Warnings Against Judging Brothers

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by Reformed Covenanter, Oct 13, 2019.

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  1. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I listened to Fred's sermon on Romans 14:1-12 a bit earlier. It is a good corrective to both legalism, judgmentalism, and immature triumphalism. I think everyone would benefit from taking the time to listen to it as and when it is convenient to do so.
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Halfway through now. I think I sort of like this Fred Greco guy!
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    "If someone is good enough for Jesus, then you can be sure they are good enough for you!"

    A good word.
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  4. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks Daniel, and double thanks to @fredtgreco . I needed to hear this as it helped me find an area where sin has been spreading some roots within my own attitudes.:detective:
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  5. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    The theory here may be all well and good but the problem arises when we get into specifics. What are these issues where we are not allowed to judge another? What are the issues where we should be tolerant because there is no right and wrong? In this day and age where the church has become so worldly I'm always suspicious of people who push this attitude. Do they really think the problem today is being too judgemental? Really? Strange.

    And my suspicious were confirmed when he gave a list of issues where Scripture, apparently, is silent and in which no matter our own convictions we are not allowed to tell others what is right and wrong: how we dress, Bible translation, worship. Well Scripture does give us specific commands on how to dress (men and women are not to wear the same style of clothing); the Westminster Confession prohibits the use of Bible translations which are the product of modern textual criticism; Scripture tells us how to worship. Scripture also tells us the posture in which we are to pray (another "indifferent" matter mentioned by him). So the fact that he would list these issues as "adiaphora" is very worying.

    There was also no discusson as to how this relates to the various relationships between believers. Obviously two believers in different denominations don't need to be in as close agreement as two within the same communion. Uniformity must be maintained within a denomination but two believers in different denominations can still enjoy fellowship even if they have differences in, for example, worship. But if these differences were to spring up within a denomination that would be very worrying and may have to be dealt with.
  6. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Was there really a need for this post, specifically the middle portion?
  7. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Clearly yes.
  8. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    I have no objection to that post, which serves to prove the point of my sermon.
  9. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    "Clearly" perhaps only to you.

    It just seems to me, brother, that you have a tendency—perhaps even an urge—to be overly corrective and critical in a lot of your interaction on this board. I recall specifically the time you tried to convince me that the use of "you" as opposed to "thee" in reference to God was polytheistic. Now, the very use of modern Bible translations is contra-confessional! Nonsense.

    But, of course, it's difficult to say anything to someone who will just chalk disagreement in these matters up to "worldliness."
  10. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well according to the poll in this thread I'm not alone in thinking the Westminster Confession requires the use of a Bible translated from the Received Text:


    I also notice that you haven't engaged with any of the other points I mentioned. Is it or is it not true that the Bible has specific regulations on dress, worship, prayer? If it is true then what was said in that sermon is clearly wrong and how any Reformed Christian who seriously holds to the Westminster Standards could recommend it without any qualification I find very worrying. The initial responses to the post were glowing and contained no such qualification. I offered a very needed balance, that is all.

    I also note that no one has answered my main complaint which is that the sermon assumes there is an easily arrived at consensus on what issues are and are not "adiaphora". Clearly that is not the case. It also argues for the broadest interpretation of what are and are not "adiaphora". Why should that go unchallenged?
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  11. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    There were a few points that I would quibble myself, but that was not the main point of the sermon. Hence, I believed there was no need to highlight every minor point of disagreement. Nor do I believe that you are fairly representing Fred in relation to matters of dress and so on. I disagree with you concerning the WCF and Bible translations, but now is not the time to discuss it. If you wish to do so, there is a forum for that very topic.

    As is often the case with your postings, you are quicker to spot the speck in someone else's eye than to remove the beam from your own eye. The appropriate response to the sermon would be penitence and keeping a closer eye on oneself in the future, which is how I am trying to respond to the sermon - not nitpick and every minute point - most of which were just mentioned in passing.
  12. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Because if you listened to the sermon (which you did), then you should have 1st noticed that Fred was not asking you to agree with him on “secondary matters”. Often in reformed camps our tendency is to constantly be consumed by seeing others as less “Christian” or less “belonging” to the true Church because of disagreements over second level doctrinal differences. If we fall into this ditch, the fear is that one day we might look up and have spent our entire lives judging others with very little self-reflection on our own vileness and on how long-suffering the Lord has been towards our own shortcomings.

