Kevin DeYoung’s Lack of Integrity Obvious in Reproof of Todd Pruitt & Defense of C.J. Mahaney as Above Reproach Like Jesus & Paul
In order to properly interpret a passage of Scripture, you must understand the historical context or sitz im lebem of the writer. That is, the “setting in life.” The same is true of Kevin DeYoung’s post on Friday for The Gospel Coalition on “What Does It Mean for an Overseer to be ‘Above Reproach’ and ‘Well Thought of by Outsiders?’”
In a nutshell, the historical context is C.J. Mahaney and Todd Pruitt’s assertion that he should have been removed as a speaker at the recent Together for the Gospel conference because he is not above reproach or of good reputation. In this post, DeYoung comes to Mahaney’s rescue but only by implication. He doesn’t have the integrity to come out and say he is defending Mahaney. Nor does he have the integrity to come out and say he is correcting Pruitt. It is pathetic.
Here is what Todd Pruitt, from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, said about the matter a few weeks ago.
An Appeal to the Organizers of Together for the Gospel
Posted On Saturday, April 9, 2016 By Todd Pruitt On 1517
“The details that have been revealed about the various SGM scandals show that there is indeed at least some fire behind the smoke. I appeal therefore to the organizers of T4G to remove C.J. Mahaney not only from the roster of speakers but also from the organization itself. It gives me no pleasure to write that sentence. I do not know C.J. Mahaney. He may be an honorable man who is truly innocent of every one of the many charges that have been made against him. But to whom much is given, much is required. Mahaney is a pastor. He is and has been for years a spiritual overseer in the church of Jesus Christ. And as we know from Scripture an overseer must be above reproach and have a good reputation with those outside the church.”
I responded to Pruitt’s post the following day.
Todd Pruitt from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Calls for C.J. Mahaney’s Removal from Together for the Gospel
Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 4:37 PM
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is a coalition of pastors, scholars, and churchmen who hold the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith and who proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today’s Church.
The organization has a website called Mortification of Spin (i.e., the killing of deceit). Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and Aimee Byrd are featured bloggers on the site.
It is significant, therefore, that Todd Pruitt called for C.J. Mahaney’s removal from Together for the Gospel yesterday. The conference starts on Tuesday. He said, “I appeal therefore to the organizers of T4G to remove C.J. Mahaney not only from the roster of speakers but also from the organization itself.”
Pruitt also called upon Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Al Mohler to make “a humble statement asking forgiveness for not acting sooner” in the removal of Mahaney from Together for the Gospel and exhorted them to take a “posture of solidarity with the victims of the abuse in SGM churches.” …
Unfortunately, Pruitt also makes a point with which I strongly disagree. He says, “[C.J.] may be an honorable man who is truly innocent of every one of the many charges that have been made against him.” I charitably assume Pruitt has not read the thousands of pages of evidence against C.J. from the past six years demonstrating the charges are true.
He must also be unaware that C.J. did great harm to his home church when he fled in anger never to return. Nor that his divided an entire movement. Forty churches left Sovereign Grace Ministries including Covenant Life Church. So did hundreds of leaders and half the people. If he knows this than his comment is pure spin and must be mortified!
C.J. is not above reproach nor of good reputation because of long standing patterns of serious sin that have harmed thousands. Covering up the sexual abuse of children is but one example of his sin and deceit.
I’m glad Pruitt was willing to speak out but his argument for removing Mahaney is unconvincing. Dever, Duncan and Mohler are not going to remove him from Together for the Gospel. Nor are they going to ask forgiveness. No, they will continue to prop him up as an “honorable man who is truly innocent.” Pruitt gave them license to do so.
According to the T4G trio, Mahaney is a hero of the faith – a persecuted saint – a victim of malicious slander. He is like Jesus Christ. A man despised and rejected by men. And yet this is a caricature so contrary to the facts and reality. Few men are as unqualified for ministry. Someday I hope a group of national leaders will make the case against Mahaney based upon a just and objective review of the evidence!
