere few decades ago that continue to have serious implications for the present. 

14. We affirm that virtually all cultures, including our own, at times contain laws and systems that foster racist attitudes and policies.

True enough, working with the broad definition of racism that encapsulates all ethnically-oriented prejudice. Problem is, the authors here don’t live in “all cultures”, making such a statement far too easy to use as a deflective device against honest evaluation of racism’s foremost expression in their culture. This is the equivalent of an “Everyone’s a sinner, we all fall short” response when the pastor calls out a particular sin on Sunday morning. Sadly in their own number are people who deny or at best sit on the fence with regard to the real racial shift in the nation - not as many paranoidly fear towards black nationalism but white nationalism and indeed supremacy. 

This leads into a series of denials that have mercifully been reworked. To provide context for my misgivings with the document as it is, I must include the original.

We deny that today’s evangelicals as a group have failed to condemn partiality and prejudice toward various ethnicities; much less have they callously and collectively practiced those sins. We deny that systemic racism is endemic in evangelical churches.  

For people who normally have tended away from collectivism to individualism, how convenient that they can now look at evangelicals “as a group”, as though they can take in the height, width, and depth of professed evangelicals and accurately make an informed statement. It’s also interesting from people who have made highlighting unregenerate church membership and unrepentant but tolerated sin in churches a major theme in ministry. That may be beside the point though… Is it enough to condemn once, or should we not ever be condemning partiality and prejudice as people drift, as new generations are born, as blowing cultural winds threaten to reverse or accelerate for the worse? And if endemic, systemic racism is not a problem, why is Sunday morning still scene to the most segregated hour in America? Why are pastoral staffs, seminary professors, conference speakers, committees, and so forth disproportionately white in environments that are far more diverse? Why, when a black man is invited to preach in “white spaces”, has it often tended to be one of two people - leaving some of the black brothers and sisters I serve with the impression that there aren’t many sound black preachers? Why has Africa been scrubbed from our ecclesiastical historical memory? As though there were no Simon of Cyrene and his sons, no Ethiopian eunuch, no Simon the black man in leadership at Antioch - where the disciples were first called Christians! Why does nobody know pre-Arab invasion North Africa was a stronghold of Christianity, that Tertullian, Athanasius, Augustine, and plenty others were African men? That Luther was drawn to the Ethiopian church, and inspired by a black man - Michael the Deacon? I could go on, but I wonder if anyone is listening, because godlier, better-known men than me have said these things and so much more only to be railed against. Those who want to learn more can watch the MLK50 conference for a start. 

This has wisely been scrapped. In its place is 

We deny that the contemporary evangelical movement has any deliberate agenda to elevate one ethnic group and subjugate another.

It should, though, be noted that I saw who signed the statement with the initial, highly problematic remarks intact. They know who they are, and my response stands as testimony against any lingering heart-agreement with the draft. 

And we emphatically deny that lectures on social issues (or activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture) are as vital to the life and health of the church as the preaching of the gospel and the exposition of Scripture; historically such an inversion of priorities has tended to lead to departures from the gospel.

It has been common to describe any sermon or biblical address with practical application to America’s racial ills as a “lecture”, a word most often said charged with negative meaning. In any case, none of the people who have been most targeted by some of those involved in this statement are replacing preaching with lectures or evangelism with activism. They are, in light of so much biblical teaching, seeking to redress the balance from preaching and telling the needy and oppressed “be warmed and filled”, to preaching and giving the needy the compassion and help they require. This does not lead to a departure from the gospel (examine the lives and ministries of William Carey and Charles Spurgeon for example) but leads to a demonstration of gospel-transformed love in the life of the church that further adorns the gospel tree with branches laden with good fruit.

Reading this statement was a bit of a sad experience for me. The addendum also. Why?  A few reasons.
It links this quite problematic statement with two other imperfect but good statements, Danvers and Nashville, that speak to real issues of our time and churches. I hope putting this statement alongside those statements will not be used to discredit the biblical truths therein. Sadly I think it is more likely that Danvers and Nashville will be seen to give this statement credibility, and the real losers here will not be these statements and what they represent, but our black brothers and sisters and their allies in the fight for racial reconciliation – once again set back by the white majority culture’s denial and deflection. 
Then I read the initial and early signatories. Some of them I know. Some of them I consider friends. One of them I have known since I was three years old, went to the same church with, and was shaped in my approach to preaching in ways I probably do not fully appreciate or realise. A reminder to me, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). 
Others I am not as fond of - initial signatories include