    The sermon is a much needed reminder. Self reflection on personal failures should occur first and most often before we all too quickly jump into attack mode and fire off flaming or venomous arrows into the night upon the aroma of a differing interpretation on matters that do not alter the core of the gospel. Fred clearly qualified Secondary Level doctrinal distinctives DO MATTER; however we should be watchful no to have sinful attitudes with distinctives, especially with those relatively new to the faith. In this we run a great risk of pushing them away from the faith instead of being a tool of sanctification and discipleship.

    Fred is reminding us of the balance and love needed between weaker & stronger brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Alexander, when you heard the sermon did you first ask your self: “ where have I failed in light of Paul’s teaching?”

    A sobering yet applicable charge from Matthew Henry on 1 Samuel 3, this text was preached by my Pastor last night and also serves as a sobering consideration. When little Samuel mistook God calling his name for the voice of errant Ezra!

    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  13. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

  14. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    That's all fair and I agree with you, as I also said in my initial response that the "theory" of the sermon was all very well and good. However, that doesn't alleviate my concerns about this sort of approach to these issues. We should evaluate a sermon such as this against the times in which we live. In the church today our problem is not that we are too strict.

    But if one is to apply the teaching in this sermon then surely the first question is "what are secondary matters"? Well we were given a list of what the minister considered secondary matters and that list included how we dress, how we worship, how we pray. Are these secondary matters on which Scripture is silent? No they're not. Worship, for one, has a whole chapter of the Confession devoted to it. Is our view of the civil magistrate a secondary matter? Oaths? These are also in the Confession. I don't see how anyone can say any of the topics addressed in the Confession are secondary matters.

    Now maybe my responses don't suggest it, but I would not advocate "reporting" someone to the session the moment we had a disagreement. Of course these things should be handled in a brotherly fashion. However I also addressed this point in my initial response: we have different degrees of fellowship with believers: there are those with whom we are in communion and those we encounter with whom we are not.
  15. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm happy to put aside the issue of Bible translations (except to say that it is not merely my own "extreme" view: it is a view which garnered significant support on this website when posited). He said that we don't have the right to say women shouldn't wear trousers. Deuteronomy 22:5 clearly says that women are not to wear that which pertaineth to a man. I can't think of an article of clothing which pertaineth more to men than trousers. He said that what we sing in worship, what instruments we use is a secondary matter. Now that is patently unBiblical and unConfessional. So how am I meant to apply the sermon if the very examples he uses to prove his point are issues which I believe are clearly regulated by Scripture (and which the Confession would seem to suggest are, and which the church for hundreds of years taught were).

    These are not quibbles. A quibble would be what he said about alcohol (I don't believe Scripture prohibits it but I believe Christian prudence is to abstain). Should I just remain silent when I encounter teaching I think worrying?
  16. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I find that interpretation of the text to be fanciful. For one thing, female trousers are female in nature, not male. I actually discourage women wearing many forms of trousers for reasons of modesty (i.e. they are too figure-hugging), but I do not (ab)use Deuteronomy 22:5 for that purpose.

    I agree with you on those points, but they were not the main issue being addressed in the sermon. Fred is a PCA pastor and is obviously going to disagree with ourselves on those questions. And while I do not like the term "secondary issues", our forefathers did distinguish between errors in lesser and greater matters.

    No, but you need to realise that this board is not a Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland echo-chamber. You also need to be open to correction lest your concerns are misplaced and you are being righteous overmuch. The problem with your postings is not that you often do not have a fair point to make but the manner in which you make them and the emphasis that you put on particular topics, which often seems completely out of proportion to their importance. Remember that the Westminster Larger Catechism also condemns "speaking the truth unseemly."
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  17. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Perhaps these rabbit trails should be dealt with in a new thread, but I'll comment anyhow...

