Blurry Vision and a Juicy T-Bone
This article is in response to Dr. Joel McDurmon’s critique of G3 and other conferences like it. While I consider Joel a brother in Christ, I think he’s severely mistaken in his final analysis. The purpose of this article is not to respond paragraph-by-paragraph to McDurmon’s article, but to point out important factors I found to be lacking in his thought concerning the issues at hand.
This year, G3 featured a debate between Dr. James White and a Roman Catholic named Trent Horn. Also appearing at the popular conference was acclaimed exegete Dr. D.A. Carson, pastor Voddie Baucham, and a bold preacher named Paul Washer who delivered a sobering exhortation to Christ-likeness.
While I wasn’t present for G3 personally, my wife Christina––a former Roman Catholic––benefitted much from the White vs. Horn debate, and I imagine many of the speakers delivered powerful, gospel-centered speeches.
However, for some, this conference just wasn’t good enough.
THE G3 MILK
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
— Hebrews 5:12-14 (ESV)
Dr. Joel McDurmon of American Vision, likened the conference to nothing more than a demonstration of the “fundamental milk of the faith,” presumably a reference to Hebrews 5:13-6:1. This came from a Facebook post and like with much McDurmon posts a longer version is required. He later wrote an article on American Vision titled, “The G3 Kerfuffle and a Big Glass of White Milk”.
The initial upset began when the AHA (Abolish Human Abortion) was ‘booted’ from the G3 conference because of some literature they were circulating at the event. The nature of the literature apparently had to do with calling the church to repentance for not being more active in the fight against abortion.
This appeared to offend McDurmon.
AHA AND THEIR UNBALANCED CALL TO REPENTANCE
Why would a church conference ban an organization who wants to defeat the murder of infants? Isn’t that a cause we all stand united in? Well, yes. However, the chief concern for the church ought not be a pragmatic mission aimed at merely ending human abortion. That’s a bit near-sighted. Rather, the priority of the church ought to be the communication of the gospel––the power of God revealed unto salvation (Rom 1:16).
AHA’s approach is not always the most charitable, and their call for the church to repent is a bit one-sided. It could be taken in terms of preference. Perhaps AHA isn’t calling the church to repent based on objective responsibilities evangelicalism is neglecting. Maybe they are calling them to repentance based on the fact that they (the church) haven’t reacted in the way the AHA wants them to act. Their website reads:
You, who claim to follow Christ – do you love your neighbor as you love yourself? If you were in the place of your preborn neighbor, being led to the slaughter, would you find what you do for them sufficient? Is simply “voting pro-life,” attending pro-life rallies, listening to sanctity of life sermons, and occasionally donating to crisis pregnancy centers the sum of loving your imperiled preborn neighbor as you love yourself? If the scalpel were even now at your throat, would you truly feel loved by those who do nothing more than warm the pews of the churches to prevent your death?
This is a problem, a problem I believe the G3 organizers understood.
The AHA appears to caricature Christians who desire spiritual growth as people who couldn’t care less about abortion ministry. There are many within the church who zealously proclaim the gospel at abortion mills, who have started organizations to provide biblical alternatives for lost mothers, and who strive to equip their brothers and sisters in Christ for this type of ministry.
So, what exactly does the AHA want? More specifically, what does McDurmon want?
SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS IN MCDURMON’S ARTICLE
Amongst many other troubling words found in McDurmon’s article, one particular sentence stood out to me. Responding to Dr. James White, who initially criticized his attitude toward the conference, McDurmon writes: “But [White] fails to see we have been doing this from day one, calling the church to repent of its obsession with theological foundations and actually to put wings on the plane.”
My purpose here is certainly not to excuse the American church from missed opportunities. The church is often guilty of slothfulness when it comes to a biblical response to societal issues. By the grace of God, however, many within the church have labored tirelessly to end abortion. I will give some examples below, but an important question needs to be posed.
McDurmon titled his article “The G3 Kerfuffle and a Big Glass of White Milk,” yet the article seems to be in response to comments from White. As far as I can tell, McDurmon never gives specific instances of the church’s failure, except for the G3 conference itself. Moreover, McDurmon never provides solutions for the issues he failed to substantiate in the first place. My question, therefore, is:
Joel, what are you talking about?
ARBITRARY ANTITHESIS AND MISHANDLING OF SCRIPTURE
In his article, McDrumon creates an arbitrary antithesis between conferences like G3 and active ministry against social issues like abortion. But he never demonstrate how this antithesis actually exists. He speaks of conferences and abortion ministry as if they are mutually exclusive; but, why not both?
