The Rot is Everywhere

Several years ago I was at a conference in Oslo. Though it was a theological conference, only two of were evangelical in any way. Both of us were pastors. Me in the FIEC in the UK, he a LCMS missionary to the west coast of Norway. Over breakfast one morning we got chatting about the state of our respective denominations. He lamented the problems he had seen in seminary that the old war horses simply hadn’t wanted to deal with. The wiser and elderly pastors in his communion were tired and weren’t willing to discipline the younger crew that was subverting their confession. Sharing my experience of similar struggles with him, I came away from the discussion profoundly encouraged (though amusingly this pastor wouldn’t let me pray with him, ‘till after we had resolved our differences over communion’).

This morning I came across this article: Casting Down Idol Altars: Try Faithfulness | Musings of a Circuit Riding Parson. Again, I’m encouraged.

Brothers, the rot we see is absolutely everywhere. Every denomination has it. The SBC, PCA, LCMS, CoE, FIEC…have I missed any? And the smaller, more militantly confessional (OPC, ARBCA, etc) denominations are dealing with other issues that similarly threaten to derail them. But I, for one, am constantly tempted to feel, like Elijah, that I’m the only one holding the line. I’m the only faithful one. No one else sees the problem as clearly as I do. No one else is willing to fight.

All is lost.

Except it isn’t. If we’re growing in faithfulness and discipline in our own congregations, that’s a start. It may only be a cloud the size of a man’s hand, but it’s still a cloud after a long drought. God is working in our midst, and he’s working in our own hearts. The problems that we see are in every Christian denomination. We are most certainly not alone. Maybe we’ll lose our organisations. Maybe the money and time (and money) we’ve invested will have been lost. Maybe we’ll lose old friends and the respect of those we love.

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.

In 50 years time a generation of pastors not yet born will arise and call Evangel (and whatever other groups we and our children are a part of) to repentance for new bypaths and meadows in which we’ve lost our way. Semper Reformanda isn’t just a cool Latin phrase; it’s a lifestyle. We need continual reformation. We and our churches, not just the others out there.

And the Church of Christ is invincible. We’re fighting beside brothers in every truly Christian denomination. The liberalism we fight against today seems very different from the early 20th century liberalism we were looking out for, but it’s the same beast. Christ’s Church will prevail, whether or not we and our churches withstand the struggle. When these wokeness and gender/sexuality and Covid battles are finished, new struggles will arise. Reformation will never be a status we can claim, at least not in this life; it will always be a process. Much like our own and our congregations’ sanctification. But Christ’s Church will survive. With or without our labours.

I’m preaching Hebrews 11 this Sunday morning, and for the first time I realised that it’s a litany of failure, not of strength. With the exception of Enoch, all the people mentioned in that list demonstrated their faith through the experience of defeat. In the face of certain failure, or the destruction of their hopes and dreams, they demonstrated their faith in the truth of God’s promise - never reaching the hope they were promised, at least not in their own lifetimes. Faith means we will experience defeat. We will feel we’ve lost. Victory only comes after all hope in what we can see has been removed.

Then, long after we’re gone, those after us will marvel at how God sustained our faith in such trying times. Our struggles today will help call other men to faithfulness in their own battles. The rot we see is everywhere; it always will be. That’s what thorns and thistles means for us as pastors. May that help us draw strength from one another and look to God. He will keep us faithful.


Since you’re in the UK, you might understand this proverb, which is relevant in our own situation: “The British lose every battle except the last one”.

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On further reflection. There’s a tendency to hark back to the “good old days”, before wokedom, feminism, liberalism etc. But that is something Scripture really does not encourage us to do (Eccl 7:10). One thing I have learnt from even a cursory understanding of church history is that we have always had to contend with ‘rot’, although its form, obviously, has shifted over time. I include the period of the Magisterial Reformers in that (dare I?); they were battling the Roman church, but had more than a few issues of their own as they did so.


Thanks, Aaron. Tweeted this yesterday: Joe Sobran “shared Chesterton’s conviction that this world makes for a miserable truce but a good war… the permanent things are never finally won or forever lost. The battle continues, and those who reject the miserable truce are entitled to a warrior’s exuberance.” Read Sobran for almost three decades, and this is excellent summary of the joy it was, and why. Do miss him so.


Thanks, appreciate this. When I moved from my Reformed Baptist upbringing to a Lutheran church, I really struggled with the size of the LCMS. It felt humiliating to be associated with hundreds of mediocre churches and schools instead of belonging to a small, serious association. I can’t say I’m totally over that, but I am so thankful for the mysterious preservation of the Church through successive generations of undeserving men–and that our gifts and skills and given faith can play a role in that.

Yes, I do remind myself how blessed we of Evangel Presbytery are today to have the day of small beginnings when the rich and proud disdain us. Such sweet meetings and fellowship compared to any meeting ever in the PCA, including the small study committee of AISCOWIM. Oh, the stories I can tell! The worst were the men who claimed to hold to conservative commitments. Men like Lig and Joel and Peter were always the worst because all the other men trusted them to have a strategy when they had none, other than building their own kingdom. Which inevitably meant modulation and incrementation and posturing and plausible deniability. Love,



Once more I am grateful for the Prophet Elijah’s despair. While moving into the ecclesiastical boonies, you did find some other (though few) refugees. Evidently poor Elijah for a spell couldn’t even rely on that!

