13 March 2012

My Credentials and Views on Education- 5

I wouldn't have considered writing these things if I was still a 'member' of the PCA. Angry and offended pastors are known to make trouble. If I upset the wrong guy in cyberspace he'll be on the phone to my pastor. Some of them can be quite controlling. I had some OP men angry with me because I quit a job that I didn't like...I had an ethical problem with it...no, they told me I should keep it and then were quite angry when I didn't listen to them. I think they were miffed because I got out of the Air Force and they wanted to ‘take control’ of me. Of course the one elder was a retired officer. Let’s just say our views were not in harmony on many fronts.

They have authority but their authority is limited by the Scripture. If I'm in sin then they have a duty to confront and correct me. But too often they're into lording their authority over others. The one OP pastor wanted me to attend Westminster West instead of going to South Carolina. I didn't want to attend Westminster West. It's an expensive school in an expensive area. I know the San Diego area very well. In fact as a lost pagan teenager I used to shoot pool down the street from Westminster Seminary in Escondido. I remember the sign but I didn't know what it was. I couldn't afford the school or the area and I wasn't interested in another institution with a multi-million dollar facility and the whole mindset that goes with it. Personally I consider all of that a curse on the church, this whole business model, establishment mindset as we approach education, credentials, and certification. All of this is the world invading the church.

So he shakes my hand as I leave, looks me in the eye and smiles, waits until I get to South Carolina, procure a driver's license, a place to live and start class. Then he calls and complains about me. Nice guy. He had been grossly mismanaging the congregation he pastored and there were some terrible things going on with the elders. I explained all this to the professors who confronted me and I was left alone.

When I was getting married I innocently thought the OP pastor where my fiancé attended in Virginia would marry us. Presbyterians do nothing without conducting at least several meetings and establishing a committee. I'm being a little sarcastic, but only a little. He was willing, but would have to consult with the elders. Eventually he demanded we sit through his pre-marital counseling which was going to entail a bunch of psychological tests and other things that we highly objected to. More paganism in the Church. More lording it over people. Counsel? Advice? Checking to make sure that we had a theological basis to be married? Sure. But not everyone wants to sit down and engage in Freudian personality type analysis and discuss all of your background....my wife didn't want to know all the details of my past, and I didn't want to get into some of it....and then look at career prospects and listen to some Middle Class well-to-do pastor with bourgeoisie values tell us whether or not he thinks we should get married. No thank you. We weren't eighteen, we weren't new Christians...there was no basis to deny us.

Also, there were some timing issues. He was 502 miles from me in the Washington DC metropolitan area. I had a window of only a few days between the end of class and when I was starting a job at UPS. My wife was working as a nanny and thus living with the family she worked with. She was quitting to get married and obviously needed to be out of their house in short order. It just wasn't going to work. He was insisting that I come and stay with him to do the pre-marital counseling. There was no way. I politely thanked him and thought we had left everything on good terms.

No, he called down to my school and tried to get me tossed out because I refused to do what he said. They're backstabbers. They don't have the integrity to look you in the eye. Their pride wells up after you walk away and they stick a knife in your back, because you dared to question their 'wisdom'.

So if I started to write and some of my former associations figured out who I was...what was next? Would they call and make trouble for me with the local business licensing board? Would they sabotage my relationship with clients? Who knows?

I decided to stay anonymous. I hadn't really ventured much into the blogosphere of cyberspace and I decided to start feeling around and interacting a bit. Of course many Reformed sites insist you list your full name, location and church affiliation. Yes, I know what that's all about. So I decided to fall back on the old and perfectly acceptable route of using a pen-name, a pseudonym.

My middle name is John and I've always preferred it to my first name so I decided to use that. The John comes from my great-grandfather John Arnst born in Russia. So I took his name and used it.

I've regretted this and I apologize if I deceived anyone. I wanted to just use a 'handle' you know like Roadrunner 123 or something but a lot of sites won't let you. At this point I don't visit a lot of other sites to jump in and comment. I don't really have the time to do it. I don't really have the time to write like I do.

So why do I do it?

Actually it's largely for me. I wish more than anything to be teaching in a school or church, or just writing full time. I would love to teach history, work as a journalist, but even more than that I long to teach people in an ecclesiastical context...the Bible, history, how to think through these things, helping them tie it all together.

