Growing up in a churchgoing family, Kate had been taught that maintaining her sexual purity for marriage was of “utmost importance.” She had been taught many rules and regulations, but without being given any reasons for them. Having sex outside of marriage was a sin, but she didn’t really know why, and she got little help from her mom and dad either by teaching or example.
Entering puberty and the middle school years, Kate’s interest in sex was growing through what she saw on television, discussions with her friends, and her own natural curiosity. “Often,” Kate said later, “I felt ashamed and unsure what to do with these thoughts except to push them aside and move on. I was so sure they were sinful.”
As she entered high school, those normal thoughts and desires turned into temptations. “At times, I was ashamed to even like a boy or think he was attractive, because my legalistic background told me that this was sinful,” Kate recalled. Eventually, however, she yielded “almost daily” to both fornication and an addiction to pornography. Such habitual sins made her doubt her salvation and left her feeling isolated from her sisters, who seemingly didn’t struggle with such things. Throughout her teenage years and into her early twenties, she vacillated between living a life of godliness and falling back into sin. She pressured herself, made vows, and prayed, repeatedly asking God to make her obedient and rid her of sexual sin. All to no avail. Human effort in a moral cause was not enough.
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By Tom Hervey — 12 months ago
Now in discussing this we come to the question of the email leak and to the objection that it was an unlawful act of trafficking in confidential intellectual property that discredits the leaker and makes any criticism of you that is built upon the leaked materials illegitimate. The leak was unsavory, and on its first occurrence I regarded it as an open question as to whether it was appropriate or whether, it having already occurred, it would be appropriate to peruse the leaked materials. Upon reflection I have concluded that you have suffered no wrong in this and that the leak, though unpleasant, was justified.
“You shall reason frankly with your neighbor” (Lev. 19:17). It is in that vein that this testimony is given to you concerning your deeds.
The Nature of Your Organization
First is your secrecy. You have set yourselves up as a shadow presbytery, with a confidential membership and an agenda and doings that are known largely only insofar as you have failed to maintain your cover. There is not a single line in Scripture that justifies this secrecy of yours, in which you persistently hide your deeds from the church. The Beatitudes do not say ‘blessed are the secret activists,’ nor do any of the ethical instructions of the New Testament commend secretive activities. I search the qualifications for elders in vain for the suggestion that skill in political machinations is a desirable virtue, and I find equal difficulty in locating the advice of Proverbs, the command of the Law, or the worthy example from Israel’s history that teaches the propriety of such things.
To be sure, Scripture does allude to secrecy, but apart from unpretentious piety (Matt. 6:3-4, 6, 17-18), the innermost thoughts of man (Ps. 44:21; 51:6; 90:8), and God’s hidden counsel (Deut. 29:29; Lk. 8:10; Rom 16:25; 1 Cor. 2:7), it does so in only two broad circumstances. In the first case the faithful use secrecy to avoid persecution (Acts 9:23-25). This secrecy is mitigated, however, by two factors. It was a passive secrecy intended to avoid the persecution of others, not an active secrecy that involved plotting against them. When the early disciples hid from the Jews they are not recorded as having plotted to achieve influence to stymie the persecution-prone Sanhedrin or Herod, but rather as having gone through the normal expressions of piety in seeking deliverance (Acts 12:12; comp. v. 5). In addition, this secrecy was often willingly foregone in favor of public ministry and an acceptance of the suffering that might accompany it. The prophets, our Lord, and the apostles all suffered openly because of their public testimony to the truth. They sometimes eluded those that wished to persecute them, but they were consistently bold in their public ministries and in the patience with which they endured corresponding suffering.
The second occasion in which secretiveness appears is in seeking to conceal wrongdoing. It is a mark of false teachers that they conceal their true nature. Jude says of them that they “crept in unnoticed” (Jude 4), while Peter says that “they secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Pet. 2:4) and Paul describes his opponents as “false brothers secretly brought in – who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 2:4). Ezekiel records how the elders of Israel committed idolatry in secret (Eze. 8:8-12; 14:1-11), while the probability and danger of idolaters secretly enticing others to infidelity was so great that the Law prescribed a harsh remedy to defend against it (Deut. 13:6-11).
Alas, in their sin the faithful have sometimes stumbled and looked rather to concealment than to grace for deliverance. Adam and Eve hid themselves after the Fall (Gen. 3:8-10), while Abraham and Isaac concealed their true identities from foreigners whose power they (mistakenly) feared (12:12-13; 20:2; 26:7-11) and Peter concealed his own discipleship (Lk. 22:57-60). Yet in such cases this was a sinful departure from their faithfulness, a faithfulness which was elsewhere proven by their deeds (Gen. 22:1-18; 26:25; Acts 1:15-22; 2:14-40; 4:8-14, 18-20; 5:29-33, 40-42; 10:34-48; 12:2-17; 15:7-11).
