When Bad Church Government is Combined with Bad Church Leaders

My friend, Gage Browning, frequently repeats to me what he heard from an experienced man of God, whose name currently slips my mind. If I were to guess, it was probably a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary under whom his father, Dr. Thomas R. Browning, studied. But that’s just a guess. The quote goes something like this: “Bad church government run by good people is better than good church government run by bad people.”

Anyway, I tell you this to introduce to you what happens when bad government is combined with bad people. It can cause some serious damage. Take a look at Dr. Kim Ribblebarger’s weblog, The Riddleblog to find out the gory details, and the prescription for Reform.


12 responses

  1. The quote is from John Hannah “Historical Theology” at DTS. The quote goes something like this… with good men, almost all forms of Church Gov will work. With bad men, no form of Church gov will work.” It’s a paraphrase…(it’s been a while).

    Gage Browning
    Post Tenebras Lux

  2. John

    just finishing the Belgic Confession I have one area of concern and I believe it is with point 8.

    Having to go now to receive the Blessings at the Ministry I am of, I want to explore it when I get back with you?


    JOHN 10 and LUKE 12.

    That will be from where I sit and discuss this issue.

  3. Thanks for filling in the blanks, Gage.

    Michael, I’m watching for your items for discussion.

  4. Well I don’t know what happened but I must have hit the wrong button and lost what I wanted to say about Article 8. It was the best piece of work I ever produced!

    Well I will now have to do it again.

    Coming soon; maybe tomorrow?

  5. I did that the other day on a comment about providence as it relates to the preservation of the text of Scripture. Been there. I’ll be here when you restore your work. It’s not like I’m overwhelmed by responses from others. . .

  6. John,

    Alright then seeing I have some time in front of me this morning I will endeavor to rewrite what was written yesterday and then AFTER somehow it failed to come on the blog when I pushed the button to publish my remarks about article 8, the Trinity. This one will be a bit different but not to much though.

    Guido De Bras and the Belgic Confession.

    Article 8, the Trinity.

    First I would say that this Belgic Confession chiefly written by Guido is one of the best reflections of “Biblical Christians” holding to the Faith while living in a hostile world. De Bras as we know was a Testimony for the Faith once delivered to the Faith giving up his life in 1567 for it.

    This Confession is a DOCTRINAL POSITION PAPER ON THE ONCE DELIVERED FAITH we as Reformed Thinkers should continually think on.

    Article 8 embraces the doctrine of the Trinity and it is an understanding that I characterize as weak. It is a good place to come from though when wanting to embrace the understanding of the Trinity, but just weak at two points in the article 8, the Trinity, in my humble judgment.

    [[ “Nevertheless, this distinction does not divide God into three, since Scripture teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has his own subsistence distinguished by characteristics– yet in such a way that these three persons are only one God.” ]]


    [[ “Nevertheless, these persons, thus distinct, are neither divided nor fused or mixed together.” ]]

    It might be weak because of a loss of meaning in translation from Dutch to English to this American English translation we read here and in fact the original intent maybe stronger than this here.

    The basis for my assertion comes from two Bible verses, of which I have done exhaustive study these many years. I don’t want to go into much detail with them; suffice it enough though to quote them now and leave off for any response after I make hopefully a salient succinct point about the dark moments referred by Jesus to what He does by delegated authority from Our Heavenly Father when He becomes sin and then that stated wish and outcome He calls us too afterwards.

    Luke first then John:

    Luk 12:49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!
    Luk 12:50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
    Luk 12:51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

    And now John’s Gospel:

    Joh 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
    Joh 10:15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
    Joh 10:16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
    Joh 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
    Joh 10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
    Joh 10:19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.

    At Luke 12:50 Jesus refers to the GREAT DISTRESS He would soon have to experience in becoming the sins of all humanity, first Adam and then all after him through Eve. What’s the outcome after the experience for us? Paul the Apostle says that He became sin for us so that we might become the Righteousness of God in Him:

    2Co 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    What then is the outcome for the world? At Luke 12:51 it is not PEACE, but division and separation from PEACE. The Kingdom of God is Righteousness, PEACE and Joy in the Holy Ghost. For Jesus to make it possible for God to conjoin us to Him, He had to be separated from God the Father and God the Holy Ghost and “joined” fully to this world, the created Heavens and Earth in its “state of being” which is SIN.