    Yours is the interpretation also held by the Branhamite cult I grew up in. Yet in looking at the ANE milieu that forms the basis of the Mosaic prohibition it becomes pretty clear that what is in view is transvestite-ism, or what today might be called cross-dressing. It is well established that this was a common practice among ancient pagan religions, accompanied by prostitution, especially as part of their temple worship. Also consider what constituted men's vs. women's clothing in biblical times. Both in the Old and New Testament eras both sexes wore dress-like outer garments, although it is believed there were various styles and accoutrements that were generally seen as being more feminine or masculine. But to project the command in Deuteronomy as categorically and for all time applying to pants vs. dresses is both highly subjective and in my opinion anachronistic.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  18. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I was going to respond to Mr. Smith, but I found this response to be—as is usual from you, Daniel—more than sufficient, gracious, and ringing with wisdom. I hesitated even to respond to our brother initially; perhaps pride got the better of me. Either way, I will simply quote you and leave it at that.
  19. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Often primary and foundational doctrines are clear in the underlying principle and not as clear as we might like in all the outworking practices and implications (why can’t everyone be like me!:p).

    1. Worshipping God how He has commanded and being militant against will-worship (upholding the RPW).

    2. Dressing with Modesty (both sexes).

    3. Faithfully translating manuscripts into vulgar tongues.

    4. Parents should labor to ensure their children get a Christian Education.

    We all likely agree that the above principles are cleary laid out in scripture and reformed confessions. However, practicing the above principles often does lead to some differences in practice, even for TRs, that often should fall into the class of secondary matters (matters that should not serve to sever our Christian blood bond). Just my 1/2 cent.:detective:
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
  20. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    The only reason we have "female" trousers is because of the change in fashion in which women started wearing trousers so they were designed in a way to make them more "feminine" (which only reinforces the point that they're not). And is it really a fanciful interpretation? Women wearing trousers was considered scandalous by society at large until well into the 20th century, not just the church. The idea that it is normal and acceptable for women, let alone Christian women, to dress like that is very much a 20th century innovation. You may have no problem with women dressing like that but it's disengenuous to suggest I am being fanciful in that intepretation. Even on the most basic level we see this distinction still has currency: after all how are male and female public bathrooms usually identified? By a figure wearing (it is implied) trousers for men and a figure wearing a dress for women. Even today trousers and skirts are engrained in our understanding of male and female dress respectively.

    And what I wanted to know is how are we meant to identify these secondary issues?

    I am under no illusion that this is a Free Presbyterian echo chamber. There are many denominations one could argue this is an echo chamber for, but certainly not Free Presbyterianism. I believe I am currently the only FP regularly posting. So maybe I have a viewpoint that is different from many on this forum to offer? In fact in this very thread I had a contrary point of view. This is a discussion forum is it not? Yes I put my views across forcefully and you are all welcome to agree or disagree but it's rather unfair to accuse me of treating this forum as my own echo chamber. I know full well my opinion on a lot of matters discussed is the minority one. That's why I offer it. Do we need another voice agreeing it's great for Christians to drink alcohol and watch movies and get tattoos? I think that side of the debate is pretty well covered.

    I have no idea who the Branhamites are. It's also a view that has been held by many denominations for hundreds of years and by society at large but yeah associate my view with some crazy cult: that's fair. (Not!)

    Yes the prohibition is to do with style. It does not mention trousers and dresses specifically because different cultures have different traditions. It's a general rule. In the West trousers are a staple of men's dress and dresses/skirts of women's dress. Are you seriously disputing this? The trend of women wearing trousers only became popular in the 20th century. To claim this is subjective is utterly ahistorical. And the only reason it has become "anachronistic" is because the conditioning has been so successful.

    The point of the injunction is to preserve the distinction between the sexes. This is also why Paul commands that women are to have long hair and men short. Look around you today and it's clear the distinction between the sexes has vanished and it happened long before "transgenderism" became fashionable.
  21. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Exactly, which is not dependent on a strict pants vs. dress demarcation.
  22. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Starting to wonder if Alexander Smith is a satire account of someone who really hates the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland and wants them to look bad.
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  23. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    The fact that you offered an alternative viewpoint is not the problem. For the time being, I am not going to respond to your points about trousers in this thread, as it is probably more suitable material for a new thread on the subject. For what it is worth, I considering mentioning disagreements with the sermon in the OP but judged it unedifying to do so at that time lest it distracts from the bigger point. And it is our Christian duty to focus more in what is good on a sermon we hear or a book that we read than what is deficient, though our sinful tendency is usually to do the opposite. We can do that while remaining discerning and raising legtimate objections when appropriate. I have no problem with someone raising points of disagreement or asking questions about such areas of disagreement. As I said, some of your points about worship were valid and worth mentioning albeit they were not central to the argument of the sermon.

