I wonder if Jonah is available for our next evangelism conference?

Some of you may be aware of the kerfluffle tied to Perry Noble that I became aware of via Carl Trueman’s reference to it in connection to Phil Johnson’s blog regarding Perry and evangelical leaders that seem fascinated by men like him. Trueman followed up with a short post that provides more evidence of Perry’s peculiarity. I am afraid, from what I’ve seen and read, that Trueman and Johnson haven’t even scratched the surface here.

What prompted this post is something Trueman said in the second post. With stinging understatement, he writes, “What is more disturbing?  His philosophy of pastoral ministry or the fact he is apparently welcome in apparently legitimate company?” Clearly, Dr. Trueman believes that both are objectionable and I think any biblically minded person should. Implied, I think, is the fact that “legitimate company” should not welcome such non-sense into its fellowship. It seems reasonable, as well, to infer that welcoming men like Noble into ministerial fellowship might raise questions about your own legitimacy (hence the word “apparently”).

There are not really any positive answers for why men and ministries like Perry Noble’s are held up for honor. The basic root of the problem, I believe, is one I’ve addressed before on this blog—the terrible tendency to measure ministry by visible results. “Perry Noble is reaching thousands” is the rationale for working with him. That rationale, frankly, has two ugly sides to it, one of which is grotesquely ugly. The less ugly side assumes that visible fruit is infallible evidence of God’s endorsement. Perhaps we should ask Balaam, Jonah, or Judas about that.

The grotesquely ugly side is that men who are not comfortable with Perry Noble’s ministry want to feed their own ministries off of his success. Connecting to Perry Noble opens the door to the circle which is influenced by Perry Noble. I am sure that some of the men have godly ambitions for positively influencing people who desperately need it, but they are propping this guy up in the process. It is a losing trade—Perry Noble is accepted by the big boys so that the big boys might possibly help him and his toadies straighten up a little. As John Calvin would say, “Good luck with that.”

I wish this only happened among the descendants of new evangelicalism, but that is simply not true. I’ve heard the same kind of explanations for tolerating the deviances of professing separatists. Men of questionable doctrine, character, and philosophy of ministry are given a pass for the same kinds of reasons—visible results or gaining some benefit from the connection with them (e.g., more students at our school or more men to join our fellowship). Whatever happened to basing fellowship and cooperation on being of one mind about what truly matters?

I wonder, at times, if we separatists are more susceptible to this problem simply because we’ve tended to argue as if any lack of fellowship constitutes some form of separation and must be backed by some direct biblical statement. From my view, the Bible tells me who are church cannot fellowship with, but it does not follow that our church must enter into cooperative ministry with everybody else. All of the church’s external relationships are voluntary, so the standards for those should be high enough to avoid propping up ministerial miscreants. It seems like the political nature of movements tolerates them for self-interested reasons. While it might produce short-term success for a school, conference, or fellowship to feed itself by poaching off the land of men like Perry Noble (or Jack Schaap), the long-term cost is deadly.

If we are serious about biblical truth, then we cannot afford to prop up those whose ministries undercut it. Phil Johnson is dead right to point out that helping someone like this should happen in private, not by giving him a platform. Handing him the mic raises serious questions about the discernment of those who do it.

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