It is not so with false teachers, for whom secrecy is their typical modus operandi, nor with their master, Satan, who ever disguises his true nature and works secret mischief (Gen. 3:1-5; Cor. 11:26). Does it not bother you that your way of doing things is exactly the same as that of Satan and false teachers, and that it is the precise opposite of how Christ and the apostles conducted themselves? It should keep you up at night and move you to examine yourselves closely and to seek God’s face in utter humiliation and heartfelt repentance. Judging by your persistence in this way for nearly 9 years now, it seems that you have not come to such a knowledge of the true nature of your deeds or of the right attitude concerning them.
Understand that there is no excuse or justification for your secrecy, since you do not do it to avoid persecution but to hide yourselves from others whom you extol as brothers with whom you desire good relations. The PCA was not apostate and likely to persecute you for pursuing your agenda had you begun as a public organization in 2013; nor is the present PCA faithless and inclined to use persecution against you, even when we lay aside the prescient fact that it is not within our power to persecute in the same way that unbelievers did the early believers.
An Objection Considered
Now perhaps you will object and say that this is all a misunderstanding and that yours is not a secret organization but a private one. Perhaps you will say that you also need privacy in order to do your pastoral work. In this you assert principles that, if consistently applied in ethical matters, would be disastrous. In common use private and secret are not strictly synonymous: what is private is the legitimate concern of its subject only, whereas what is secret is intentionally (rather than coincidentally) hidden from certain others because its being known by them would cause conflict. Secrecy carries it with the connotation of willful, deliberate concealment, whereas what is private is the concern of its subject as a matter of course. As an insignificant citizen my domestic life is private, but it is so absent any special attempt to keep it to myself. But my email password is a secret, as I put conscious effort into keeping others from discovering it.
Consider another example. If a man beats his wife behind the pulled shades of their bedroom is that a private matter or a secret one? It is not a legitimately private matter, for the commission of violent offenses is a public concern that involves not only the immediate perpetrator and victim but others as well, such as the rest of their families and the punitive agents of the state. If an abuser plead as defense that what transpires within his own home is without exception his private business the district attorney would laugh him to scorn and proceed with charges.
Why? Because the matter, though kept secret until it is discovered, is not limited in its effects to the immediate participants. Private actions that bear a public effect are not truly private, regardless of the circumstances in which they occur. Their influence on others – even (or perhaps especially) others who may not know about them – makes them matters of public concern and redress.
And so it is with your organization and its doings. If you were merely an invitation-only club that meets to play checkers or discuss 13th century Hungarian literature yours would be a private organization, since those things will have no significant effects upon the church you serve. But it most emphatically does affect others when you dream up agendas that you then act out when the opportunity arises, and which will have significant effects upon every PCA church, perhaps for many generations or in perpetuity.
Also, you fail to see that privacy is not wholly separate from public recognition, unlike secrecy, which wishes for the wider public to be oblivious as to the very existence of the thing hidden. Private property, for example, is recognized as such by the law and by the community: each parcel has a tax number and its address, owner, purchase history, boundaries, etc. can be learned by other citizens even if the owner has fortified the property against entry (after the contemporary fashion) with fences and rude signage. But secret property – as for example, a moonshine still – is that which the owner endeavors to conceal from being known about by the wider community at all. Now you are not pristinely secret, as your existence has been discovered, but neither are you a formal, open organization; your doings and most of your membership still remain in the shadows in an intentional attempt to elude public knowledge, which qualifies you as secretive, not private.
Also, office is ipso facto public and should, as such, be exercised in a public, accountable way. It is not appropriate for anyone to hold both public office and membership in a secret organization that seeks to influence the actions of public officeholders and the outcomes of public assemblies. Officeholders, as beneficiaries and stewards of the public trust of the people whom they serve, ought to take care to keep that trust and not betray it or give occasion for suspicion, which is what is done when one maintains membership in a secretive organization.
