The Silence of the Shepherds

May 2006

One of the remarkable things about the current justification controversy is the silence of the most prominent and visible Presbyterian shepherds ñ men such as D. James Kennedy and R. C. Sproul.

I understand that both these men are older and have had their health problems, but they are also the most visible spokesmen for Presbyterian theology in the United States. They have created and are backed by large and prosperous organizations, Coral Ridge Ministries and Ligonier Ministries; they have regular, coast-to-coast television and radio programs; they host many regional conferences and seminars; they publish hundreds of books, recordings, and periodicals; and they send out fundraising letters by the million. Why have they not spoken out clearly and forcefully against the heresies dividing the Presbyterian churches and seminaries in the United States?

R. C. Sproul is undoubtedly distracted by his wayward son and namesake, Junior, a longtime fellow traveler of Douglas Wilson and the Federal Vision cult, who was recently removed from office by his denomination, the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly, for just cause. In JuniorĂ­s previous difficulties, such as his rejection by the Presbyterian Church of America, Senior, a Teaching Elder in the PCA, stood shoulder to shoulder with his son, defending his un-Biblical beliefs and practices. There is no indication that he will do anything less during the present debacle. Already Senior Sproul is suggesting that the RPCGA charges were fraudulent, and they are charges to which Junior confessed.

Back in the 1990s, Senior Sproul was an outspoken critic of Charles Colsonís, J. I. Packerís and Cardinal Cassidyís cult, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, but in the twenty-first century, he remains silent on the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision, both forms of heresy rife in his denomination, the PCA; and he is silent on Norman Shepherdism, the form of Neo-Legalism rife in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Junior Sproul, while he was editor of Table Talk, the monthly devotional publication of Ligonier Ministries used to advance its theological agenda, made sure that Douglas Wilson appeared in the magazine monthly, and that his friends, Steve Wilkins and Steve Schlissel, appeared occasionally. The present editor, Keith Mathison, also shares those views, having published a book attacking the Biblical and Protestant view of Scripture (though it purports, as the most clever attacks do, to be defending the ìreal,î ìtraditionalî Protestant view).

What appears to be happening with the Sprouls, and with D. James Kennedy as well, is entirely to be expected: Their philosophy is undermining their theology. Their Thomist / Romanist / evidentialist philosophy, which denies that Scripture is the axiom of Christianity, and which tells us that we must demonstrate the existence of God and the reliability of GodĂ­s Word by arguments taken from sensation and observation, is subverting and compromising their Presbyterian theology. Kennedy, for example, invites Roman Catholics to speak at his conferences; he features N. T. Wright on his television program; he preaches the Gospel in the Zodiac; and he allows his political agenda, which is futile, to obscure and pervert his proclamation of the Gospel. It is very difficult for men and ministries that feature proponents of the New Perspective on Paul, Federal Vision, and Roman Catholic theology to criticize the Romanizing movements in their own churches. In fact, they have contributed to those Romanizing movements. In his most recent effort, the movie, The DaVinci Delusion, Kennedy includes several Roman Catholics as spokesmen, thus blurring the critical and crucial distinction between the Roman Catholic Church-State, whose theology and philosophy is a pack of historical and traditional lies, and the Church of Jesus Christ, which rests solely on the inerrant Scriptures. By their complicity, the prominent Presbyterian shepherds turn the whole DaVinci Code debate into an atheist versus Romanist debate, and Christianity is completely obscured.

The silence of the shepherds in dealing with the heresies in their own churches stems from their compromised philosophy and theology. They cannot clearly articulate their differences with Rome, or practice what those differences require, because at bottom they agree with Rome. The reject Biblical philosophy and accept the Thomism of Rome. That common ground inexorably leads them to seek common ground elsewhere, such as in political action.

John Robbins
The Trinity Foundation
May 17, 2006