Wednesday, March 19, 2014


That accountability question has always been the Achilles' Heel of the evangelical parachurch movement. 
The result is that a pastor's power and influence are intentionally enhanced and expanded while accountability is in practice detached from a proper ecclesiastical body.

This is Trueman's hobbyhorse, which he keeps riding into the ground. His objection isn't confined black sheep like Mark Driscoll. He constantly has TGC in the crosshairs, as well as parachurch movements generally.

By "accountability" to a "proper ecclesiastical body," I assume he's alluding to something like Presbyterian polity. But is that the solution?

i) To begin with, his position commits one to denominations. The alternative to independent local churches is a denomination. Now, I myself don't think there's anything inherently wrong with denominations. But it's not as if the Pastoral Epistles defined a "proper ecclesiastical body" as a denomination. To the contrary, they focus on the internal dynamics of the local church. 

ii) Having formal accountability structures doesn't ensure accountability. Liberal mainline denominations (e.g. PC-USA, ECUSA, CRC, ELCA) have formal accountability structures, yet that didn't prevent them from sliding into heterodoxy and heteropraxy. Indeed, church gov't enforces whatever the leaders believe. 

iii) The celebrity/megachurch dynamic is hardly confined to independent churches or parachurch ministries. Take Joel Gregory's expose of Dallas First Baptist.

When PCA pastor James Kennedy became incapacitated, a bloodbath ensued from control of his empire, resulting in a very ugly, damaging transition. Some have chided Kennedy for failing to groom a successor, but to my knowledge, a Presbyterian pastor lacks the authority to designate an heir apparent. 

Likewise, Ergun Caner was unanimously elected by the board of trustees to head a Baptist college. That travesty wasn't due to the lack of an accountability system. 

If a church board is packed with cronies, it will rubber-stamp malfeasance. Indeed, all parties may be on the take. 

iv) To my knowledge, Peter Enns is still a PCA elder in good standing. Technically, he's accountable to a "proper ecclesiastical body," but why hasn't he been held accountable? Where's the heresy trial? 

v) Beyond allusion to plural eldership, the Pastorals don't really say anything about an accountability system. Rather, they focus on the moral character of the elder. Choose a man of good character. There's no substitute for personal rectitude. 

Ultimately, it's not accountability structures that keep elders in check, but elders that keep accountability structures in check. That's why Paul makes the paradoxical statement that the law is for the lawless (1 Tim 1:9). Men of integrity don't need it. They do right without it. 

vi) Trueman acts as if the important thing is to be run over at a crosswalk rather than jaywalking. Follow procedure for procedure's sake. 

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