The Question of the Email Leak
Now in discussing this we come to the question of the email leak and to the objection that it was an unlawful act of trafficking in confidential intellectual property that discredits the leaker and makes any criticism of you that is built upon the leaked materials illegitimate. The leak was unsavory, and on its first occurrence I regarded it as an open question as to whether it was appropriate or whether, it having already occurred, it would be appropriate to peruse the leaked materials. Upon reflection I have concluded that you have suffered no wrong in this and that the leak, though unpleasant, was justified. Here is why:
Privacy is not separable from legality. No one has a right to privacy in wrongdoing: to the contrary, participants have a duty to testify to the wrong deeds of unlawful enterprises. To persist in concealing their existence and transgressions because of that strange notion of brotherly loyalty that is common in such organizations is not honorable; to turn state’s evidence is. Your organization is unlawful and is nowhere provided for by Scripture, prudence, a common sense of ethical propriety, or our constitution. It is in every way contrary to the ethos of such things and stands condemned thereby. The leaker did not violate your right to privacy in this – for you have none. Rather, he acted in accord with his duty to turn from the illicit organization and its deeds, and to reveal them to those who are affected by them (Lev. 5:1; Zech. 8:16-17; Eph. 4:25; comp. Prov. 29:24 and 2 Kgs. 5:31-32).
The leak was an act of defense, a response to your own conspiratorial doings. It is often lawful to respond in defense with the same type and nature of thing with which one has been assailed. It is lawful to use force to repel force. So also is it lawful to respond to secrecy with deeds that are of a like nature. One who strikes in defense is righteous where one who strikes in cruelty is not. One who secretly infiltrates a conspiracy is similarly justified, whereas the original offenders are not.
Necessity justifies in some circumstances what is unlawful in others (1 Sam. 21:6). The leaker was compelled to his action by your own secrecy. There could have been no knowledge of your doings in the dark except by infiltration and exposure. His deed was provoked by your own and could not have occurred apart from it. You created the necessity and have, as such, no ground upon which to complain.
We may plead all of this against you, for we act in defense; you, the instigators, may lay claim to none of it. The leaker has but done his duty by informing the rest of us of your doings that will affect us. He who uses craft and secrecy can little object if others do so more adeptly in response. And an organization that has secretly set itself up in the midst of another cannot object to others secretly infiltrating it in response, at least not without being hypocritical.
Tom Hervey is a member of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, S.C.
University Professor’s Book Aims To Destigmatize Pedophilia Because There’s No ‘Immorality’ In Being Attracted To ChildrenBy Kendall Tietz — 1 year ago
“I want to be extremely clear that child sexual abuse is never ever okay,” Walker said. “But having an attraction to minors as long as it isn’t acted on, doesn’t mean that the person who has those attractions is doing something wrong.”
University professor Allyn Walker wrote a book about people who are attracted to minors, a group he believes is misunderstood and should be destigmatized.
Walker is an assistant professor at Old Dominion University and author of the book, “A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity.” Walker’s book challenges the “widespread assumptions that persons who are preferentially attracted to minors—often referred to as ‘pedophiles’” and looks at the “lives of non-offending minor-attracted persons (MAPs),” a term used to describe the group because it is less stigmatizing than a word like “pedophile,” according to Walker.
In the interview with the Prostasia Foundation, Walker made clear that abuse should not be tolerated and argued there is a distinction between a sexual attraction and acting on that sexual attraction.
“From my perspective, there is no morality or immorality attached to attraction to anyone because no one can control who they’re attracted to at all,” Walker said in the interview. “In other words, it’s not who we’re attracted to that’s either okay or not okay. It’s our behaviors and responding to that attraction that are either okay or not okay.”
The Prostasia Foundation is a non-profit that focuses on child protection along with an “evidence-based approach to child sexual abuse prevention with its commitment to human rights and sex positivity,” according to its website.
By Grover Gunn — 11 months ago
The elements of the Lord’s Supper understood as a true natural image of Jesus must incorporate the literal physical body and blood of Jesus. This understanding of the Lord’s Supper is a logical implication of the eighth century Christological argument.
In the history of the Christian church, there have been two very significant documents related to an argument against all visual representations of Jesus, an argument commonly called the Christological argument. The first document is a statement of the decisions of a church council held near Constantinople in 754. The second document is the eighteenth century book by Ralph Erskine, Faith No Fancy. The eighth century and the eighteenth century versions of the Christological argument have much in common, but they also have their differences. Each version was also associated with a particular understanding of the Lord’s Supper.
Let’s begin with the eighth century Christological argument. A church council in the year 754 condemned all images representing Jesus in His humanity based on the Christological argument. A subsequent church council in 787 reversed this decision and also condoned the veneration of images as an element of Christian worship. The 787 church council was the Second Council of Nicea, the seventh and last of the early ecumenical councils recognized by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. After the 787 council, the controversy flared up again in the east but was soon settled permanently in favor of those who venerated images.
After this, the eighth century Christological argument seemed largely forgotten. The eighth century Christological argument had stirred up controversy in the eastern churches associated with Constantinople but not in the western churches associated with Rome. Also, as we will see, the eastern understanding of images of Christ soon changed in a way that made the eighth century Christological argument irrelevant even in the east.
