2012 StandPoint Conference Session 1: A Bridge Too Far

Speaker: Phil Johnson
Companion paper here.


I watched the video again, because this thread was SO far from http://growingthroughgrace.com/?cat=29] the original subject -
…bridge-building, boundary-guarding, brotherhood, belief, and the problem of how to cultivate all of those things without compromise. In the process, I’ll touch on The Gospel Coalition, The Elephant Room, and some other topics that will be familiar to our regular readers.
In my experience, http://www.mpbchurch.com/site/cpage.asp?sec_id=3421&cpage_id=17831] this is a viable assessment of more than just a few churches-
…seemingly good, orthodox, spiritually-qualified men, but evidently some of them were secretly harboring heretical beliefs. And they were just waiting for Paul to move on so that they could begin teaching their own ideas.
It does seem as if many pastors have walked away from shepherding and are now engaged in marketing, and instead of protecting the flock they are guarding their paycheck.
I just listened to most of Phil’s message again (well past the point where he talked about the Elephant Room), and I searched the transcript provided, but I cannot find any reference by Phil to the Elephant Room as having been “scripted.” This has been the primary, repeated accusation against him based on the video above, right? So can anyone tell me exactly where Phil actually said this? Where is it in the transcript? Can you give me the quote with the page number? Or where is it in the video? Can you give me the time at which it occurs?

Having listened to Phil’s message twice now — once trying to hear that word — I am surprised that I haven’t heard it when it has been repeatedly asserted here that he said it.

All discussion on racism and segregation should be moved http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-fundamentalism-and-racism] to a new thread that I have expressly created for the topic . If any further posts on that subject appear in this thread, they will be hidden. This particular thread is for discussion of Phil Johnson’s Standpoint video session.

In regards to the friction between members - if you don’t like what someone else is saying, either about yourself or what you have said, please respond to them and respectfully point out where they are wrong or provide additional information that would cause them to reconsider. This is a place where ideas and opinions are exchanged, and that kind of friction is to be expected at times. After all, if we all agreed with each other, there wouldn’t be a lot of compelling discussion, would there?

If anyone would like to read more about the position of SI in terms of discussion that is and is not permissible, please read the http://sharperiron.org/sharperiron-forum-comment-policy] site comment policy . I’ll excerpt the opening section here:
To be a helpful and appreciated participant in discussions at SI, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

* Aim to be consistently respectful. If you get involved in discussions on controversial topics, someone will think you’re being disrespectful sooner or later. You want to make sure they’re wrong about that.

* Try to stay on topic. This is a famously subjective call. Do your best. If you think your comment might be seen as unrelated, include something to help us see the connection.

* Broaden your horizons. If you always harp on one or two topics and rarely show any interest in others, people will tend to dismiss you as a crank.

* Focus on ideas. The old adage “consider the source” has its merits, but the source of an idea never really proves it to be true or false.

* When a discussion is on a controversial topic, extra effort is required to leave irrelevant factors out of it. So going after somebody’s intelligence or educational background or gender or age or favorite cricket team is usually not helpful to making your point or refuting theirs.

* Wear your big-boy pants. Human interaction is messy—especially where strong opinions are involved. Discussions go far better when participants are slow to take offense. If someone’s a bit prickly, why not just ignore it and stay on topic? Sure, it’s bad to be rude. It’s not much better to be a cry baby.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Wow. For two or three days this thread had only six comments, so I stopped watching it. Then when I looked again yesterday afternoon it had nearly 60 comments, so I put off reading them till I had a spare moment. That didn’t happen until tonight.

Sorry I missed the discussion.

