After being heavily goaded last month by this ministry and others, The Gospel Coalition has decided to come back into the fray and offer a defense for weak liberal pastors under the guise of defining “real discernment.” Trevin Wax could have at one point been seen as one of the good guys in Big Eva, but this has not been the case for some time. Yesterday, Trevin Wax’s article, Don’t Let ‘Discernment’ Give Doctrine a Bad Name went live, and is seemingly buried at the time of this writing except via direct link.
I get frustrated sometimes by the lack of discernment I see from people who fly the “discernment” banner.
Isn’t the whole point of discernment to be able to discern truth from error? To see clearly what is good and right as opposed to what is bad and wrong?
But those quick to champion discernment often place everyone into camps of “safe” or “dangerous.” And ironically, once you’ve got everyone properly placed and labeled, there’s really no need for discernment anymore. Just avoid the “bad” and embrace the “good.” The result is tribal factions that compete with the Corinthian church for the trophy of divisiveness.
Trevin Wax begins with a straw man that would seemingly fail to recognize that The Gospel Coalition falls under the scope of a discernment ministry. But what makes this a rather bad start is the underlying assumption that judgements never change, get amended in response to new evidence. Obviously there are feelings here about a particular instance that will go unmentioned, but Trevin Wax is practicing discernment without using names.
On the sixth paragraph we finally get some insight to the real context underlying this post.
Real discernment must also distinguish between serious deviations in doctrine and the kinds of ongoing disagreements over how best to apply Scripture in our day when no clear command has been given us. Much of the infighting in churches today arises from disagreement over questions of wisdom and prudence—the best way to respond to a crisis, or how to put into practice a political principle, or the posture to adopt toward the world we want to reach. True discernment is marked by restraint, uttering “Thus says the Lord” only in those areas in which the Scriptures clearly lay out a principle and path. Otherwise, we eviscerate Christian freedom and bind the consciences of believers without Christ’s authority.
The question Trevin Wax raises is whether proper understanding of doctrine leads to proper application of doctrine. The answer should be yes, but too often is not. Why were theologically robust churches going along with the lockdowns? Why is the Southern Baptist Convention opposing pro-life legislation? There are two ways someone can be a false teacher: errant teachings and errant actions. What Trevin Wax is laying the groundwork for is defending actions that could be considered sin.
Just remember, if you share the same commitment to Christian orthodoxy or belong to the same church and confess all the truth about Christ, you must put your political and pragmatic differences in perspective and work hard to not walk away from a brother and sister in Christ who sees our responsibility in this moment differently than you do.
A shared confession, whether it be the BFM2000, the Westminster Confession, or even the 1689LBF, is often used to mask unbecoming actions as Christian liberty or not a concern. How many in the PCA argue that Revoice is not an affront to the Westminster Confession? How many liberal Baptists contend that the BFM2000 does not clearly define a pastor? The infighting in the church today is over fault lines of doctrine, just not the doctrine we expected. We expect disagreement on soteriology, cessationism, church polity, and baptism. We did not expect division over whether Christ or Caesar is head of the church, Cultural Marxism in the church, side b theology, or new variants of feminism.
This is where what often passes for “discernment” goes awry. Christians sometimes overreact to a perceived drift in doctrine. Setting up alarm bells to ring at the slightest possible misstep can turn us into hypercritical, overly alarmist Christians quick to pounce on any possible error. To assume the worst of a brother in Christ, or to be ever suspicious that anyone with whom you have doctrinal disagreement must be a wolf in disguise, is to fall prey to a self-righteous spirit and a tunnel vision that keeps us from seeing real dangers around us.
Even worse, such efforts at rooting out any possible error we see in others can lead us to assume the place for confrontation is in the barracks with our brothers and sisters rather than on the battlefield, where our proclamation of the gospel poses a threat to the powers and principalities of this world. Not everyone who claims the gift of “discernment” is truly discerning, especially those who fashion themselves as doctrinal police, ready to pounce on anyone for the slightest perceptible error.
Trevin Wax going woke two years ago after writing against the Social Gospel was not a perceived drift in doctrine. Moreover, what stand has The Gospel Coalition made?
Trevin Wax is writing to defend inaction and wrong action in the church. In the beginning of the year, Trevin Wax did not want you watching Woke Preacher Clips. Now he doesn’t want you flying the flag of discernment.
Some at TGC is at the bargaining stage… depression is next. Then hopefully acceptance in their loss of power and influence