-        the man who recently disparaged what he called “the angry civil rights movement” of the 1960s

-        the apologist who has spent absurd amounts of time critiquing what he perceives to be mission drift by social justice advocates not at all seeing the irony in his own mission drift

-        the entrepreneur  and conservative social activist who ranted to me about an Islamic invasion of London engineered by George Soros, lectured me on my naivety in have a gospel-centred compassionate approach to Muslim refugees, and when asked when he last shared the gospel with a Muslim told me about a conversation he had with a cab driver about Donald Trump. While he was busy writing these things to me, I was busy actually doing real evangelism on the street and met a Muslim refugee who has since trusted Christ, been baptised, and is a faithful member of the church.

I do not know what the critics of social justice want - surely not social injustice? I do not understand why Christians would push back against those of us who long for racial reconciliation in America’s fractured society and churches - would they rather persist in racial division? Why, at a time when

-        nationally and globally, alt-Right to far-Right, white nationalist to white supremacist movements are on the rise

-        pastors are still getting fired for trying to reach black communities

-        churches are being disfellowshipped from associations and conventions for congregation-wide anti-black racism

-        black brothers and sisters are saying they are not so sure reconciliation with white brothers and sisters is practically possible since they often don’t feel welcomed and loved

-        Those evangelicals who voted in the presidential election did so overwhelmingly for the most all-around unpleasant and distasteful president in America’s modern history, who routinely  and crassly denigrates human life, especially that of foreigners

-        the list could go on...

Why, given the above, is this the statement that people think we need? Great damage is being done. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. May God have mercy!
Though I’m tired – and don’t intend to comment on this matter endlessly - God helping me I will continue to seek the peace of my city, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God. With the Spirit’s help I will continue to listen and continue to learn, so that my heart will not grow hard and cold to those who suffer, and I will seek to order my life by both the great commandment and the great commission, leading my church to do likewise till I am disabled, die, or Christ comes again. 

PS: For anyone still wondering what social justice is, exactly, Joe Carter's article at TGC is probably the best summary I've seen: The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About Social Justice. Also, a must read from Carl Ellis Jr. : Biblical Righteousness Is a Four-Paned Window


36 comments:

  1. Why, when a black man is invited to preach in “white spaces”, has it often tended to be one of two people - leaving some of the black brothers and sisters I serve with the impression that there aren’t many sound black preachers? Curious as to who you're referring to here.

    Curious as to who you're referring to here.
    Curious as to whom you're referring to here.

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    1. Thabite Anyabwile, Eric Mason, H.B. Charles Jr.

      I don't even have to think about it sadly

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    2. Actually, those weren’t the men I had in mind, so far as the circles represented by the statement are concerned...

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    3. . . . okay, so who DID you have in mind?

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    4. I assume this was about Voddie Bauchum, one of the original signatories. I will say this, as both a black man in the US and Christian, much of the preaching that I have experienced in black churches (an admittedly small sample) has been primarily focused on prosperity or social/political advancement. I would regard neither as biblically sound. In fact, black preachers (Jamal Bryant comes to mind) will publicly criticize a fellow pastor for meeting with Donald Trump at the White House but never issue a single word of biblical rebuke when witting knee to knee with Louis Farrakhan. And THAT is the problem with the current focus on "social justice". True justice needs no qualifier but social justice can end up leading one to elevate another part of your identity (race, gender, sexual orientation) above your identity in Christ. And when Christians unite around anything other that Christ, any hope at biblical unity is lost. If I'm a pastor that sees myself as black first, then the social and material needs of black folk come first and that's how I end up inviting Louis Farrakhan into the pulpit to address the church. Tell me how much biblical instruction will come out of that address.

      Another reason the current focus on "social justice" is misplaced is because many pastors, like others in society, rely on catchphrases and slogans in try to highlight social injustice but lack the facts to back their claims. For example, Pastor Anyabwile wrote a Washington Post op-ed that mentioned a DOJ memo that would seek maximum penalties in federal drug crimes. He stated this "...takes us back toward the policies that gave us the mass incarceration of black and brown citizens." The problem with this analysis is that federal drug crimes only make up about 3.5% of the total population of incarcerated individuals in the US (https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2018.html) and only about 1/5 of the total prison/jail population. And on the state level (where 1.3M of the 2.3M incarcerated reside), more than half the offenders are there for violent crimes (assault, robbery, rape, manslaughter, and murder). So any attempt to undo "mass incarceration" will by necessity mean shorter sentences (if any sentence at all) for violent offenders--hardly a picture of justice by anyone's definition.

