Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Response to Frank Turk's Open Letter (ADD)

Assignments have been done on my side, and immediately after I am done we have Frank Turk writing an open letter to Mike Horton regarding the latter's tendency towards promoting Antinomianism. If not for the fact that Turk has been wearing the Anti-discernment hat again, this time blaming the White Horse Inn (WHI) of creating this "monster", I guess I might have let it pass as I have many other things to do.

Turk's letter is an interesting piece to note, for it clarifies the difference between a Reformed and an Evangelical view of Law and Gospel. Perhaps in no other piece so far is the difference between the two views set out this clearly.

In this post, I will respond to Turk's open letter according to various topics, and show where Turk is in error.

Frank Turk and the "Discernment mafia"

The first thing we would want to look at the issue of the "discernment mafia". Since the publishing of Tim Challies' article attacking discernment ministries as doing evil as entertainment, Frank Turk has been on a crusade to attack "watchbloggers". Instead of discerning, Turk suggests that we should be involved in a local church and submit to the elders who are the ones who are to teach sound doctrine.

Now, of course there is nothing wrong with being involved in a local church. In fact, all believers should be in a local church. That is not the issue. The issue is whether discernment and blogging are to be done by non elders/pastors. Oh wait, the issue isn't even about that. After all, Pastor Ken Silva is a pastor.

The fact of the matter is that Frank Turk is a hypocrite. In that previous post, he says that "the focal point and center of discernment ought to be in the local church" (Emphasis his). Well, THAT particular post of his is NOT situated in the context of the local church. So much for consistency. So what exactly is wrong with "watchbloggers"? Well, I guess it is because the "watchbloggers" are not doing their discernment ministry Turk's way.

Fast forward to yesterday and Turk's open letter to Horton. What do we find in his open letter? In his open letter, Turk wrote:

What I am not talking about is people who are doing the legitimate work of elders who are accountable in their local churches, who are usually elders, and who display openness and transparency about their character and ministry by not hiding behind an alias or an internet nickname. What I am talking about is the avalanche of people who populate the internet via discussion boards, blogs, and social media who frequently demonstrate all the love and real compassion of a rock through one's window. They are people who, on paper, make a sound confession of faith, down to the mint and the cumin, and wouldn't know what to do if their Hindu neighbor invited them to a birthday party on Sunday morning — or how to turn the other cheek in order to make a foothold for the opportunity to share the Gospel. They usually don't attend church because they can't find one which is up to their doctrine snuff, and the reason is that they have made themselves into a private magisterium. They have never said or written anything for which they would apologize or reconsider because they have never been wrong.

So it seems that Turk's beef with the "discernment crowd" is that 1) they are not elders in their local church, 2) they do not display openness and transparency online, 3) they demonstrate all the love and real compassion of a rock through one's window.

In response to Turk's complaints, I agree with reason 2. Reason 3 is a blanket condemnation which is furthermore subjective. Furthermore, I don't think we need to look far to see Frank's own snarkiness, so that becomes a moot point. As for reason 1, is Turk an elder or pastor in any church, and if so, which church? That would be truly an interesting fact to know. After all, if Turk is not an elder or pastor, he frankly is a hypocrite in this regard. (No pun intended)

Almost comically, Turk then practically demanded that Horton rebuke the "discernment crowd" because they use the Reformed lingo of the Law Gospel distinction and are passionate about a new reformation. If that isn't Guilt by Association, nothing is. Presumably, Horton is held responsible for the conduct of people he hardly knows.

The worst part about this section of Turk's Open Letter is the insinuation that the Law Gospel Distinction is a distinctive WHI and Hortonite teaching. Nevermind that this is classic Reformed orthodoxy going back to the 16th century at least. Nevermind that there are other Reformed Christians who have no relation to Horton or WHI or even WSC who hold to these classical Reformed distinctives. Horton is the bogeyman for all the problems Evangelicalism has with the rise of the "discernment mafia". Before we go deeper into fantasy world, perhaps we should remind ourselves that Horton is a mere professor not a ruler who controls the actions of anyone who uses the language of classic Reformed orthodoxy.