In the years leading up to the 754 council, the eastern emperor Constantine V originated the eighth century Christological argument. His main critic was John of Damascus, a Christian theologian who lived in an area under Muslim control where he was free to criticize the emperor’s views. These two opponents shared a common foundational understanding about the basic nature of any visual representation of Jesus. They both regarded such images as natural images as opposed to artificial and external images. Using modern comparisons, this means that their common understanding of an image of Jesus had more in common with a clone, which is a natural image, than it had with a digital picture, which is an artificial and external image. Their common foundational understanding was based on the idea that God the Son as the divine image of God the Father is the pattern for understanding the relationship of a visual image of Jesus to Jesus himself. God the Son is a natural image of God the Father in that they both are fully divine and thus both have the same nature. Thus, they reasoned, a visual image of Jesus must also be a natural image of Jesus. They shared this understanding of visual images of Jesus but came to opposite conclusions. John of Damascus believed that such images should be venerated, and Constantine V believed that they should be prohibited. There was no thought of the possibility that there could be an artificial and external visual representation of Jesus in His humanity that was neither a proper object of worship nor a necessary object of censure.
The eighth century Christological argument presented a dilemma regarding any visual representation of Jesus that was regarded as a true natural image. A summary statement of this dilemma is found in the decisions of the 754 council:
Whoever, then, makes an image of Christ, either depicts the Godhead which cannot be depicted, and mingles it with the manhood (like the Monophysites), or he represents the body of Christ as not made divine and separate and as a person apart, like the Nestorians. (Percival, p. 544)
In other words, if anyone tried to make a visual representation of Jesus that was a true natural image, he had to choose his poison, either monophysitism or Nestorianism. A true natural image of a monophysite Jesus is theoretically possible because the human and divine natures are blended and thus are depictable in a true natural image through the human element. Also, a true natural image of a Nestorian Jesus is theoretically possible because the human and divine natures are separated, with a divine person subsisting in the one divine nature and a human person subsisting in the human nature. The human person subsisting in a human nature is depictable in a true natural image separate from the divine person subsisting in the one divine nature. Yet an orthodox Jesus is not depictable through a true natural image. The orthodox doctrine, affirmed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, is that Jesus has two natures, the one divine nature and a complete and genuine human nature, that are never separated but also never mixed or confused. For anyone who tries to make a true natural image of Jesus, the choice is between either depicting the undepictable or separating the inseparable. Both choices involve a serious Christological heresy: either Nestorianism, which separates the two natures, or monophysitism, which blends the two natures. With both horns of the dilemma rejected, the implication was that all visual representations of Jesus should be prohibited and avoided. This argument was very effective in a context where Christological heresy was taken very seriously.
Yet the eighth century Christological argument did not deprive the church of every possible visible representation of Jesus. The 754 council pointed to the Lord’s Supper as a valid visual image of Jesus. What finite humans could not do through icons, God could do miraculously through the Lord’s Supper. According to the eighth century Christological argument’s understanding of a valid image, the Lord’s Supper must be a true natural image of Jesus in order to be a valid image of Jesus. If the Lord’s Supper is not a miraculously effected natural image of Jesus, then the dilemma of the eighth century Christological argument would apply to it as well. The same 754 council that stated the eighth century Christological argument also made this statement regarding the Lord’s Supper:
And the body of Christ is made divine, so also this figure of the body of Christ, the bread, is made divine by the descent of the Holy Spirit; it becomes the divine body of Christ by the mediation of the priest who, separating the oblation from that which is common, sanctifies it. (Percival 2011, p. 544)
The elements of the Lord’s Supper understood as a true natural image of Jesus must incorporate the literal physical body and blood of Jesus. This understanding of the Lord’s Supper is a logical implication of the eighth century Christological argument.
The dilemma of the eighth century Christological argument could have been avoided altogether if visual representations of Jesus in his humanity had been regarded as artificial and external images. This insight was not suggested until later by Patriarch Nicephorus (c. 758-828), who was the first to give an effective answer to the eighth century Christological argument. John of Damascus had thought in terms of ontological Platonic participation. In contrast, Patriarch Nicephorus analyzed the issue in terms of Aristotelian logic. In his argumentation against the eighth century Christological argument, Patriarch Nicephorus defined the icon as an artificial external image:
It is a likeness of its living model, and through this likeness it expresses the entire visible form of the one it depicts; yet it remains in essence distinct from this model because it is of a different matter. (Schoenborn 2011, location 3036, p. 87)
With this understanding of visual representations of Jesus in his humanity, the eighth century Christological argument became irrelevant.