      There is ONE gospel. But there are MANY ways to achieve social, economic or political goals. Labeling something "progressive" (or patriotic for that matter) or saying it advances "social justice" doesn't mean it's biblical. I fear our pursuit of the many is pulling us away from the one. Christians are called to have unity in the Body of Christ, not the body politic.

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    5. Will you respond to James White slandering of your "slandering".
      I have had issues with White lately. He seems to see enemies everywhere. He asks everyone who rightly calls him out to repentance, to ask forgiveness for "slandering" him. He mentioned today that he was consistent, and I showed him last week his inconsistency in defending McArthur's failings mentioned in the WASC report, that at the end, he admitted that he hadn't read it but felt free to comment and condemned it on his program, but still demanded I apologized to him for calling out his inconsistency in supporting McArthur even when his seminary is being accused of a sexual abuse cover up, but on the other hand, almost celebrating for what happened to Paige Patterson (not my cup of tea either). The man says he has being consistent for 35 years, and apparently, he believes his own propaganda, and it seems that we have the fourth member of the Trinity in him. Once again, in today's programs in which half was aimed at you, he dismisses all his perceived enemies with very demeaning terms at the beginning of the program, but then cries fault at those who are criticising him in the same way. The man is amazing, he apparently does not listen to his own program. He thinks he gives solid exegesis of both Ephesians and Colossians, and challenges people to refute him. Apparently, nobody in their right mind will invest hours to refute someone who believes cannot be refuted. That would be an exercise in futility and bad time stewardship.
      I commend you for taking your time, and taking the flak from White and his buddies on this issue. I guess they, along with White, have forgotten the wise words from the apostle Paul in I Cor. 13:9, "For we know only in part..". They pretend to have all the knowledge apparently.

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    6. I live my life IN Christ on a daily basis and give no thought to Black/White/Green or any ethnicity. I treat all my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus equally without favoritism regardless of race. There is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ and I will continue to conduct my affairs according to the scriptures.

      12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

      13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

      14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

      This entire issue seems to be creating disunity within the body of Christ. I am saddened that we as Christians can't work towards building his Kingdom with colorblind eyes. I see a soul no matter their skin color that needs the Lord Jesus and to feel any other way would be in violation of his Word. To be tossed about by every wind of doctrine seems very apparent here and dissolves the Unity we are called to have in the Body of Christ where:
      There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
      Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
      Pretty simple stuff. Maybe I'm just not educated enough to understand what the problems here are. I don't agree with this division that is being created here.
      But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
      As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
      The Gospel has nothing to do with race and never will.

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    7. Anonymous11:41 PM

      One problem with this statement is that there has been disunity in the US church for hundreds of years due to the exclusion of people of color from white churches so that they have formed their own churches. Calling this out is not stirring up disunity but shining a light on the problem so that it may be addressed

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    8. There never should have been a need to create black churches and white churches. I am happy to go to any church where the Pastor preaches the gospel and lives a godly life whether he be black or white. None of these color issues matter in the body of Christ. I will condemn any white Christian who refuses to fellowship with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ no matter their color just as I will condemn a black brother or sister who refuses to fellowship with white brothers or sisters. Creating divisions amongst ourselves over differing levels of melanin is just plain nuts and exactly what the devil wants.

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    9. “There never should have been a need to create black churches and white churches.”
      Agreed, but that is what happened so that’s is what we are working with. The racist, white supremacist order of the day infected the church and created a climate of hostility wherein black men and women could be enslaved, terrorised, segregated, and all-around shoddily treated. Confer the testimony of Frederick Douglass, who when worshipping in a Nothern state where slavery wasn’t even allowed was nonetheless forced to sit in a gallery with other black people who could only take the Lord’s Supper after the white people, when the pastor announced “Our coloured friends are welcome too.”

      “I am happy to go to any church where the Pastor preaches the gospel and lives a godly life whether he be black or white.”

      Praise God. If only everyone thought the same way.