The subjunctive mood?

Having had Greek classes, Turk's pontification on the subjunctive mood being a third mood distinct between the indicative (Gospel) and imperative (Law) left me speechless. Since he mentions the New Testament, it is a legitimate assumption that he is referring to the subjunctive mood in koine Greek as found in the Greek New Testament. Well, technically speaking of course he is right. There is also the mood called the optative as well, and who can forget the infinitive? And of course, we can count the participle as a separate "mood" as well I guess?

The problem here is that when the Law-Gospel distinction is expressed in term of the indicative versus the imperative, we are not talking about verbal moods (or tenses). We are rather grouping everything into "do" and "done". Subjunctive as such can function both ways, depending on the context. A hina plus a subjunctive for example can be a mere factual statement (purpose/result clause or content), but a hortatory subjunctive ("Let us __") has a volitional force of "Do".

Turk is therefore in error at this point.

Gospel as transformative or declarative?

The core problem with Turk is his view of the Gospel. Classical Reformed orthodoxy teaches that the Gospel is good news period. The Gospel is proclaimed to sinners of what Christ has done for them. Over and over, the Scriptures starts with proclaiming the Gospel, and then proclaim the law (in its third use) as how we ought to live in light of the Gospel. In epistles like Romans, the model is Law (first use), then Gospel, then Law (third use).

According to Turk, the Gospel must be seen as something that God has done for us which results in "the advantages of declared righteousness". Therefore, the Gospel itself is transformative. Whereas the Reformed position is that the Gospel is declarative, Turk and I suspect many Evangelicals think of the Gospel as transformative. Therefore, it is the Gospel that must transform lives, which brings us to the next point.

Confusion of Justification and Regeneration

Turk's view of the Gospel confuses justification and regeneration. Justification is a forensic declaration by God that a sinner is considered right before God. In justification, there is no actual change in the sinner, which is after all why it is called forensic! To say that the Gospel is transformative is to say that justification as a process creates sanctification. But that is the error of Rome and all Semi-Pelagianism. Justification does not create sanctification. Justification is a separate process altogether apart from works, so how can we smuggle works into the backdoor?

The problems lies in the confusion of justification and regeneration. In regeneration, the Spirit of God starts the process of sanctification in the believer's life. In Reformed orthodoxy, regeneration is the basis for both sanctification and faith. Faith logically results in Justification. Yet regeneration is neither justification or sanctification. Sanctification follows justification temporally not because the "Gospel transforms sinners", but because the same Spirit that gives faith unto justification also is in the process of sanctifying sinners. The Gospel is God's instrument to evoke justifying faith, but justifying faith and sanctification are two different things, much less the Gospel and sanctification.

Turk's failure to understand this probably comes because of the problems inherent in both sides of the Lordship Controversy. As Dr. R. Scott Clark remarks:

It is not surprising that there is a backlash from some non-confessional evangelical quarters regarding the use of the law. It’s been this way since at least the start of the so-called “Lordship Controversy” in the late 1980s. One of the features of that controversy was its disconnection from the Reformation. Both sides appealed to the Protestants but both sides ignored the Protestant confessions where all of this is worked out exquisitely and briefly.

Turk is thus in error as he reveals that he does not understand the relation between the Gospel, faith, justification, regeneration and sanctification.

Means of Grace versus Spiritual Disciplines

The last point is a relatively minor point in the dispute, but we can see in here a problem with modern Evangelicalism with its failure to understand the means of grace. Turk shows this in his denigration of the sacraments as "the Gospel is made the centerpiece alone on the table". Besides the failure to understand the Gospel as declarative not transformative, it is illuminating that Turk and fellow Evangelicals do not think highly of the sacraments. Yet, we know that the whole spiritual discipline movement a la Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have been gaining steam. So to come and receive from the Lord what He has ordained to be tokens of His love for our comfort (the means of grace) is not looked on as being important. Yet, to do unbiblical "disciplines" such as lectio divina, contemplative prayer etc. somehow is very "spiritual". I think the Bible does talk about such an attitude:

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Num. 11:4-6)

Just as God gave the Israelite manna from heaven, yet the Israelites were not content with what God had provided and lusted after the food of Egypt, so too modern Evangelicals are not content with the provision of God's grace through His appointed means, but crave after "spiritual experiences" and follow their spiritual lusts to indulge in "spiritual disciplines", of which God has not thought fit to inform us of.

