The Gospel (Coalition) and Ferguson

There is an interesting contrast of perspectives on happenings in Ferguson over at The Gospel Coalition. I am not sure “contrast” is strong enough; nor if “interesting” is clear enough; but nonetheless…

Thabiti Anyabwile has had several posts on the death of Michael Brown and its aftermath.

Voddie Baucham contributed some thoughts published on Wednesday.

These two men have radically different views on what has been happening in Ferguson, and what should be done in the aftermath. Thabiti has already put forth a rebuttal of Voddie’s arguments.

In a moment this will sound contradictory, but I am not writing to take a “side” in the debate: even though I am in pretty much full agreement with one of them. I am not writing to take a side, but I think a side has to be taken.

I realize the ethos of TGC is that we are in agreement on the gospel, while we may disagree about “lesser” matters. Even as it is pretty much recognized that one only gets cache in said Coalition if he has a Calvinistic soteriology and non-Dispensational ecclesiology/eschatology.

Agreeing on the gospel is all well and good, but the gospel demands discrimination. Given the larger subject matter here, “discrimination” risks being incendiary; that is not my intent though.

The noun “gospel” occurs more times in the little book of Philippians more than in any other New Testament book except Romans. The “big center” of the book (1:27-4:9) is really all about living a citizen worthy of the gospel-kingdom. At both the beginning and end of the book, believers are confronted with the truth that the gospel changes our minds (1:9-11; 4:8-9). The gospel changes what we think about; how we think; how we distinguish/discern/discriminate; how we live.

It is good for brothers to come together and discuss their differences. Some differences are long-lived. Justin Martyr speaks of differing eschatological viewpoints even in his day. Some differences are going to last until the Great Day. But even in these agreeable disagreements, someone is wrong. Even if we don’t yet know who it is. Other disagreements can and should be hashed out.

The opinions of Anyabwile and Baucham are opposed to one another. I think Anyabile’s reply makes that unmistakable. I think these men understand they have different viewpoints- with little middle ground. They both might be wrong, one might be right, but both are not and cannot be right.

So I am not sure what TGC is hoping to achieve by presenting both viewpoints without further comment. The gospel indeed holds Thabiti and Voddie together in a bond that can never be broken. But that same gospel demands that their opposing views by examined in all love, knowledge, and discernment so that what is excellent may be recognized.

Are we all to just pick our side?

Or can the gospel bring us together?

More on Manhattan: Who will be Paul to Packer, Duncan, and Mohler?

Several days ago I posted a quote from John Calvin that I applied to the Manhattan Declaration (“And at this day I wish there were more judgment in some good men, who, by seeking to be extremely kind to wicked men, bring great damage to the whole church.”)  This quote spurred me on in a particular direction of thought that was brewing in my mind.

Galatians 2:11-14 contains Paul’s brief mention of his gospel-confrontation with Peter.  Several things jump out at me.  First of all, Paul confronted Peter for eating with false teachers.  That’s right: eating.  having a meal.  For this act, it was worth the risk of rupturing apostolic fellowship.  One thing I notice about this is that Paul lived what he taught.  In 1 Cor. 5:11 Paul commanded that believers were not even to eat with those who perverted the gospel.  In Galatians 2:11-14 we see how Paul lived what he taught, and how he responded to those who disobeyed the apostolic commands.  Even when they were themselves other apostles.  So I have to wonder, if it is wrong to even eat with gospel-perverters, is it okay to enter into dialog and release joint statements of unity?  It seems that is doing overtly what table-fellowship merely implies.  You write books, lead schools, preach sermons about the gospel:  but will you stand for it?

Secondly, it was public.  Yes Paul confronted Peter “to his face”  but it was also “before them all.”  What Peter did publicly, Paul rebuked publicly.  Paul saw no reason to be coy or demure about the nature of Peter’s error and blasted it with the same boldness that Peter committed it with.  The M.D. was proclaimed with all the fanfare and ribbons that such a group of “Christian” leaders could muster.  If they are in error, Packer, Duncan, and Mohler should be denounced with just as much public clarity.

Thirdly, and here is where many have failed in my estimation, Paul clearly denunciated Peter’s sin as sin.  Peter was “condemned” because he was acting in “hypocrisy.”  Paul did not say, “Well it is just not right for me”, “I just don’t think it is best”, “It just is not very prudent at this time”.   No,  Paul “condemned” Peter.  Paul did bashfully say, “It is wrong for me” he clearly stated, “It is wrong for anyone!”  Peter was “to be blamed.”

So as much as I have appreciated the clarity and conviction of statements by MacArthur, Sproul, and some others; I wonder who is going to step up and actually be a Paul?   Will it be MacArthur? Sproul?  Piper?  Ferguson?  Dever? Or (gulp…) Driscoll?  (And it has to be someone like one of these men: someone with recognizable cache within the community of faith.)  Who is going to say “You were wrong and you need to repent?”  Who is going to do so publicly with conviction and authority?  If no one does so, why not just stop the charade of all the Gospel Coalitions, Together for the Gospels, etc.?  Because clearly, if one of these men cannot take the stand for the gospel that Paul did, they are united around something else.