      “None of these color issues matter in the body of Christ.”
      Does it affect my brother, my sister, my neighbour? If so it matters. Unity is not borne out of uniformity - real or pretended as with “colourblindness”. It is seen in and demonstrated out of diversity. No colour matters nothing with regards to salvation, how we love God, and what we believe about his love for us. But it matters a great deal in some contexts for how we love our neighbour. Sadly it is the world we live in.

      “I will condemn any white Christian who refuses to fellowship with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ no matter their color just as I will condemn a black brother or sister who refuses to fellowship with white brothers or sisters.”

      Glad to hear it.

      “Creating divisions amongst ourselves over differing levels of melanin is just plain nuts and exactly what the devil wants.”
      Yes. But to be clear, pointing out such divisions and criticising them as you do here when you say “just plain nuts” is not creating a division but acknowledging an existing one that desperately needs repairing. Unfortunately a three day conference held earlier in the year on this topic led to three months of critique claiming it was “divisive”. The mudslinging responses reminded me of Ahab calling out to God’s prophet, “you troubler of Israel!”.

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    10. Anonymous4:23 AM

      I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Further discussions would be pointless so there is no reason for me to continue. I stand by what I have said. I'm sure you do as well. I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Not sure I would make the analogy with Ahab as it would lend some to question whether you think those in your movement are Prophets. That's just an observation but could lead to some interesting discussions.

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    11. I guess I'm not entirely sure what we are to agree to disagree on, given I expressed agreement to everything that you said. My additions were meant to add greater balance, appropriate nuance, and some historical-cultural perspective for the sake of clarity as well as charity - I seek to consider the perspectives, preferences, and pitfalls for people of different backgrounds before my own so try to read through the lens of "how might my brother ____ understand or read this comment, in the context of his own observations."

      As for the Ahab analogy. It is just that... an analogy. All analogies break down at some point but it is important that we not miss *the* point. Introducing debate about Prophets (as an office) is a distraction from the main point about prophetic ministry (in the New Testament, Reformation, and Puritan sense of powerfully and pointedly applied Scriptural preaching of profound insight, utmost importance, and contemporary relevance). Spurgeon (who was accused of being divisive over the slavery issue in the American South to the point his sermons were burned,and over the theological downgrade of the British Baptist Union to the point of censure and removal) had no problems making the same application I have made from this very text: "It is the way of men to cast the blame of their trouble not upon their sin and upon themselves, but upon those who have warned them."

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    12. Anonymous1:43 AM

      I am just a simple man who trusts in God Almighties Word. There are no distinctions in Gods Kingdom based on skin color. We are Christians and I don't care what skin color you have. I love my brothers and sisters in Christ regardless what their nationality, skin color, or gender might be. I see nothing other than Christian.

      I am where the Lord wants me to be I believe. I'll continue boldly pronouncing his Kingdom and the Gospel without fear or favor. I can't speak of things other folk have done or not done. I can only speak to my sins and how I have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and made a new creature in Christ Jesus. I blame no man for the sins I committed and take full responsibility for them. Calvary's Cross and HE who knew no sin bore my sins, he was bruised for MY iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was upon him. I can not help but weep while writing this. I'm not worthy of anything the Lord has done for me.

      I do not understand the entirety of the subject matter but I guess I am not supposed too. Maybe what you are doing isn't as much divisive than just reminding us that we need to remember where we came from.
      That in itself is what we do daily as Christians when we give thanks to the Lord. We remember the Old Self and give praise to God for saving us and redeeming us in his dear Son.

      Maybe I do understand. Godspeed Brother King. Semper Fidelis




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  2. It's the Gospel, the entire word of God, in the hearts, minds, actions, of men that changed the heart and reconciles people of all nations. That is what I see as the focus of the declaration. I used to dislike rap music, but have embraced the culture now, because the music being generated through these men is more sound than many sermons I've heard. In mind: many on Lamp Mode Recordings, many on Humble Beast, and Wrath & Grace. Sadly, Reach Records seems to have fallen far away from sound doctrine to embrace a social justice agenda. I don't mind if you disagree, but the approach this declaration upholds is what was used to change the heart of this ex-Laveyist.