Sadly the eastern church continued its veneration of icons of Jesus. A third and final foundational thinker on this issue arose in the eastern church, Theodore the Studite (729-856). Like Patriarch Nicephorus, he explained images in Aristotelian relational terms and not in Platonic terms of ontological participation. Yet he went beyond Patriarch Nicephorus by clearly stating that to see an icon of Christ is to look upon the divine person of Christ. The basic contention of Theodore the Studite was that an icon of a person depicts not that person’s nature but that person’s person. He claimed that the personal connection between a visual image of Jesus and Jesus himself was the icon’s physical resemblance to the historical Jesus. The eastern church had a legend explaining how the knowledge of Jesus’ physical appearance had been preserved for use in painting icons. Like John of Damascus, Theodore the Studite held to an intrinsic connection between the image and its prototype, though on the level of personhood and not on the level of essential nature.
The 754 council became irrelevant even in the east, and many of its documents were lost. We know about their content mainly from their being quoted by the 787 council in the process of condemning them. We do not later read about the eighth century Christological argument even as a defense of the iconoclasm associated with the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. The Protestant Reformer Peter Martyr did mention the 754 church council and the eighth century Christological argument, but only to express his disagreement with the argument. John Calvin also mentioned the 754 church council but not in an effort to glean an argument against the worship of images. Calvin noted both the anti-image council in 754 and the pro-image council in 787 as part of his argument that church councils can disagree with one another and therefore cannot be infallible. In the course of his argument, Calvin implied his agreement with the 754 council’s decision to remove images from churches and strongly condemned the 787 council’s approval of worshipping images. Yet his main contention was that “… we cannot otherwise distinguish between councils that are contradictory and discordant, which have been many, unless we weigh them all … in the balance of all men and angels, that is, the Word of the Lord” (Institutes 21:1173 4.9.9). Calvin did not mention the eighth century Christological argument.
After the eighth century controversy, the Christological argument did not receive any significant attention to my knowledge until Ralph Erskine in the eighteenth century wrote his book Faith No Fancy. Ralph Erskine was apparently not even aware of the eighth century Christological argument when he began writing his book. Well into the writing, he revealed that he had learned about the 754 church council and the eighth century Christological argument through reading Peter Martyr:
Then [Peter Martyr in Loc. Com.] makes mention of the seventh synod, (which was not allowed by the Papists, and) which was held by Constantine and his son: wherein it was decreed, “That Christ was not to be painted, feigned or figures, no not as touching his human nature. And the reason is set down and assigned, because it is not possible to describe by art any thing else but his human nature. Wherefore they that make such things, seems to embrace the Nestorian error, which separated the human nature from the divine.” When above I supposed Mr. Robe’s doctrine of mental imagery touching Christ’s human nature to savour of Nestorianism, I had not glanced at this passage, so as to see my opinion fortified by the decree of such an ancient synod. (page 294)
At this point, a little historical background to Ralph Erskine’s development of the eighteenth Christological argument would be helpful. In Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards wrote an account of the awakening that occurred in his church from 1734 to 1735. An unabridged version entitled A Faithful Narrative was published in London in 1737, and reprints appeared in Edinburgh in 1737 and 1738. In 1741, Edwards preached a sermon on the distinguishing marks of a true spiritual awakening. This was published under the title The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. Editions were published in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1742. Also in 1742, Edwards’s earlier work A Faithful Narrative helped inspire awakenings in two congregations of the Church of Scotland, William McColloch’s church at Cambuslang and James Robe’s church at Kilsyth. George Whitefield then preached in these churches in June 1742. Ralph Erskine and James Fisher were members of the Associate Presbytery, a group that had seceded from the Church of Scotland in 1733. According to James Robe, Fisher sent circular letters “Misrepresenting this blessed Work as a Delusion, and Work, of the Devil, very soon after its first Appearance at Cambuslang.” On July 15, 1742, the Associate Presbytery called for their churches to fast on August 4 in response to Whitefield’s ministry in Scotland and the alleged works of delusion. James Robe quickly wrote a book defending the Scottish awakenings, and Fisher quickly responded with a critical review. This was followed by a series of published letters between Robe and Fisher. After Robe’s fourth letter, Ralph Erskine wrote Faith No Fancy in 1745 as his definitive response to Robe.
In The Distinguishing Marks, Jonathan Edwards had made this comment about mental images:
Such is our nature that we can’t think of things invisible, without a degree of imagination. I dare appeal to any man, of the greatest powers of mind, whether or no he is able to fix his thoughts on God or Christ, or the things of another world, without imaginary ideas attending his meditations? (Edwards 2009, 236)