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.