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  3. Ryan,
    Thank you so much for the necessary examination of this concerning statement! I believe you handled the points well and noted the rare positive moments and demonstrated the massive inconsistencies with the gospel found here. I will definitely be sharing this with others! Finally, I think of Isaiah's words after God says he hates the festivals and sacrifices:

    Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
    Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.
    Isaiah 1:17

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  4. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    You give me hope that I can go on naming myself among evangels who declare the good news of the Gospel

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  5. I don't even have to think about this, because my stands is based on Jeremiah 5:28-31, and it says:

    They refuse to provide justice to orphans
    and deny the rights of the poor.
    29 Should I not punish them for this?” says the Lord.
    “Should I not avenge myself against such a nation?
    30 A horrible and shocking thing
    has happened in this land—
    31 the prophets give false prophecies,
    and the priests rule with an iron hand.
    Worse yet, my people like it that way!
    But what will you do when the end comes?

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    1. Speaking of orphans and the poor... Not dudes who's biggest struggle will be to choose between Applebee's or Chili's after Sunday Service, walking out in their designer suits and getting into their nice car... The text also speaks about false prophecies and bad leaders which is a big problem in the church... Where is the justice in those circumstances? Let me guess, God is gonna handle THAT...

      Let's not pervert the text in order to support our narratives.

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  6. the world in general seems to be getting crazier and crazier... deception on so many levels seems to be growing... more and more bizarre behavior going on... and the Church is not exempt... Father forgive us, Lord have mercy, Holy Spirit help us... help us discern the deceptions and speak truth with Your love... in Jesus Name..

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  7. Pastor King,
    I think your response was based more on emotionalism than rational evaluation and careful, exegetical study. I understand that you have a love for the people you mentioned. That is both laudable and commendable. But too much of your response is personal attack and unfair accusation. The worst was the section where you built up yourself at the expense of a brother who signed the SJ&G. "I was busy doing evangelism in the streets..." While that section has been thankfully removed, Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people saw you tear this man down in order to discredit a document to which he affixed his signature.

    Respectfully, brother, you owe that man a public apology.

    If you believe that the the character flaws of some of the authors of the SJ&G discredit the statement then what do your own character flaws do to your review of it?

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    1. Why is there a fixation on apologies? James White took it to heart, and I have noticed that him, and others, use this tactic, "owing apologies", as a way to claim victimisation themselves!!!
      And interacting with White once, he all along thought that I was asking him to apologise (who knows for what). At another interaction, he demanded an apology for me calling him out on commenting on the WASC report about TMS, to which apart from demanding an apology (none coming since there's nothing to apologise) he later said that he had not read the document, yet dismissing it and claiming that it was part of a coming persecution against Christian!! I was willing to meet him half way, but he wanted total submission to his view, which reminded me of my days at my liberal theological college!! And then he complains why other people in the apologetic "guild" don't engage him, since they know how he deflects and avoids issues in his character or approach. Take an example, in the last Dividing Line where he took aim at this response by pastor King, White claimed that for the last 35 yrs he has been consistent. Mind you, even the Reformers contradicted themselves during their lifetime (see All Things Made New: The Reformation and Its Legacy by Diarmaid MacCulloch, paying attention especially in the chapters relating to Luther and Calvin). It seems White believes he is on top of everyone else, good for him, but that's far from reality.

      The Statement is flawed because the authors' characters and world views are flaws. Their use of Scripture of flawed. Their critics, including me (in Spanish) have pointed that time and time again. And what happens? Silence from them...so what's the use of wasting time in exegesis if these folks dismiss it without even engaging with it (again, listen to White's dismissal of any exegesis that contradicts his exegesis). Besides, so many better exegesis resources on Colossians (what James White has been espousing) that will nevertheless, not agree with White's intentional exegesis, that it would be a waste of time and equivalent to trying to remake the wheel. And that's my point, you blame pastor King of emotionalism, but can't see the emotionalism in the exegesis done by White, or how he dismisses his critics, as in the beginning of the last Dividing Line!! White seems to know everybody's presuppositions, but if somebody points to his, expect a well 20 minute tirade in his program against the one who dared to point that out.

      So, this apology tactic, will not work anymore. I hope pastor King stands his ground, and doesn't fall into White's tactic, which is comical. He demands an apology for hurting his ego, yet, he clearly rejects that apologising to a people group for the wrongdoings of the past and even present, is the wrong and unchristian thing to do. That is beyond a joke, it's pathetic and unchristian.