    The problem with your postings is the sheer severity of your critiques of others. You make no attempt to gently encourage others to (as you see it) improve or to try to win them over to your viewpoint. Instead, anytime someone differs with you, it is because they are a closet Antinomian or someone who is just worldly, not because they are a brother who has a deficient understanding of a particular question.

    Case in point: you leapt to the conclusion that because I did not automatically issue a disclaimer that I was countenancing things in worship that anyone who has ever read my posts on PB or my blog postings would know that I do not condone. Anyone with a modicum of charity would assume that I just thought that it was not the main point of the sermon, thus it was unnecessary to issue a disclaimer immediately but would raise that point in the discussion as a weakness in the sermon. You, however, constantly refuse to take the route of Christian charity and profess to be "disturbed" unless someone follows your method of doing things to the letter.

    The first time I was on PB (back when I was a Reconstructionist), my postings were often similar in tone to your's. I wrote many over the top posts and then got upset because they did not go down well. However, the primary reason that they were not well received was my fault, not the fault of those who disagreed. I would encourage you to engage in some self-examination here, as I believe that your postings (while in many cases useful - and, remember, that I have hit the "Like" button on many of your posts) are sometimes discrediting both yourself and the denomination to which you belong.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
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  24. G

    G Puritan Board Junior


    I actually do really appreciate the angles you bring to discussions, though not always the method of delivery. I hope you will continue to contribute.
  25. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    I mentioned in a recent thread that there's a lot that you and I can agree with in principle, but very often I see it taken too far in the application.

    There was a saying in the days of the Reformation that would do well to be borne in mind: Regula modestae et sobrietatis.
  26. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    One point that might be worth mentioning if I were to be ultra-critical is that issues such as posture for prayer are perhaps better discussed under the category of circumstances of worship, rather than Christian liberty. (I cannot exactly remember if he mentioned posture specifically, as it was only mentioned in passing.) For what it's worth, I do not believe that there is a biblically prescribed posture for prayer, singing, or preaching. I used to think that only standing for prayer was warranted, but I no longer subscribe to that view. While a case could be made for that position, it seems to rest on hyper-regulativist assumptions that do not adequately distinguish between an element and a circumstance, or, to put it in Aristotelian terms, between the substance and the accidents of an ordinance. In short, the posture for prayer, preaching, or singing is a matter of Christian prudence to be governed by the general rules of the word (order and decency, etc.).

    Also, anyone who thinks that being overly strict is not a problem knows very little either of the Bible or of human experience. The twin evils of legalism on the one hand and license on the other - being offspring of the same devilish, lawless parent - need to be equally guarded against. In the former case, when church rulers take power to themselves which Christ has not delegated to them, whatever their good intentions, they are imbibing the spirit of antichrist and need to be resisted.

    In recent times, I have had to abandon the RPCI's prohibition on membership of the Orange Order and voting under the British constitution. I did not hold these positions because I was intentionally trying to be a legalist, but, since I came to see that they could not be adequately defended from scripture, I also had to conclude that the church had no business ruling over men's consciences where Christ has not. I also had to repent of wrongly judging other brethren.
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  27. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    “no matter our own convictions we are not allowed to tell others what is right and wrong: how we dress, Bible translation, worship” Alexander Smith

    I didn’t listen to the sermon and probably won’t get around to it, but I am curious about a few things. Was it suggested that the Bible has nothing to say about (a) how one may dress, (b) worship or (c) which sorts of Bible translations are acceptable? In other words, is no length of a skirt immodest? Is liturgical dance a permissible way to communicate God’s word in congregational worship? Is there no Bible version that should not be used in corporate worship?