But that's not my calling at this point. Who knows what the future holds? At this point I wake up and I hang drywall and re-wire old houses. I redo kitchens and replace old toilets. It's not a type of work I particularly enjoy...but there are some advantages.

One, it keeps me physically active. As much as I like to read, write and study, my days are not filled with physical idleness.

Two and more importantly, I work alone which means I have hours to myself. I make use of this time. I listen to podcasts, lectures, sermons, books on audio, the Bible and more. I listen to NPR, the BBC, and there are many university lectures and other resources available to those who have interest. I'm covered in paint and sawdust, but I'm using the time. I'm always learning and growing.

I live in a rural area which means lots of driving. It's bad for the wallet but again more time to listen and think. I always have a small notepad with me and throughout the day I can jot down notes.

So on the one hand I'm earning a living and doing what might be considered menial work...on the other hand I've amassed a lot of knowledge. Again I'm so thankful that I made good use of my early Christian years. It allowed me to build a good foundation and once you have that it's pretty easy to build on.

This is why I push my own children with regard to history. History is more than names and dates but at this point they have minds like sponges. They don't have the maturity or wisdom to grasp what they're being fed but later it will help them. It's already helping them. When something new comes up, they're building a grid because they know...who was the American president then?...what war was happening?...what was the available technology?...etc...

Then you can spend your time working on the deeper issues instead of spending your time just trying to understand basic context.

Part 6


Cal said...

That's great what you're doing with your kids. I sort of had a knowledge shock when in the middle of 9th grade I stumbled into some information about the Soviet Union, and I had no idea what that was besides just a name and I read voraciously on the internet about it.

I sometimes wonder how effective our models of seminary really are against catachesis or university vs. apprenticeship. I think we had better lawyers when they had to train under one, then sit through 2 years of classes, paying the big bucks, to earn a paper saying they can take the bar exam.

Anonymous said...

Oh John, you have put up with far more from those people than I would have. They sound like wolves to me. Worse than that - they sound like Mystery Babylon.

Rev. 17:5 "...Mystery Babylon the Great. The Mother of Prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth."
It's the false church. We, the true bride, are not prostitutes and we should not partake of her filth and adulteries.

Rev. 18:2-5 "...Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries."
The I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes."

God bless and guide you, John.

Jim C. said...

Hey John,

Reading this series reminds me about a friend of mine who's been going through a rough period in his life and was recently "stabbed in the back" himself.

I can't go into detail about his situation out of respect for his privacy but in asking this question you'll probably get the general idea.

Do you believe that most churches you've encountered, especially within the OPC/PCA, have dealt with the issue of homosexuality biblically? I don't mean whether or not they believe the Bible teaches it's a sin. Of course they do. However, have they been biblical in their approach to addressing the spiritual issues of those who struggle with it?

Once again this would probably necessitate a series of its own but your thoughts are welcome.


P.S. To Cal, Lisa and others: I apologize if it seems like I'm "hogging" Proto.

Anonymous said...

You're not "hogging" him.
Don't worry about it - you're ok.

Protoprotestant said...


Yes sometimes my kids feel a bit oppressed by Stuarts and Tudors, Herodotus, and the Silk Road...but, as they get older they're starting to get more and more interested. The dots are starting to connect. It's exciting for me to watch it.

Protoprotestant said...


thanks for the encouragement. I'm only telling part of the story. It has not been a fun road...but I've learned a lot and have been forced to learn a lot in the process.

I'm always torn. Right now I'm at the PCA which will probably end poorly. But it's a sad thing. There are good folks there who mean well and yet they've come to believe the faction is so important. Like I said in the other posts...right now we're totally part of the congregation. We're reckoned part of the core group. In fact I'm quite confident I'm probably being considered as a potential elder. But then 'whoosh' in a couple of months suddenly we'll be the pariahs, the outsiders just sitting there. Did we do something? No, it's what we wouldn't do.

Protoprotestant said...


I often bring up the fact that while we all know homosexuality is sin, the likes of Falwell and Robertson have done great harm to the cause of Christ and the Gospel mission.

Usually people get a bit defensive at first but when I explain, I'm pleasantly surprised. I think a lot of people are beginning to see the 'fag-bashing' attitude so many Christians have had is just wrong. And it's done nothing to help our cause or the cause of getting these people converted.

