Wednesday, August 31, 2011

City of God: A Problem with Young Ministers (is that young ministers grow old and then second guess the wisdom of letting guys like them run things)

It seems to be a law within human nature but especially men in pastoral offices to succumb to a certain temptation to advise others to do as they say the Bible says and not as they did. Linked via City of God, Douglas Wilson makes a case that younger men with young children should not, perhaps, be considered pastoral candidates. A pastor who is willing to pastor when his kids are two or six years old, he writes, should be willing to step down in resignation from pastoral work if his kid(s) have spent two to six years in a jail. That sounds witty and insightful on paper but then there's the problem of the Old Testament and what that says about the Lord's approach to leadership.

If Wilson's right then the measure for getting admitted to the job should be tough. He may even be right that it should be even tougher to lose the job than to get the job. But that gets us back to Abraham. Was Abraham appointed to be the father of many nations and our forebear in the faith because of his unflagging faithfulness? Was Jacob the chosen one through whom the promise would be fulfilled on Abraham's behalf despite his being a schemer and a trickster? Why was Esau described as unfit for the promise because he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup when Jacob himself was a lying mama's boy who, nevertheless, was favored by God? What about Samson? Why was Jephthah considered a hero of the fiath by the author of Hebrews when his conspicuous act of obedience to the Lord mentioned in Judges was fulfilling a vow to sacrifice the first living thing that came before him in thanks for a military victory and then ended up sacrificing his own daughter?

What about Eli? He was not removed from his position except by death. Okay, fair enough, Eli was considered a bad leader. Saul was a bad king yet his son Jonathan was a solid guy. Then there's David. As I have noted over the years in private reading, it would appear that being a polygamist and a man capable of deceit and genocide wasn't made unqualified to be the annointed king of Israel. As V Phillips Long once put it in some lectures I heard via a friend, David's life is definitely troubling for those who consider what Christian ethical teaching is and consider David's actual life. God didn't depose David from his position of leadership. This is both a sobering observation that not all those God raises up to lead within His people are good men (Saul arguably didn't even have regard for the Lord at all and was one of the conspicuous "unbelievers" in Israelite leadership).

Some of the men God raises up to a position of power and influence are positively terrible like Babylonian leaders. Still others, like David or Solomon, may have been appointed by the Lord but not necessarily in the way their sales pitches about themselves would have us believe. That, too, can be gleaned over time from the scriptures themselves. And David was not permamently shut out from being king because he failed to discipline Amnon for raping his half sister or for asking for leniency toward Absalom when Absalom staged an insurrection against his father. If WIlson's case is to be considered seriously we must nonetheless remember that the Lord tends to pick those who are nothing in this world and of no account even among God's people. David was not the man that even Samuel would have picked if he had gone by what he saw.

As with Driscoll 0n sexual ethics, so perhaps with Wilson on youthfulness and pastoral investment. Christ Church in Moscow Idaho got started when Wilson was, what, 22? There's this pattern that is not unique to the "new Calvinists" or the "young, restless and Reformed". The pattern seems to be "Do as I say the Bible teaches, not as I actually did." We can discuss the pertinent biblical texts and that will be a fruitful discussion, but I do feel obliged to ask how it is that a pastor can find it so easy to exhort people from a text to do something he hasn't done. I heard a pastor explain ten years ago how if his daughter fell away from the faith he'd drop everything and try to win her back.

That sounds compelling and virtuous coming from a twenty-something idealist pastor who thinks that his qualification to lead comes from whether or not he has successfully programmed his children to be obedient to the Lord but Samuel didn't lose his job as priest and judge because his sons were so wicked Israel wanted a king to rule over them instead of taking their chances on Samuel's sons. You would think the real lesson pastors should glean from the scriptures is that nepotism is an evil way to qualify people for the ministry, whatever that ministry is, whether it be a kingly position, a prophetic position ("I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet" so to speak), or a priestly position.

It is not entirely without cause that many Christians look back on the lives of saints and notice a pattern that those most fit to have important and difficult positions of leadership in God's people were those who did not seek that work, did not want that work, and did not by their estimation see that as a job to go do. When once they were called they did not even always like the work, but they stuck with it out of loyalty to the Lord.

Of course new Calvinists won't really subscribe to the idea that a man, to be a pastor, must have already raised his children to be obedient (or even obedient in the Lord). There'd have been no young, restless and Reformed movement if all the good new Calvinists had waited until their kids were obedient teenagers. Of course by now I have made it clear I think that metric is a bit silly. It's not like John Stott was somehow never fit to be a pastor because he died at the age of 90, a bachelor. But I suppose new Calvinist leaders has wisdom that is justified by, er, her children.

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