Is it no wonder that God is not in any of these "disciplines"?

Conclusion

In conclusion, Frank Turk is in error in his view of the Law and the Gospel. We should reject his advice as being not in line with Scripture, and his attack on "watchbloggers" as being extremely hypocritical. While I am sure he has good motives, he is blind to his own faults and we will see if he takes correction. Since he claims that the "watchbloggers" have "never said or written anything for which they would apologize or reconsider because they have never been wrong," we will see if he lives consistent with his position, or live otherwise. Amen.

Addenum:

It seems that Frank Turk's bone of contention is with Horton's "pastoral theology", not his "confessed theology". Go figure!

31 comments:

Jugulum said...

Frank said,
"What I am not talking about is people who are doing the legitimate work of elders who are accountable in their local churches, who are usually elders, and who display openness and transparency about their character and ministry by not hiding behind an alias or an internet nickname"

You said
"So it seems that Turk's beef with the "discernment crowd" is that 1) they are not elders in their local church, 2) they do not display openness and transparency online, 3) they demonstrate all the love and real compassion of a rock through one's window."

Look more closely at what Franks said. Key in on the word "usually". (i.e., the "good discernment" people are necessarily accountable in a local church, and are usually (but not always) elders. The "good discernment" is the work an elder should be doing, but not everyone who does that work is formally recognized as an elder.)

Frank Turk said...

Frank Turk is a menace and must be stopped. I'll remind the ex-jewish agnostic and the sexually-confused kid I am teaching the Gospel to of that when I see them next.

PuritanReformed said...

@Jugulum:

interesting. So in other words if non elders CAN do discernment, then Turk's point is rather moot I may say.

After all, I'm sure quite a few discernment folks are members of good standing in visible churches.

PuritanReformed said...

@Frank:

we both know what the issue is, so while I do not do as DJP does on Pyromaniacs (ie. delete posts), we both know that you are making a mockery of my response.

PuritanReformed said...

@Frank:

not to mention of course that you have totally avoided the points of error I have raised up.

Michael said...

I suppose I would have expected a much more mature response from Mr Turk. I have been watching this from afar. I wonder, has Mr Turk taken note of Dr Horton`s response? If so, I would love to hear his retort.

PuritanReformed said...

@Michael:

well, This is Frank Turk's response (http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2011/01/updated-mike-horton-responds.html). I suppose that is the best we can get.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I hate to tell you this but Frank Turk thinks Doug Wilson is great while at the same time attacking the classical Reformed confessions.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that a Baptist with theonomic views would be buddies with known Federal Visionist heretics.

It also shouldn't surprise anyone that a theonomist would accuse a classical Reformed person of "practical" antinomianism. GASP.

What I don't understand is how someone like Frank Turk has flown under the radar for so long. He's obviously another self-righteous Pharisee who has no understanding of the systematic theology taught in the Reformed Confessions or of the language in the Greek New Testament. The Hortatory Subjunctive functions as an imperative in the first person plural because NT Greek has no other way to express an imperative in the first person. See Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, page 464. Daniel B. Wallace.

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

That was a well written response, by the way. I'm just amazed at how closely it follows my own insights, although I thought regeneration and sanctification were logically sequential--at least according to Hodge--in the ordo salutis.

You can read my own critique at An Open Letter

Peace,

Charlie

PuritanReformed said...

@Charlie:

well, I don't know how much to make of his appreciation of Doug Wilson. One after all does not have to embrace Federal Vision or Theonomy in order to appreciate some of his views.