Pruitt did a poor job making his case. He took a neutral position regarding “the many charges that have been made against him.” From Pruitt’s perspective, C.J. may well be “truly innocent of every one.” Pruitt was unwilling to call for C.J.’s removal because of disqualifying patterns of sin that have brought reproach upon him.
Pruitt received a lot of push back from both sides of the isle so he tried to clarify his position. He was not successful, however, because he continued to take a morally neutral stance. “I do not know if C.J. Mahaney is guilty.” Of course, anyone who has followed the evidence the last five years knows C.J. is guilty of a myriad of serious charges. That is indisputable.
As I wrote in my first post, I do not know if C.J. Mahaney is guilty of the myriad charges made against him. Some have said that alone should have silenced me from calling for his removal from the conference. I humbly disagree. We must remember the profoundly high standard set for overseers. We are to be “above reproach.” We are to be thought well of by outsiders. Obviously, there comes a time when those who proclaim the gospel will be reviled by outsiders. Jesus and the apostles eventually lost the favor they once enjoyed. But it was because of the truth not because of scandals related to child sexual abuse.
Pruitt’s second post was followed by a third post. He continued his line of argument.
I continue to receive a great deal of feedback on my post in which I urge the organizers of T4G to not include CJ Mahaney. Some of the feedback (both positive and negative) has been quite helpful. As you can imagine I have heard from those who are convinced that Mahaney is the worst sort of human being and others who strongly support him believing all the charges to be false. But the actual guilt or innocence of CJ Mahaney was never the point of my post. At no point do I try to render a judgment on CJ Mahaney, Covenant Life Church, or Sovereign Grace Ministries. …
My opinion that CJ Mahaney should not have been included in this year’s T4G has nothing to do with whether or not he is actually guilty of the charges that have been made against him. … I never once have called for the elders of the church Mahaney pastors to remove him from his position. But headlining a mega-conference is not a right for pastors.
I have always had a great deal of affection for T4G. I have benefited from those biannual gatherings. I am thankful that so many were blessed once again this year. Indeed, I missed being there this year. But I stand by my position in the original post.
At this point, Pruitt errs in his thinking and application. The requirement “above reproach” and of “good reputation” in the Pauline epistles pertains to pastors, not conference speakers (though it should be applied to them also). In other words, if C.J. is in violation of these requirements as Pruitt asserts, then he should also be removed from pastoral ministry. Pruitt’s position is illogical and compromised. If he were consistent, he would “have called for the elders of the church…to remove [C.J.] from his position” as senior pastor in Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. That is required by Scripture.
A week later on April 20, Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and Aimee Byrd continued to argue for Pruitt’s faulty interpretation and application of 1 Timothy 3:2, 7 and Titus 1:6 in their podcast, Bully Pulpit: Abusive Pulpits. I’d encourage a listen.
Subsequent to this podcast, Trueman and Byrd made other comments critical of The Gospel Coalition and Kevin DeYoung. Suffice it to say, there is little togetherness for the gospel between The Gospel Coalition and the Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals.
My question is, where are these intra-complementarian conversations happening [according to DeYoung]? No one from TGC or CBMW has ever responded to any of my questions or critiques of the movement. … And if Mr. DeYoung is serious when he says that it’s good for women to be “eager to go deep, get good theology, and challenge their hearts and minds,” then why is it that when women try to respectfully engage in the conversation with some sharpening, we are ignored? What’s complementarian about that? Shouldn’t an important mark of healthy biblical complementarianism be that the women are listened to and given the decency of a direct response?
Desperate Theologizing or Desperate Machismozing?
Posted On Wednesday, April 27, 2016 By Carl Trueman On Postcards From Palookaville
The prize for the most confusing statement of the day (and maybe the week) goes to the Gospel Coalition, who apparently found this statement worth tweeting: “It’s more masculine to be attracted to men yet obedient to God than attracted to women and disobedient to God.” … And, given TGC’s imprimatur, this is a most unhelpful and irresponsible tweet (even by the exacting standards of the medium) for the church as a whole.