For the record, I stand by everything I have ever said about Mark Driscoll’s smutty “visions” and his unhealthy preoccupation with erotic themes and raunchy talk. For reasons already cited by several commenters here, I don’t think the expression “pornographic divination” is an unfair or inaccurate description of the claims Driscoll made on the videotape in question. Though I made no reference to that in the above message, here’s a link to the source for anyone wondering what all the fuss is about:


Also: I remain convinced that the outcome of the Elephant Room (not the actual words of the discussion, but the metanarrative) was scripted in advance. A day or two after speaking directly with James MacDonald about my concerns (during the first week of October 2011—months before the event), I made these predictions about ER2:


My predictions, which were spot-on, speak for themselves. Note: The prescience that led to those statements did not come from a mystical television screen in my head, but from a reasoned interpretation of what I heard directly from James MacDonald. The “script” followed at the event itself was precisely what MacDonald himself told me he wanted to occur. Given his subsequent treatment of Voddie Baucham, Dan McGhee, and others who had different opinions about Jakes, ***PLUS the fact that neither Driscoll nor anyone else dared to raise any questions about Jakes’s prosperity doctrines (_despite the fact that I and many others had URGED MacDonald not to let that issue be neglected_),*** I think it’s perfectly reasonable to conclude that the outcome of the ER2 discussions was indeed determined well in advance. I.e., the direction and the result of the “conversation” were scripted.

Anyway, thanks to those who attempted to answer Mr. Carpenter. He has posted the same soliloquy in several forums. I answered him once and he brushed me off the way he has brushed off others here. There’s a famous Bible verse that instructs us how to deal with people who do that.

I am glad you could take part in the exchange here, and I want to personally let you know just how much I have appreciated your ministry, brother. As I posted in an early entry in this discussion, I couldn’t agree more with the thoroughly Biblical sentiments expressed in “A Bridge Too far.” I hope and pray that I and my fellow elders at Immanuel Baptist Church will continue by God’s grace to live out such ministry.


I really thought the illustration of the weaknesses of having a center bounded movement were well illustrated, and Phil did and excellent job of defining all of my unspoken concerns with TGC. I did think that ER2 would be a huge test for TGC, and I was very, very disappointed to see now only how long it took for them to expel Driscoll and MacDonald, but also that there seemed to be a very high level of internal politicking going on as to whether or not they would do anything to either council member for damaging their self-proclaimed doctrinal boundaries.

I also thought that Phil’s emphasis on having both a center bounded AND a strong perimeter to the group is well needed, and I wish that Fundamentalism would do a better job of enumerating not just the core (the famous five fundamentals), but of identifying those peripheral issues that we could agree on as ‘endpoints for fellowship’. I understand that there is a lot of varigated streams in the ‘movement’ (which is why I even hesitate to call it a movement anymore), but surely there is something that we can come up with. Perhaps this explains a resurgence of interest in church creeds and confessions?

It used to be ‘separation’ was the perimeter fence, but look at how a failure to articulate a principle for how and why we separate got us…Fundys began to separate over trivial things (or dropped those perimeter fences entirely in disgust). Now we not only have a missing perimeter fence, i’m not even sure that we have a doctrinal core that we could agree on.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Finally got around to watching Phil’s video. Loved the preppy look. :o)

I appreciated Phil’s comments. Well done! I particularly noted the discussion related to the distinction between center-verses-boundary-boundedness (whew!). I’m not so sure that, rightly defined, both cannot be put into practice. For example, the pastor—elders at our church must not only subscribe to our own statement of faith, as well as our own written statements on church policy and doctrine, but also the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals statement of faith, which is more explicitly Calvinistic than our own. We expect our elders and deacons to be like-minded on all of the core doctrines and practices of our church. However, we understand that not everyone in the pew is on the same page. By that I mean, there are some who don’t think in such specific theological terms, there are some who aren’t sure, there are some who don’t know, there are immature / ignorant believers who need to be patiently instructed. We expect co-laborers (members) to be in agreement in the central truths of the Gospel. We expect them to to born-again believers who have been baptized under the authority of a true church. They must subscribe to our doctrinal standards, a statement that reflects the core of reformational orthodoxy. While we teach them what we believe, and what we teach, we don’t force them to adhere to 5 point Calvinism in order for them to minister among us. To be sure, they will not be permitted to be divisive or to contradict the teaching authority of the elders, but we will not forbid them membership and ministry, either. We expect them to be teachable. We have attempted to be tenacious in regard to the Gospel, and charitable in regard to what I may call secondary or tertiary matters. I have used the illustration of a round target with concentric rings and a bull’s-eye in the center. The Gospel (justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone) is at the center, along with matter’s pertaining to theology proper (i.e. the Triunity of God, inspiration of Scripture). Other matters I would deem very, very significant, such as God’s sovereignty over *all* things. But, if one misses the mark on these issues, it will not necessarily mean that they will miss the Kingdom, either. At the outer edge are many matters where very good, like-minded, godly men may humbly disagree with one another. We must allow for the priesthood of the believer and trust that the Holy Spirit will work as He will in each believer’s life. All this to say, we practice both center-boundedness and boundary-boundedness. If we put all our focus on the core, to the neglect of the outer boundaries, we fall prey to existential liberalism (as Phil points out). If we put all our focus on boundaries (boundaries that are not necessarily fundamental) we run the risk of becoming legalistic pharisees.