    Again, I often hear people speak in broad terms about dress for instance, but then when the general thesis - as it is often voiced - is examined more closely, we often see that the literal interpretation of the words should not actually be taken literally. But then what? What becomes of the original thesis after all? When it’s modified to reflect a more nuanced doctrine, then does it become something literally contrary to the original?

    This problem arises for various reasons. Take the seventh commandment for instance. Adultery is obviously sin, but the Divines classified immodesty under the seventh commandment. That the Bible doesn’t define for us immodesty doesn’t suggest that there are no standards of modesty that can be broken. And, that we might not know the precise line doesn’t mean we cannot notice when someone obviously crosses over it. To add to the trickiness, what’s appropriate dress in one setting can be terribly inappropriate in another setting. What one wears to bed probably shouldn’t be worn to church. You get the point.

    When a pastor delivers a message, surely he hasn’t exhausted the topic. One does hope to preach another day. Notwithstanding, we also must be careful not to put forth principles of discernment and liberty that we must dial back later, so much so that we must literally deny what was originally stated.

    Again, I did not listen to the sermon.
  28. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    I understand you posted the sermon because you believed it was edifying. However I do not believe our duty when listening to a sermon on the internet by a minister in a different denomination is the same as the duty we have under the preaching in our own church. This minister is not my minister. I can only take it in isolation and how his point is argued in this particular sermon. However good the teaching may be in any one sermon or book depends on how it is applied. As I asked in my first post: how are we meant to determine those issues which are to be considered secondary? The examples he gave of such matters made me very concerned.

    I never said that you countenanced deviations in worship. I never addressed you directly in any of my posts. I did say that I found it worrying that a sermon which contains a statement on worship which is problematic for one who holds to the RPW would be offered without any qualification whatsoever. What would have been the problem with saying "I found this sermon edifying, though I did disagree on a couple of points" or something to that effect? I understand you didn't want to distract from what you considered the main argument of the sermon but does that allow us to disseminate and recommend material which we believe contains errors without any warning? Surely we must be very careful about our endorsements lest we lead another astray?

    I agree that my posts can come across as severe at times. I am conscious of this and part of it is the medium. But part of it is my tone. I'll grant you that. However at times it is in response to how others interact with me. When in a discussion of the sabbath someone goes out of their way to criticise my church's bookshop and call our policy on closing on the Sabbath silly, as was done here https://puritanboard.com/threads/this-dutch-website-shuts-down-on-the-lord’s-day.99554/#post-1216798 or when I am likened to a cult for holding to a view on dress which was the universal view of Western society until well into the 20th century- and no one comes running to my defence (and these are just two recent examples)- then I'm not going to be too concerned with being conciliatory in my responses. There was another incident recently in a discussion about how churches should deal with child abuse where my argument was deliberately and grossly misrepresented by Pergamum. After making it clear he had done so instead of an apology all I got was a curt "good" as if the fault had been with me. I received no help from the moderators in this discussion. Pergamum was not chastised by anyone that I can remember (unlike the barrage of chastisment I have received here). People on this forum can give as good as they get.
  29. G

    G Puritan Board Junior


    It grieves me as well to see those responses lodged at you. The best response to such post is to report to mods and don’t fight fire with fire. For what it is worth, I am glad you are concerned about modesty and I am thankful your denomination’s website closes each Lord’s Day (others should follow in my opinion). Stepping back from this thread myself. May you have a blessed day.

    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
  30. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Hey dear brother, I checked back in that thread to refresh my memory about what went on. Moderators are concerned with ninth commandment violations, and a lot of heated back and forth can certainly result in that happening, but I don’t see it rising to that level in that exchange.

    I value your contributions, as several on the thread have said, or agreed with with a ‘like’ when said. I appreciate the honor your denomination gives the Lord’s day, for instance, and don’t assume that it’s a joyless or legalistic strictness but rather a solemn and joyful blessing. I think that if you can temper the way you present your arguments you’ll find support is there for many of your views. It’s also worth getting to that hard-won place where you realize you don’t have to respond at length to every challenge. (Readers tend to recognize those situations and sort it all out for themselves.)

    Blessings to you!
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