All of the above (and more) is the background for Kevin DeYoung’s, “What Does It Mean for an Overseer to be ‘Above Reproach’ and ‘Well Thought of by Outsiders?’” His article is not an academic exercise unrelated to C.J. Mahaney. DeYoung is indirectly correcting Pruitt and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals while defending Mahaney, The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. That is the context and context matters. Here is DeYoung’s article. My criticism of his article follows.
What Does It Mean for an Overseer to be “Above Reproach” and “Well Thought of by Outsiders?”
April 30, 2016
According to 1 Timothy 3:2 an overseer (whom I take to be the same as an elder or pastor) must be “above reproach” (cf. Titus 1:6, 7). Along the same lines, verse 7 says “he must be well thought of by outsiders.” What do these two requirements mean?
Let’s start with what the requirements cannot mean. Surely, Paul is not saying that a man who would serve as an elder or pastor must be without any enemies or any accusations, for elsewhere in his correspondence to Timothy, Paul intimates that many have opposed him, deserted him, and been ashamed of him (2 Tim. 1:8, 15, 16; 4:10, 14-16). Moreover, we know from Paul’s other letters he was accused of being everything from fickle and foolish, to overly weak and overly harsh (2 Cor. 1:12-23; 10:1-10). Likewise, in Acts, Paul is often derided as a rabble-rouser, a violator of the Torah, and an enemy of the law of Moses (e.g., Acts 21:27-36). Paul was certainly not above reproach in the eyes of his opponents, neither did he have a good reputation with all outsiders.
We see this same dynamic even more plainly with Jesus. If anyone could be labeled “controversial” or “embattled” or “haunted by serious allegation” or “surrounded by scandal,” it was Christ. He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34), a false prophet (Luke 7:39), a Sabbath breaker (Luke 6:2, 7), a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34), insane (Mark 3:21), demon-possessed (John 10:19-20, 31-33), and a blasphemer (Matt. 26:57-67). He died as a convicted criminal with hardly a public friend in the world. He was, as Rich Mullins put it, “a man of no reputation.”
So unless we want to exclude Paul and Jesus from serving as an overseer in the church, we must conclude that being above reproach and being well thought of by outsiders must mean something other than, “everyone likes this guy; he has no enemies and no accusations against him.” Not only is this standard untenable for almost anyone who has a public profile in today’s social media world, it’s not biblically consistent. The qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus must mean something else.
Even if Paul did not mean to disqualify himself (or Jesus!) from ministry, he must have had someone or something in mind.
It’s telling that Paul begins both lists—the one to Timothy and the one to Titus—with the requirement that an elder be above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6). This characteristic serves as a general heading for the entire list of qualifications. In other words, a man is “above reproach” when he is known to be a man who is faithful to his wife, sober minded, self-controlled, a good manager of his home, gentle, respectable, and so on. Since Paul is writing to pastors or local churches, it stands to reason that the arbiters of whether an overseer is “above reproach” are those on the local level who are close enough to attest (or contest) a man’s character. The gist: your elders and pastors should be examples of godly graces and Christian maturity.
If the requirement to be “above reproach” focuses on the discernment of the local believers, the qualification to “be well thought of by outsiders” concerns the wider non-believing community. Again, knowing what we do about Jesus’ public ministry, the requirement must not be pressed to mean that the elder must be universally beloved by the unregenerate world. Rather, the issue for us, as it was for Ephesus, is that “the leadership of the church should bring no unnecessary disrepute upon the church through improper and immoral actions” (Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 183).
Let me give an example. I’ve mentioned on this blog before that my wife and I try to be involved in our kids’ (public) schools. We’ve served on committees, raked the field at baseball games, kept times at track meets, and volunteered in a number of small ways. On top of this, I go to the same gym several times a week and frequent almost all the same restaurants, striking up conversations whenever I can. All of this means I manage to be around a lot of “outsiders.” If they think my blog is whack, my views are repulsive, and they believe all kinds of nasty things about me (which I hope they don’t, and I think they don’t), that would not mean I have fallen foul of 1 Timothy 3:7. If, however, most of the outsiders who know me from school or from the restaurant or from the pool know me to be rude, untrustworthy, undependable, and hypocritical, then my church should be take notice. The key, I think, is that even if a pastor cannot have a good reputation with outsiders everywhere (probably impossible for anyone with more than a handful of Twitter followers), he should be respected (even begrudgingly) by the outsiders who see him up close.