Hebrews 5 & 6 nowhere encourages Christians to depart from hearing sound doctrine taught. Scripture speaks as if biblical teaching is a means of grace for the purposes of strengthening the people of God (Acts 15:32, 41). In fact, Hebrews 5, the passage he seems to reference in his title, says this, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food (v. 12).”
McDurmon’s subtle reference to Hebrews 5 & 6 is a disaster, since it’s in reference to teachers. Nothing in the text militates against the activities of conferences like G3. The author appears to be frustrated with his listeners since they hadn’t progressed beyond the doctrines initially taught, the essentials, so to speak. The author thinks these Christians ought to be advanced enough to teach by this time, yet they concern themselves with elementary principles.
The passage is misapplied to G3 since it’s actually in reference to advancement in doctrine for the purposes of teaching others. Surely biblical teaching was a primary component of the G3 conference, wasn’t it? One could simply ask, if McDurmon’s standard is to be applied consistently, who are the these future Hebrew teachers supposed to teach? Who are contemporary teachers supposed to teach? These questions arise because it sounds as if McDurmon restricts the church from conferences like G3 altogether.
It appears as if McDurmon, like AHA, just doesn’t prefer the way many in the church are reacting to the atrocities of infanticide. Since many don’t react to the crisis like AHA, or McDurmon with his novel Reconstructionism, they must be wrong. Right? For what it’s worth, there are some examples below of why McDurmon’s concern may be somewhat misplaced.
THE CHURCH IN ACTION
I recently learned that here in Kansas City, there is an organization called Rachel House. The purpose of this organization, who boasts numerous locations around town, is to communicate the gospel to future parents, provide life-affirming ultrasounds to mothers, and discuss biblical parenthood. About 80% of every mother who receives an ultrasound chooses life… and they receive the gospel.
Another example would be the hundreds of Christians I have seen dedicate countless hours standing outside death clinics proclaiming the gospel and talking with spiritually dead parents. I have seen this happen in both Kansas City and San Diego. I understand also, from Jeff Durbin’s ministry, that much is happening Tempe and Phoenix, AZ. In fact, I’m sure many sitting in G3 participate in regular evangelism aimed specifically at the death cult that is the abortion community.
THE MEAT OF THE MATTER
The church has a multiplicity of functions. This is what Paul speaks of when he writes, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function (Rom 12:4).” There are teachers, and there are listeners training to be teachers. There are the “simple lambs,” to use John Calvin’s words, and there are those who instruct them. They are instructed, not for the purposes of gaining head-knowledge only, but for the purposes of implementing that instruction in their practical living.
The people of God need strengthened by virtue of sound teaching in order to be effective in the social battles which so often befall us today.
McDurmon’s response to AHA and their removal from the G3 conference is flawed in several ways. First, we talked about how McDurmon never substantiates his criticism of G3 with anything beyond alluding to the supposed necessity of Reconstuctionism. Second, we discussed how, along with the fact that he didn’t put any meat (no pun intended) on his criticism of G3, he didn’t offer any sort of solution for the perceived problem. A person could adequately summarize McDurmon’s article as such, “G3 was milk because theonomy.”
Lastly, I pointed out two (possibly more) examples of the church’s response to abortion. It turns out that the church is doing things to end abortion. I think McDurmon underestimates just how active many within the church are when it comes to fighting abortion.
THE USEFULNESS OF CONFERENCES
I clearly remember attending a conference in L.A. called “The Bahnsen Conference” back in 2015. I recall sitting just a few rows back from the podium as Dr. Joel McDurmon talked about his father-in-law, Gary North. I also remember listening to Mark Rushdoony talk about his dad, R.J. Rushdoony. Also in attendance, and speaking, at that conference was Scott Oliphint, who talked about Cornelius Van Til, Jeff Durbin and Sye Ten Bruggencate. Greg Bahnsen’s son was even there to talk about his dad, who is still one of my favorite apologists.
I learned a lot from that conference. And the bulk of what I learned, the bulk of what I was able to apply, wasn’t necessarily theonomic. I applied much of what I heard to my interactions with unbelievers and believers alike during our regular evangelism in San Diego. It “built me up,” and edified me. I walked out of that conference more prepared for ministry than I was when I walked in.
Remember that, Dr. McDurmon.
Conferences, like G3, and practical ministry are not mutually exclusive. Rather, conferences, like G3, supplement active ministry, equipping the saints to do that which God has called them to do.