I hope this is all taken in the spirit intended.

Clearly Johnson’s attack on an evangelical pastor fails the definitions even he provides at his own blog post. In no way does what Johnson’s victim said meet the definition of “pornographic” as ” in a manner intended to stimulate erotic … feelings”. As for the “divination” charge, I stand by what I’ve said above. As for “scripted”, his attempt now to redefine “scripted” rather than just apologize, is problematic. Clearly “scripted” doesn’t mean a “scripted” “metanarrative”, whatever that is supposed to mean, or just vague guidelines as to the matter of discussion. Further, note that he doesn’t produce any proof. Where’s the script Phil? What he doesn’t seem to understand is that he doesn’t have a right to go around making accusations about people without proof using exaggerated, inflammatory rhetoric.

Someone can’t guard the boundaries if he can’t be trusted to make accurate accusations.

Also, for the record, I have no recollection of getting a response directly from Mr. Johnson before. I sent a personal message to him and was not answered. I posted similar questions and challenges at his facebook page and rather than being answered, I was blocked. The original pyromaniac attack where he virtually accuses an evangelical pastor of witchcraft and pornography, is not open for new comments. So I don’t know to what he is referring. In addition, he seems to be implying that I simply shouldn’t be paid attention to. So, consider what we have in Mr. Johnson: a man who makes it his business to throw rhetorical bombs at other evangelicals, in inaccurate terms, sometimes with no proof whatsoever, and, when questioned, insists that the questioner shouldn’t be paid attention to. Is that really the kind of person who should take it upon himself to be the critic of the church?

Those who do not believe in the sufficiency of God’s word have to run interference for each other. It is all or nothing with them.

JC, watching 2 people engage in explicit sexual activity is pornographic. That is what Mark claims God showed him. Mark also proceeded to relay the story with others. That is also pornographic.

So in Mark’s little world, God is okay with pornography and the replay of it through description to others.

Such a person is unfit for ministry and grossly out of touch with NT Christianity.

To further the evidence of Driscoll’s pornography fascination, one only needs to read his real marriage book.

http://www.dennyburk.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/8-Lambert.pdf] Review of Real Marriage

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

he seems to be implying that I simply shouldn’t be paid attention to
I didn’t mean to imply that. I thought I was making it fairly emphatic.

No matter. I think Mr. C’s refusal to heed either counsel or correction pretty much speaks for itself.
Hi James K, your definition of pornography does not fit the definition Johnson himself posted on his blog, quoted in part in my post immediately above. By the definition you stated (e.g. “relay the story with others”) parts of the Bible would be pornographic. So, you need to revise your definition.

I believe firmly in the inspiration, sufficiency, and inerrancy of scripture, including the 9th commandment against bearing false witness.

Hi Phil, No Biblical correction has been offered to me. The very definitions you posted yourself on your blog support what I’ve said from the beginning. But I’ve given you much mature correction, especially about being honest in your characterizations. You fail to heed it and remain obstinate in your inaccurate, unsubstantiated attacks. By the way, where’s that script?

JC, I am sorry you don’t understand.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

For the Record, PJ is not the only Christian leader who has identified Mark Driscoll’s work as pornographic in nature. Heath Lambert, assistant professor of pastoral theology at Boyce College, reviewed Driscoll’s recent marriage book http://www.dennyburk.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/8-Lambert.pdf] here . One point he made:
The Driscolls desire for people to avoid a pornographic culture, but much of their book grows out of that same pornographic culture and will guide many people into it.
When Phil points out that Driscoll seems obsessed with things pornographic, he is not alone in this assessment.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?