As for the hortatory subjunctive, you are correct.

Regeneration and sanctification are indeed logically sequential. What I was focusing on however is that they are also temporally sequential.

puritancovenanter said...

http://marsbooksonline.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=106

Charlie J. needs to learn the Purtans and Reformed....

Also he needs to Read Cornelius P. Venema's Review of the book 'The Law Is Not Of Faith'.


I despise the FV and NPP. But I have read some things that Doug Wilson has said and appreciated them. I am no fan of Doug Wilson. And I am from what I have read of Charlie J. recently, I am not necessarily a fan of his either. He has a lot to learn. Read Venema and not Charlie.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Well, the truth is no one can read all the Reformed books out there. There are too many. I appreciate the recommendation, though.

Might I recommend a book to you as well? It's called, What is Saving Faith? by Gordon H. Clark.

But if you want to be particular, I follow Scripture first. Sola Scriptura. Close behind that I follow the 3 creeds and the Anglican Formularies (39 Articles of Religion, 1662 Book of Common Prayer). And, of course, I subscribe to both the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity, although not necessarily the polity.

The fact that Turk called Horton "antinomian" is a good indicator that he's indeed a theonomist. Theonomy, I hate to say, is a road that leads to Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy if followed to its logical conclusion. Just ask Franky Schaeffer or Scott Hahn.

Charlie

PuritanReformed said...

@puritancovenanter:

I'm sure Venema's review will be interesting to read.

Regardless, you don't have to read TLNOF to see that the Mosaic Covenant is in some sense a re-publication of the Covenant of Works. Witsius in his Economy of the Covenant makes the exact same point, though of course I am not claiming that he agrees in everything with the authors of TLNOF.

While the Puritans stress on holiness and the third use of the law, I do not think you can say therefore that they necessarily reject the Law-Gospel distinction.

puritancovenanter said...

Reread the blog CJ. He didn't call him an antinomian. You are doing exactly what you are accusing others of. Misrepresentation. Back up and take a breath. He, and other good Reformed men have said... "their arguments can lead to it. I somewhat understand the different understandings of Republication. But that wasn't even what the blog by Frank was about.

Let me ask you a question. Does Soteriology have only to do with justification? Or is the good news also about how we are changed into God's image by being conformed into the image of Christ? Is that not good news also? Is that not apart of the Gospel message in reconciliation?

I adjure you to read John Owen also concerning this.

Owen, Pneumatologia V.iii, Works 3:606-609

Mary said...

"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS! However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, 'LORD WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?'
So faith comes from HEARING, and HEARING by the WORD OF CHRIST." Romans 10:14-17
"how I DID NOT SHRINK from DECLARING to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house,solemnly TESTIFYING to both Jews and Greeks of REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD AND FAITH IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST." Acts 20:20-21
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, FOR IT IS THE POWER OF GOD FOR SALVATION to everyone who believes..." Romans 1:16
"Sanctify them in the truth; YOUR WORD IS TRUTH." John 17:17

PuritanReformed said...

@Mary:

and your point is?

Mary said...

We can not "do" or "be" the gospel. It is the power of God through His ordained means of telling/preaching/explaining Christ crucified for the remission of sins using His Word the Bible.

However, even the correct preaching of the gospel does not guarantee salvation like Jesus told the twelve when He sent them out;
"And He said to them, 'Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece, Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.'"Luke 9:3-5

This passage shows there will be "those" who do not receive the gospel and is in direct opposition to the social gospel. They were told to take nothing that could potentially bribe the flesh, but offered them the Bread of Life, and Living Water who is Christ Jesus.

Yes, in our desire to please our Savior who gave all on our behalf we should live a life that is pleasing to Him, but that should not be confused with declaring the gospel. Grace and peace, mary

PuritanReformed said...

@Mary:

thanks for the clarification.

terriergal said...

Frank Turk: I'll remind the ex-jewish agnostic and the sexually-confused kid I am teaching the Gospel to of that when I see them next.