In short, the idea behind “above reproach” and “well thought of” is largely the same: the elder-pastor-overseer must live a life of Christlike character and virtue that is not easily refuted by those who know him best. The closer you look, the better the mature Christian appears.
On the one hand, I agree with DeYoung’s interpretation but I totally disagree with his implication that it has relevance to C.J. Mahaney. Those who know C.J. best have “easily refuted” and repeatedly refuted his façade of Christlike character and virtue. In fact, the “closer you look”, the worse he “appears” and actually is.
On the other hand, I disagree with Pruitt’s interpretation but I agree with him that Mahaney should have been removed as a speaker and from the organization. I also agree that Dever, Duncan and Mohler should have made “a humble statement asking forgiveness.”
So, I agree with Kevin DeYoung’s exegesis, but I totally disagree that it has any application to Mahaney. It does not! The greater error is DeYoung’s – far greater! I left this comment for DeYoung on The Gospel Coalition website under his article.
Kevin, you know C.J. is not considered “above reproach” by the vast majority of his closest friends who worked with him for 2-3 decades but left Sovereign Grace Ministries as a matter of conscience when C.J. refused to repent of his pride, deceit and abusive leadership. You also know that over 100 pastors, 300 plus small group leaders, 40 churches including his home church (Covenant Life Church) and approx. 12,000 members from SGM churches left primarily because of his ungodly example. How do you know? I have sent you all the objective evidence demonstrating the veracity of these facts. Here is the truth, thousands and thousands of people, based upon their own experience and observations, know C.J. falls far short of the qualifications in 1 Tim 3 and Tit 1. Your implication that C.J. is like Jesus or Paul is a blatant and intentional assault on the truth. You absolutely know that he is not thought well of throughout the United States and parts of the world for very legitimate reasons. Well established reasons, rooted in facts, evidence and careful documentation (see http://abrentdetwiler.squarespace.com/). No one is more of a reproach in the Body of Christ today than C.J. Mahaney. But Kevin, you know all of that! Therefore, your post is a testimony to your own deceit by implying otherwise. No one should believe you or any of the men who have likewise defended C.J. as above reproach contrary to the mountains of evidence and experience of thousands. Your deceitful support of C.J. has brought great reproach to the gospel of Jesus Christ. You, D.A. Carson, and Tim Keller at The Gospel Coalition should have worked to remove C.J. from ministry long ago. So too, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, and Ligon Duncan at Together for the Gospel. Instead, you continue to enable him and cover up for him. It is reprehensible in the sight of God. As a result, none of you are above reproach either. All of you genuinely need to repent before you do even greater harm to the cause of Christ.
Other people asked excellent questions and made excellent comments. I’d recommend you read them here. It has been four days but DeYoung still hasn’t answered any questions or responded to any comments. Here is one that stood out regarding Mahaney’s reproach and ill reputation at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg MD.
April 28, 2016 at 7:40 pm
Are you supporting CJ because it is the goal of your organizations to lean towards abusive leadership models? Aren’t the 12,000 of us in his wreckage evidence enough? Has anyone asked the members of CLC how they are doing in the aftermath of his abandonment and refusal to reconcile or communicate with ANYONE? Have you explored how they are spiritually coping with this tremendous act of hypocrisy against all we have been taught? Have you spoke to ANY of them? I will send you a church directory from five years ago if you would like and you can spend the day making calls asking how people are holding up? Do they still go to church? Do they believe in God? Do their children? Do you have broken relationships because of CJ’s actions? Are you aware of the families and marriages that have split regarding their loyalties to CJ in his sin? Do you realize, those of us who survived the first wave of church splits regarding SGM will now have to weather another barrage of church splits regarding loyalties to The Gospel Coalition or Together for the Gospel because you have his back? What does that say to us about God when prominent spiritual leaders endorse a man who spiritually abused his flock? The flock who sought to make his life such a joy? How were we to know in our loyal covenant with CJ as our leader that actually HE would be the greatest hindrance to the Gospel in our family’s lives. Doesn’t that count for anything? If you side with him, WE have nowhere to go. Literally spent the day Googling churches asking for ones in town that were not associated with T4G or TGC. Starting over…or not. T4G allowing him to speak felt like the pastors and people at CLC were assaulted.