    Now to John’s Gospel and first at verse 10:15, and those words “I LAY DOWN MY LIFE FOR THE SHEEP”. And then at 10:18, I LAY IT DOWN OF MY OWN ACCORD, I HAVE AUTHORITY TO LAY IT DOWN, AND I HAVE AUTHORITY TO TAKE IT UP AGAIN. Jesus was given authority over all flesh! [John 17:2]

    The very nature of sin is one of division and separation from the Holy and True God. God is a Spirit and we that worship Him must worship Him in SPIRIT AND TRUTH.

    Jesus is the TRUTH. Jesus also is one of the Three Spirits without a beginning. My worship is through Christ the Eternal Spirit, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

    So what then happened when He BECAME SIN? He alone was separated and divided from the HOLY TRINITY, uniquely so that He could become my SIN and then God the Father could place on Him all my punishment and yours and the punishment of all humanity. The Father and the Holy Ghost remained in UNITY while Christ was divided from Those Two. If for a moment in time only Jesus became sin, IT WAS A MOMENT TO LONG FOR HIM!!!! But we can realize that there was business the Only Begotten Son of God had to do first, all alone without the aid of Our Heavenly Father or the Holy Ghost to be declared the ANOINTED SAVIOR AND REDEEMER. Salvation comes through Christ alone.

    There was division. Contrary to what it seems to mean there at Article 8 and the words I focused on, They were divided from each other. Did Christ cease to be the Eternal Son of God? No, seeing He is just as Eternal as God our Heavenly Father and God the Holy Ghost. Jesus became our sin!

    So there appears to be two meanings here when we read there in John 10 that JESUS ON HIS OWN LAYS HIS OWN LIFE DOWN, parenthetically the word there for LIFE is PSUCHE, not Bios or Zoe or Helikia or one of the other Greek Words used and translated LIFE and takes it up again. And then the meaning here when we read from Romans 10:

    Rom 10:6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down)
    Rom 10:7 or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
    Rom 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);
    Rom 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

    It clearly says that after He, Jesus, “lays His Life/psuche down and He picks it up again! He exercised the SAME FAITH ONCE DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS to do that!


    This to me is so significant in understanding the Sanctification work of the Holy Ghost!

    Paul, in writing to his “true” child in this God FAITH, Timothy, it is recorded such:

    1Ti 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

    My emphasis is on that portion of this verse: VINDICATED BY THE SPIRIT!

    That Greek word translated VINDICATED in ESV and JUSTIFIED in KJV is:

    From G1342; to render (that is, show or regard as) just or innocent: – free, justify (-ier), be righteous.

    He, who knew no sin became sin FOR US and by that act the Holy Ghost is now doing a work of Sanctification, justifying/vindicating sinners like us, us and everyone who calls upon His name for that purpose. He now gives to the Holy Ghost the RIGHT to justify us and RENDER, to SHOW and REGARD US AS JUST AND INNOCENT AS JESUS BEFORE GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER TOO!

    Also we read these Words of Paul about Our Heavenly Father and what He now does through his ministry:

    Col 1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
    Col 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
    Col 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
    Col 1:22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
    Col 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

    How can these things be seeing we are guilty sinners? Can we be both Saints and sinners?

    Yes, Our Heavenly Father accepted the GOOD WORK of Jesus and thus received Him back to His ETERNAL PLACE OF GLORY. He did it after Jesus became sin in His LIFE/psuche and then after that took HIS LIFE/psuche up again and then was VINDICATED BY THE HOLY GHOST and then received back to GLORY!

    Jesus prayed this way:

    Joh 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
    Joh 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

    And so as one Theologian teaches, these ACTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY IN JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS can be known as the doctrine of the COVENANT OF REDEMPTION between these Three Eternals on behalf of and as a demonstration of THEIR GREAT LOVE FOR ALL HUMANITY.

  7. The reason the author of the Belgic Confession was careful to emphasize that we are not to divide the Trinity, is to avoid our straying in our minds to forming the God of Scripture into three separate gods. This would be heresy. The Belgic Confession is following the great tradition crafted in the early centuries of Christianity when the great theological battles over the deity of Christ and the nature of the Trinity were being fought. These debates resulted in the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. If you read these two creeds closely, you’ll see why the Belgic Confession reads as it does.

    What you’ve come up with is unnecessary. We often fear that the creeds and confessions may be in danger of “complicating” the truth of Scripture, yet, when we attempt to put “two and two” together without building on the shoulders of the theological giants who’ve gone before us, we wind up straying into error, or being the ones guilty of complicating the truth of Scripture ourselves.