They're lost, some are very lost. The homosexuals I've known are often sad, depressed people but often generous, eager to please, and also it's not uncommon to find them intelligent and educated.

The bashing approach is...sorry if this sounds PC...hateful. I do think it's the wrong response. That said, we don't go soft on the issue, but we can be a bit more tactful, humane, compassionate, and wise in how we deal with those folks.

I think during the 80's many had the 'yeah, AIDS is gonna wipe them out!' attitude. 'We can fight them and beat them!'

By the 90's people began to realize they weren't going away and unfortunately homosexuality was viewed through the cursed lens of politics instead of Scripture.

Today, it's still highly political but a lot of Christians have realized....this isn't going away. We have to respond as Christians.

This seems to leave a lot of people schizophrenic...they want to be Christian and show love but at the same time they're gunning for the politically.

There's no doubt we as a society are suffering a massive blowback right now for the many years those people were forced to live in fear and hiding. There's no doubt it's a fad right now.

It'll die down a bit in time. But it won't go away. But again reading ancient history...it's nothing new. It's always been around and in some ways a bit more outrageous than even now. Some of the Caesars were over the top. I'm thinking of Hadrian and ElaGabalus. We're not there yet. Christians had to deal with all of that as well...but of course at the time they didn't view Rome as anything other than pagan.

I am encouraged. I do think some Christians are having to re-think this. It's tough. How can we stand firm in identifying the behaviour as sin, and yet show love.

It's a lot easier when you remove the whole Sacralist Political element.

I thoroughly enjoy the questions. And if I'm not answering you, don't be afraid to push. I'm trying but I might miss something or I might need to explain better. The interaction here is friendly and profitable. I think its great and if a handful of other folks find it beneficial...even better!

Cal said...

Jim and Proto:

I read an interesting article about, what the author considers 'homosexuality' and 'gay' and what that means. He defines the two as 'homosexual' meaning someone who has same sex attraction and being 'gay' is the identity, lifestyle etc.

The author is writing as someone who is a 'homosexual' but he went through the whole 'gay friendly' liberal-church apparatus only feeling empty. The more he tried to wrestle with the Scriptures, the more he realized that a) they said contrary to his own opinion b) those he was with mocked them. He doesn't deny that he is still attracted to the same sex but he has chosen to remain celibate and deny himself the urge.

I can root up the article if y'all want to take a look at it. I think this is a better approach than all the psuedo-psycho therapy that goes on with 'gay-recovery'. Do we have ministries for thieves or liars or gossipers, or do we pour on the message of Grace and Truth? Why is there such a difference, besides public moral opinion?

Also Proto:

I'm not sure it's quite the same as antiquity. The classes of 'sexes' was 3 instead of 2 and while homosexual acts were considered shameful, there was never the tribalism that is occurring today. Hadrian may have put up statues but it was not out of being 'gay', as much as it was that he was portraying his lover. But good point on Christian tolerance, there were much worse things endorsed by the State that we ever have to deal with or be subjected to. We're not off much better, probably worse in many respects, but not in this category.


Jim C. said...

Hey John,

Both you and Cal have pretty much hit the nail on the head. On the one hand it's intellectually dishonest at best to say that the Bible regards homosexuality in a favorable light but on the other hand our approach toward people who struggle with this sin has been abusive, ill-informed and above all lacking in grace and empathy.

As Cal said, since we have so-called "ministries" devoted to the particular sin of homosexuality why aren't there others that address other sins like pride, greed, anger, etc.? Also, the very existence of "ex-gay ministries" has no biblical basis nor does their methodology. It's all based on psychoanalysis and behavior modification.

The only thing I would add is that I have no problem accepting that sexual preferences are inborn as opposed to strictly the result of upbringing/environmental factors. I just go one step further and realize that to say that they're "natural" in no way implies a value judgment of "rightness" or "wrongness". Males born with an additional Y-chromosome have a predisposition to violence. Does that mean that when we send them to jail when they act on their impulses we're "forcing them to suppress their natural desires" and "denying them their right to happiness"? Clearly our ethical standard for evaluating these behaviors has to be something other than whether or not they're "natural".

Jim C.