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    2. It is claimed above that I have removed a section that apparently caused offense. I have done no such thing, nor will I in this case. I stand by what I said. No one saw me tear the man down because I did no such thing. If I had wanted to tear him down, I would have named him and his organisation, and I would have provided screenshots of my interaction with him. I don't make claims without keeping receipts so could have done this quite easily.

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    3. Pensive Pastor, I feel that you may be in the thrall of Dr. MacArthur. Sadly so many are. So many of his statements of late betray the reality of the man. What is even more tragic is that this man MacArthur is almost worshipped because of what he thinks he knows. He is not infallible, nor is he without error. He is human, very human and in some instances I have found some of his pronouncements to be full of hubris. This is a very dangerous thing. I grew up listening to MacArthur as a child with my dad. Some of the things he said then were to me interesting others sounded chilling. And now to say that the struggle for social justice somehow harms the Gospel, that is utter foolishness. Job was considered a man that was pleasing to the Lord and yet if you look at Job 31:13-40. This is all about social justice, what is sad that it appears in his hurry to be right, he got it all wrong.

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    4. The other thing is that Jesus Himself granted so much worth to women, that it was women who first proclaimed the Gospel, to men who were too afraid of their own shadow at the time. MacArthur would foolishly try to take the Church to a time that no longer exists. He has a Doctorate but is so intellectually dishonest as to know what he knows and yet deny the knowledge of it to others. I Timothy 2 requires an understanding of both the culture of Ephesus, as well as the position of women at this point in history with regard as to why Paul would make such a pronouncement. What is utterly amazing to me is that The stance about women belies the ability of God to use whomever He wishes. It also shows total disdain for women.

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    5. McArthur has NO doctorate. What he has, is an HONORARY doctorate.

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  8. Anonymous6:53 PM

    I find the term "systemic racism" problematic. Does it refer to a particular institution run by racists who promote theories of racial superiority, or does it refer to institutions that are predominantly white because of the legacy of racism and social policies that have resulted in the destruction of the black family and decimation of black, urban communities, with the consequence that blacks lack the familial, social, and educational resources on which depend cultural advancement. If it's referring to the first, I would ask, "Which institutions are those?" If "systemic racism" is used to describe the latter, I would argue it's unhelpful at minimum.

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  9. Anonymous7:23 PM

    I can't thank you enough for this response Ryan Burtan King. Praying for you and your ministry.

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  10. Haven’t read the SJG statement in it’s entirety, just those statements cited by King in this blogspot. Which I did read through once. King makes many valid points in his criticisms of the SJG statements and clearly has issues with its early signatories. Especially the critical need for genuine biblical reconciliation in the areas of race relations, which I agree is most urgently needed at this present time throughout churches and society.

    I did find him dismissive at times and wished he had taken more time to understand and appreciate the reasons why others believed there was a need for such a statement, even in his disagreements and refusal to sign on.

    While biblical reconciliation is imperative and racism is indeed a grievous and deadly sin, that no Christ follower should ever turn a blind eye to. One that is still insidious and subtle, hidden or ignored in the histories of Churches in America. That did not end merely with the passage of laws and civil rights legislation. And for which the need for confession, repentance, reconciliation, restoration and restitution has not ceased or come to an end.

    It is also true and should be of serious concern, that many Churches and individual believers have been unjustly accused and targeted for simply maintaining a commitment to orthodox and credal Christianity, by the overzealousness of some within the Church who are attempting to identify with the victims of racism and the wider hyper-secularized social justice movement and their various intersectional expressions and developments. And for which their remedies have very little to do with the Biblical teachings of reconciliation.

    Clearly these concerns should be taken seriously, they cannot and must not be ignored. Even if the SJG statement misses the mark in some places. Their concerns are valid.

    I wished that King would have devoted a little more time and thought to these things.

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  11. i notice that my comment which i tried to post has not been posted by Mr.King. Is this type of thinking now creeping into the church? The mainstream media BBC et al, censor and refuse to post alternative views with which they disagree! Very sad Mr.King is afraid to have a robust debate over this issue and that he feels he has to refuse to post alternative viewpoints, after all we are not living in China where censorship is rife....

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    1. I have not so much as looked at the comments on this till now. I don't control the posting of comments nor do I censor them. If you posted a comment that you do not see, the problem is on your end.