    God the Son, the Eternal Second Person of the Trinity, is Spirit, sharing ONE divine substance, power and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is the point of the catholic creeds and Reformed confessions: God is three Persons who are one God. If you separate God the Son from the Father and the Spirit in his divine nature, you have become a polytheist.

    We know that God is holy, and separate from sin. God cannot have sin in his presence. Our sins have separated us from God. Because of his sin, no man can see God and live.

    The divine second Person of the Trinity took on an additional human nature and was named Jesus for the expressed purpose of saving God’s people from their sins which separate them from God. Jesus serves as the Mediator of the New Covenant, being God to man and man to God.

    The only separating or “forsaking” that took place was the Father’s “forsaking” of the human nature of the second Person of the Trinity while he bore the imputation of the sins of the elect in his own body on the cross. While Christ’s human body may have been “foraken”, if you will, by the Father–in his divine nature, his fellowship with the Father was never diminished one iota.

    Study how the catholic creeds and Reformed confessions teach us to guard against the tendency to fuse the three Persons of the Godhead into one Person (like the Oneness Pentecostals), while at the same time avoiding the tendency of separating the three Persons of the Trinity into three separate gods (becoming polytheists).

    God the Father,
    God the Son,
    God the Holy Spirit.

    Three Persons; One God.

    The Father is God, but the Father is not the Son nor the Spirit;
    The Son is God, but the Son is not the Father nor the Spirit;
    The Spirit is God, but the Spirit is not the Father nor the Son.

    Do not divide the Divinity;
    do not confuse the Persons.

  8. In short, it’s going outside the bounds of Scripture to affirm that when the human Christ suffered for our sins, the divine nature of Christ was somehow divided from the Father and the Spirit. This would be heresy.

    I’d also be careful about calling the Three Persons of the Trinity three Spirits, as you did, but if any of my more experienced Reformed bloggers have anything to contribute on this point, please lend a hand! I just fear that may move toward the tendency of dividing the one divine God somehow. I can’t explain it any better than that, I just advise caution.

  9. John


    thanks for your words.

    However, we may have to differ on this matter a bit.

    There is the matter of the NEW NAME that He received.

    There is the matter of our own NEW NAME that no one knows of but the one assigning it to us and us.

    Then there is the matter of CLEANSING.

    How was He cleansed from our SIN?

    I understand as in a glass darkly how I am cleansed, but How did He get cleansed of my sin? God is HOLY.

    I haven’t given myself to much study of these Confessions.

    Our group here in Northern California have been looking into that a bit here and a bit there.

    Suffice it to say, I confess the Lord Jesus and I believe in my heart God raised Him from the Dead, how, I don’t know, I just know I know I know it.

    From this “head knowledge” I move to the Love He gives me by this FAITH ONCE DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS.

    This fellowship now with God My Heavenly Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost as the Belgic Confession points too brings into my spirit God’s VISION.

    That VISION brings me to remain in the “unity of the spirit in a bond of PEACE.

    With these four and no more I am able to discuss doctrine all day long with believers.

    Who is a Believer?

    He or She who confesses that Jesus came in the flesh, confesses He is their Lord and Savior and believes God raised Him from the Dead and He now sits at His Righteous Right Hand and now I too sit there, all the while down here I find 1 Thessalonians 1:10 to be true:::>

    1Th 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

    And Ephesians 2:1-7 to be on par with 1 Thessalonians 1:10:::>

    Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
    Eph 2:2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–
    Eph 2:3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
    Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
    Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–
    Eph 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
    Eph 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

  10. How was he cleansed from our sin?

    The penalty for sin is death.

    Jesus, the human nature of God the Son, died bearing the imputed guilt of our sin, although he never shared in the natural tendency to actually sin which we inherited from our human ancestry.

    When Jesus died, the sin was punished. Justice was served. God’s anger was consumed. It is no longer an issue regarding his elect whom the Father has not only chosen, and the Son redeemed on the cross, but the Holy Spirit has effectually called to life, repentance and faith.

    When the sentence is served, the guilt is gone. Jesus wasn’t actually “cleansed” from sin. We are, as we trust Christ who bore the penalty of our sin, and rose in spotless glory in his human nature and ascended to reign at the right hand of his Father for eternity.

  11. Three persons united without division and without confusion.

  12. You make it look so easy, Gage!

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