As for the LCMS, I might today be a layman in that community rather than a priest in a different (though similar) Anglican boondock communion. At the time I knocked on their door, their communion table was fenced so tightly, and the hoops to jump through to reach it were so many, that I continued on to the more welcoming Anglicans.

My godson/son-in-law and his wife (my daughter) were grad students at Cambridge in the UK and could find no Anglican parish that was orthodox. They did find a single orthodox British Lutheran parish (liturgically almost a carbon copy of 1662 Prayerbook Anglican worship). They now attend an LCMS parish in West Texas.

Alas, the rot grows in that communion too. It’s divided roughly into two groups you’d be familiar with from the worship wars within American Protestantism generally.

And today, my daughter sends me this:

Concordia, Wisconsin woes – administration cancelling its own professor for whistleblowing

The whistleblower points to the express wokeness of Concordia Seminary’s current search for its next president. It’s a turgid sort of essay (he writes as an academic, sadly). But his almost immediate cashiering shows he hit his target squarely in the bull’s eye.

Sic semper academiae, I always say.


The scary thing is that once upon a time, many of the “rich and proud” were themselves in the “day of small beginnings”, enjoying “sweet meetings and fellowship”. All I can say is, be careful what you wish for.

Yes, I was there with them, but they were never present. Take Russ Moore, for instance…

That they sat there with the humble was the humiliation they put up with for a time as they awaited the world’s belated recognition they had in their midst a faultless human being. Your comment reminds me of this from Chesterton:

There has always been something common to civilised men, whether they called it being merely a citizen; or being merely a sinner. There has always been something which your ancestors called Verecundia; which is at once humility and dignity. Whatever our faults, we do not do exactly as the Prussians do. We do not bellow day and night to draw attention to our own stern silence. We do not praise ourselves solely because nobody else will praise us. I, for one, say at the end of these letters, as I said at the beginning; that in these international matters I have often differed from my countrymen; I have often differed from myself. I shall not claim the completeness of this silly creature we discuss. I shall not answer his boasts with boasts; but with blows.

My front-door is beaten in and broken down suddenly. I see nothing outside, except a sort of smiling, straw-haired commercial traveller with a notebook open, who says, “Excuse me, I am a faultless being, I have persuaded Poland; I can count on my respectful Allies in Alsace. I am simply loved in Lorraine. Quae reggio in terris … What place is there on earth where the name of Prussia is not the signal for hopeful prayers and joyful dances? I am that German who has civilised Belgium; and delicately trimmed the frontiers of Denmark. And I may tell you, with the fulness of conviction, that I have never failed, and shall never fail in anything. Permit me, therefore, to bless your house by the passage of my beautiful boots; that I may burgle the house next door.”

And then something European that is prouder than pride will rise up in me; and I shall answer:—

“I am that Englishman who has tortured Ireland, who has been tortured by South Africa; who knows all his mistakes, who is heavy with all his sins. And he tells you, Faultless Being, with a truth as deep as his own guilt, and as deathless as his own remembrance, that you shall not pass this way.”


Interesting. I remember when Moore was invited to fill a position as one of the Protestant editors of Touchstone Journal. By that time I had attended many Touchstone conferences and felt I had a roughly accurate assessment of that journal’s editorial staff, confirmed by a warm relationship with one of its Protestant editors. And, so, when Moore was invited to that post I wondered - because of what I had observed already about Moore and his mentor Albert Mohler - just how that position was going to play out within that editorial board.

It has been, evidently, quite rocky. At the last time Moore appeared as a speaker at a Touchstone conference, he arrived in town barely in time to give his address, and then he immediately decamped to the airport and flew away, free from the queries from the audience concerning his address and also free from challenges from the other editors.

During the time when all the editors appeared on stage to field questions from attendees, a vigorous and tense debate erupted among them on what Moore was talking about in his address just an hour before. About half the editors reacted hotly to what they understood Moore to be asserting, viz. a pointed rebuke of the entire Touchstone project.

I don’t follow events within the Touchstone editorial board very closely these days (I’ve had plenty of medical fish to fry instead). But, Moore has vanished from the list of senior editors (his previous position with Touchstone Journal) and also from the list of contributing editors at the journal’s website.

Moore’s stint among those mostly irrelevant and obscure servants of our Lord seems to have ended.

How did you see that? You’ve mentioned the high profile pastor who responded poorly to your comments about procreation. But how else did you see it? Institutional concern but a lack of genuinely pastoral concern? Not being in the pastorate at all?

Partly trying to figure out what to avoid in my own heart here…

It’s pride. So obvious. So awful. Spoke at two separate conferences with two men I came home describing to Mary Lee how awful they were. Such a terrible self-importance on klieg-light display. Both were certain they were made and headed for greater things. They were Russ Moore and Doug Phillips. Meanwhile, I liked RC and Vesta. Also Joel Belz. Maybe if we were together and talking, I could explain? I think sense of humor, particularly in self-deprecation, is crucial. Take any Christian pastor/budding celebrity (including yourself) to the Apostle Paul (let alone our Lord) and write a compare/contrast essay. Love,