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  12. Firstly may i say how relieved i am that John Mcarthur and others have finally made a brave and principled stand for the Gospel despite the onslaught and inroads that the 'politicised gospel' has made into the body of Christ. The current preoccupation with racial and identity politics is nowhere found in the word of God outside of the comparison between gentile and jew. I am frankly disturbed as a British christian that you are able to criticize those in the USA in your statement on your blogspot, when the UK is being torn a part by the very identity and racial politics that you appear to support. It is surely an established fact now that 20 years of 'diversity and racial politics' has produced only increased hatred and increased racial divides in the UK as the secular world imposes with brute and stalinistic force it's 'positive discrimmination' policies which penalise and attack vast swathes of the indigenous population. In fact there is a marked correlation between the increasing force with which the government, media and public institutes impose their ungodly policies, and the increasing racial, and sexual polarisation.

    The gospel is the only hope for true reconciliation, and i have only ever found true racial harmony within the body of Christ. Christ is the reconciler, and we should not be importing ungodly and satanic principles and politics into the church and adding them to foundational truths. The 'social gospel' was never the main aim of Christ's ministry. Saving the lost from a lost eternity was always Christ's preeminent aim. The apostacy of the church is increasing at a phenomenal rate and those who choose the easier path of turning the true gospel into a 'social' gospel are exacerbating the decline. We are not the judge and only God has the right to judge and to put right the wrongs of history (including racism). Our gospel reminds us to forgive and not to dwell on what is not good or pure. Why then does the church wish to hold up before the eyes of others the wrongs of the past,whilst berating those in the present who had nothing to do with those days?

    The current trend of introducing into the church the idol of socialistic, communistic political tools is destroying the body of Christ from within. Surely our task is to preach the word, save souls from a Christless eternity and to care for the Widows and the Fatherless regardless of their race. Are we now also to act as Judge who takes on board the authority to right the wrongs of historic events? Surely only God has that right? Great Britain is paying the price for it's departure from the true faith. Identity politics and positive discrimmination stem from darkness and fight past wrongs with present hate.

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  13. Well done, Pastor King. It is all the better done by a white American Pastor of theologically conservative convictions. Erik Pattison. (I don't want anyone thinking I am hiding behind a pseudonym or anonymous post.)

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  14. "It is claimed above that I have removed a section that apparently caused offense. I have done no such thing, nor will I in this case. I stand by what I said. No one saw me tear the man down because I did no such thing."

    I stand corrected. For some reason my gaze skipped over that section.

    I do wonder how you justify comparing what you perceive to be the worst of him... (told me about a conversation he had with a cab driver about Donald Trump) to the best in yourself and your self congratulation (I was busy doing real evangelism...) given that 2 Cor 10:12 very strongly suggests that when you make such a comparison you are showing that you are without understanding.

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    1. No worries. It is a long post with a lot to take in so an easy mistake to make.

      I am afraid you have completely misunderstood the point of that paragraph. It has nothing to do with comparing the worst in him with the best in me, nor is it in any way meant as a statement of self-congratulation - rather of frustration!

      In the space of an afternoon I had a dialogue with a couple of men I had never met who don't live in my city, country, or continent, who were nonetheless making definitive statements about some sort of Islamic takeover here. The man in question veered into the territory of conspiracy theories that this is engineered by a Jewish billionaire in a scheme to "break" the UK. I disputed the claim, but argued that in any case we cannot change the political winds. We can however preach the gospel. On of the men said I had things backwards. The other continued lecturing on, as though I were naïve and misinformed, about Soros and an Islamic invasion of the UK etc. I wanted to promote gospel preaching to Muslims, not conspiracy theories. I asked when they had last shared the gospel with a Muslim. Silence from one altogether. When I got back from my church's evangelistic outreach that afternoon, through which seed was planted resulting in the conversion and baptism of a Muslim refugee, I was exasperated to read a comment about a conversation that was heavy on Trumpian politics, light on Jesus. If you cannot, as a pastor, understand why a preacher of the gospel would find that mind-numbingly inane, then I am afraid I cannot help you.


      As for 2 Corinthians 10:12, please exegete that verse carefully by performing a reading of the letter as a whole or at least the surrounding chapters, especially chapters 10-12:13. You will find that Paul acts like he is being held back by this principle, then unleashes a number of comparisons anyway with "super-apostles" compared to whom he was deemed inferior. I can assure you, with Paul, if I boast, "I will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine my boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to me." If you beg to differ, then please, as Paul requested "put up with me in a little foolishness."

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