Yeah, cuz the rest of us never do anything like that. Enjoy your reward for that one Frank (Matt 6:1-5)


Did you ever think that the reason real Reformational Christians don't talk about their works is... well, because they're busy actually obeying what Jesus said in that passage? i.e. living the gospel?

Which gospel are you teaching Frank, the one that says he must stop all his sinning before he can be sure he's saved, or the real one?


Charlie Ray:I hate to tell you this but Frank Turk thinks Doug Wilson is great while at the same time attacking the classical Reformed confessions.

Not only that, he seems to have far more of a problem with orthodox "watchbloggers" who may occasionally get as snarky as he does.

And not only that, he seems to have far less of a problem with John Piper inviting Warren and calling him orthodox and all that.

http://twitter.com/#!/Frank_Turk/status/11426656974
http://twitter.com/#!/Frank_Turk/status/11402468272
http://twitter.com/#!/Frank_Turk/status/11423301452
http://twitter.com/#!/Frank_Turk/status/11423329062
http://twitter.com/#!/Frank_Turk/status/11430460095
http://twitter.com/#!/Frank_Turk/status/11434584421

PuritanReformed said...

@Paula:

I agree with you.

Bill said...

I've read the whole letter from Frank Turk. If he had addressed this letter to evangelicals that believe in the carnal christian then it would have been OK. But his letter should not be addressed to Michael Horton.

I think he is totally off, not sure why he implies that the White Horse Inn encourages fruitlessness. I have always heard Mike Horton and the other co-hosts of the White Horse Inn say that good works always (no exceptions allowed) will follow from those that embrace the gospel. So I have absolutely no idea where Frank Turk is coming from.

Frank is also off when saying that is not sufficient to say that Christ died objectively as the White Horse Inn says, we must also say that Christ died for us. Again I'm at a loss, I've listened many times and the hosts of the White Horse Inn always say we have to believe and have faith, which means believing Christ's atonement applies to our sins. So this is bizarre to say the least. I wish I could understand what prompts Frank to make these statements.

And then Frank proceeds to write:

"Because in the imperative/indicative view we are either doing what we must or receiving what we are given, you miss that we are also changed in affections and inclinations. That leads to a Gospel which sees fruit as optional."

I have to ask Frank, have you ever listened to the White Horse Inn? The Gospel changes you (every single believer is changed) in affections and inclinations, Frank, and Mike Horton has said this countless times. The indicative (the gospel, the good news) changes our affections and inclinations and Michael Horton has said this time and time again. Have you been listening?

I'm going to leave it at this, but I'm at a total loss where Frank is coming from. I just don't get it what he's trying to achieve with a letter that is totally off base.

Danny said...

This is all good marketing for pyromaniacs and especially WHI. The respectful tone of Mr. Turks original blogpost was something of an enigma. I always thought the dude was a LCMS type. But the Doug Wilson connection is interestin.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I didn't think the tone of Mr. T's article was respectful at all. It had more of the tone of a bull in a china shop:)

PuritanReformed said...

@Bill:

I agree.

Frank has a vendetta against certain people, and he wants the WHI to "rebuke" them. That's IMO the main issue.

PuritanReformed said...

@Danny:

well, it depends on whether any type of marketing can be considered good.

As for tone, Turk is respectful on the surface (i.e. no explicit mockery etc).

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"The first thing we would want to look at the issue of the "discernment mafia". Since the publishing of Tim Challies' article attacking discernment ministries as doing evil as entertainment, Frank Turk has been on a crusade to attack "watchbloggers". Instead of discerning, Turk suggests that we should be involved in a local church and submit to the elders who are the ones who are to teach sound doctrine.

Now, of course there is nothing wrong with being involved in a local church. In fact, all believers should be in a local church. That is not the issue. The issue is whether discernment and blogging are to be done by non elders/pastors. Oh wait, the issue isn't even about that. After all, Pastor Ken Silva is a pastor.