The near-fanatical support of C.J. Mahaney by Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition is causing even greater division and harm to the Body of Christ. The carnage continues – “T4G allowing him to speak felt like the pastors and people as CLC were assaulted.”
These are the dear people who have contacted me every week of every month of every year for the past five years. They number in the hundreds. Scores of them are victims of child sex abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries. Nobody cares for them. They are mocked and scorned and written off as good for nothing miscreants and malcontents who did not make their pastors happy.
In this regard, I think of Phil Johnson’s recent tweet about “survivor blogs.” Johnson is the executive pastor for John MacArthur at Grace Community Church.
“On those “survivor” blogs: You have basically the same pattern of swarming resentment in the blogosphere. I’m more or less accustomed to it. It is no different in the real world, either. Stand in front of a lynch mob and try to reason with them and invariably the wrath of the mob will be poured out on you. I learned that with my very first blog post, more than a decade ago. I’m OK with it. I’m not deterred or discouraged by such rhetoric. Bring it.
The problem with this particular swarm of rancor monsters is that there are lots of people who self-identify as victims of “abuse” when in reality they just despise all authority, starting with the authority of Scripture. They profess to hate bullying, but their actions betray an eagerness to berate, accuse, and impute the worse possible motives to anyone who fails to affirm their omni-directional resentment. It is a potent flavor of spiritual abuse all its own, and it is as sick as any other form of spiritual abuse.
My heart goes out to *real* victims, but the survivor-blog community is heavily populated with people who are the Bruce Jenners of spiritual abuse. I’m not inclined to legitimizes their resentment, any more than I’m inclined to lend Bruce the artificial “dignity” of calling him a “she.” (Phil Johnson, Twitter, April 15, 2016)
“Swarming resentment…lynch mob… swarm of rancor monsters…they just despise all authority… omni-directional resentment…people who are the Bruce Jenners of spiritual abuse.” Johnson gives lip service to “real” victims but he has no compassion for the victims of abuse by bully pastors like himself. He arrogantly and self-righteously condemns those who are eager “to berate, accuse, and impute” while he “berates, accuses, and imputes” the “heavily populated” “Bruce Jenners” of the blogosphere. To him, the lot of self-identified victims of spiritual abuse are “rancor monsters.”
All the while, C.J. is speaking at plush conferences like Together for Gospel and being introduced by leaders like Al Mohler as a man of humility and integrity who has endured a great trial of persecution. This provokes the Holy One and stirs up his righteous indignation. As a result, the opposition of the Lord against these men only increases. See “Well Thought of by Outsiders” (1 Tim 3:7) – What the Media Is Saying About C.J. Mahaney.
C.J. doesn’t care about the thousands of people he has scandalized and stumbled. He is providing no care. He makes no attempts at reconciliation. He asks forgiveness for nothing. He tramples upon them. And so do the leaders at Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition and the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood who protect and promote him.
I conclude with this example. The day after Together for the Gospel ended with all its attendant controversy surrounding Mahaney, Mahaney exhorted his Louisville church to protect him and the other pastors from slander and make it their goal as members to make them happy. Those were his concerns. Don’t listen to anything negative about your pastors. Live to make your pastors happy. That sums it up. It was self-serving sermon from beginning to end. You can listen to it here.
C.J. is obsessed with himself. He is not concerned for the sheep he has injured and harmed, nor are his enablers. These men not wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are wolves in shepherds’ clothing, who care less for the victims of spiritual abuse and sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries.
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