The fact of the matter is that Frank Turk is a hypocrite. In that previous post, he says that "the focal point and center of discernment ought to be in the local church" (Emphasis his). Well, THAT particular post of his is NOT situated in the context of the local church. So much for consistency. So what exactly is wrong with "watchbloggers"? Well, I guess it is because the "watchbloggers" are not doing their discernment ministry Turk's way."


Frank Turk is a hypocrite, I get that.

But that doesn't mean that Frank Turk the Hypocrite didn't have some useful correctives for Mike Horton to prayerfully consider.

Consider it this way: A cocaine-using drug addict tells a teen-ager not to use drugs. Just because the drug addict is a hypocrite doesn't render his counsel any less correct.

PuritanReformed said...

@TUAD:

well, then the onus is on Frank Turk to show that his concerns are valid. So far, I think we have shown that he is the one who was an errant view of how the Law and Gospel relate to justification and sanctification

Frank Turk said...

This is an open invitation to all the people with "concerns" about my posts about Dr. Horton and WHI to conduct this conversation on completely-equal ground.

Usually I offer to host such an exchange at my old "DebateBlog", but in that case I would be both participant and moderator. I am open to following that format anywhere, any time, with any detractor who here thinks they have me by the theological or ethical short-hairs.

So here is my offer, with qualifications:
1. One person at a time.
2. Specific thesis provided for discussion. (for example: "WHI has done nothing wrong in 20 years of advocating Law/Gospel distinction;" "Frank Turk is a Gospel-denying heretic;" "Frank Turk slanders legitimate brothers in Christ with his charges against 'discernment bloggers';" "Frank Turk is a hypocrite because he does what he says others should not do." Etc.)
3. Word limits for questions and answers. Limit for entire exchange.
4. Equal opportunity to ask and answer; every question requires an answer. prefer a rotating system of ask/answer, but not required.
5. Record of conversation will not be deleted or edited except for spelling mistakes.

Open invite. e-mail me at franlk@iturk.com.

Frank Turk said...

You can also try frank@iturk.com. Sorry for the typo.

Charlie J. Ray said...

If you really want total freedom, write a blog article on the subject. It's fairly easy to see from comments made by Dr. R. Scott Clark that the Lordship Controversy has clear connections to the Federal Vision issue and commits the same error: confusing "faithfulness" of the believer with "justification by faith alone".

It's fairly obvious that you don't debate the opponent on his own ground no matter how much he tries to deny it isn't really his ground.

If you doubt that, just read the comment thread on Frank's original post.

Charlie

Charlie

PuritanReformed said...

@Frank:

OK. I counter challenge you to an online debate. I think it is fruitless to debate your character or even the subjunctive mood (that is a factual matter which is easily resolved by looking at Greek grammer).

I propose either of two topics:
1) Frank Turk is wrong in his doctrine of salvation - the Law- Gospel distinction
2) Frank Turk is wrong in his doctrine of the church - the visible and invisible church; the doctrine of separation

We can make it more specific depending on which of the two you chose.

I propose a format as follows:

1st statements (alternate; you can start if you want to)
2nd statements
Cross-examination
3rd statements
Conclusions

Statements have a word limit of 1500 words. Conclusion 1000 words. For cross-ex, submit a maximum of 7 questions to the other party with a deadline of answering (briefly) 2 days after receipt of said questions. Each segment of this debate have a maximum interval of 2 days from the previous segment, except for the cross-ex which has a one day interval for submission of questions and 2 days interval for answering the questions.

So the debate schedule could be as follows:

1st statement (Day 1)
1st statement (Day 1)
2nd Statement (Day 3)
2nd Statement (Day 3)
Cross-Ex (Day 6)
3rd Statement (Day 8)
3rd statement (Day 8)
Conclusion (Day 10)
Conclusion (Day 10)

The debate will be posted online both on my blog and the Pyromaniacs blog, or your own blog with a link from Pyromaniacs.

Debate transcripts will be joint-copyright owned by the both of us.

If you are willing, we can start next week as I have exams this week.