The Good Kind of Inconsistent

How’s this for an odd chain of thoughts. Carl Trueman asked why The Gospel Coalition takes a stance on complementarianism. I commented on that. Doug Wilson commented not so much on Carl’s question but on an illustration Carl used to make his point. Now I’m about to comment on a throwaway statement Doug made in his post. Confused? Don’t worry about it, here’s what Doug said,

I preached from a psalm of David this morning (68), called it the word of God, but freely acknowledge that it was penned by a man who couldn’t be an elder in our church, adultery and murder being the initial reasons that might be given. How’s that for weird? Life is funny that way.

Doug said that King David, the man after God’s own heart “couldn’t be an elder in our church” primarily because he slept with Bathsheba and killed Uriah to cover that up. He did do that and Doug hints that there might be other reasons.

So why is this worth commenting on? To get to the reason and then on to my point, I need to do some Venn VU meters, if such a thing existed. Here goes.

Doug and Carl and I are all of the Protestant, Reformed tradition. That does not mean we agree on every point of doctrine. I’m baptistic whereas Doug and Carl are Presbyterian. Where we agree is on some principles of the unity of scripture and redemptive history. Where I differ from them is that I don’t believe that circumcision is replaced by baptism and so I don’t think that the children of believers should be baptized. Carl and Doug differ in how far they go with that. Doug believes that since baptized babies are part of the New Covenant they should be given communion. And there are people who are even farther and say that “covenant children” are regenerate and saved but may grow to reject those gifts of the covenant and become apostate.

The reason all this can be represented by Venn VU meters instead of a 0 to 10 scale is because there are boundaries between these different clumps of theology but within each there are varying degrees. If we were to put them on a 0 to 10 scale, the scale would be the degree of continuity between the old covenant and the new covenant. None of us would be zero but you get the idea. If I’m a 5 and the last group I mentioned are 10, then Carl would be a 7 and Doug would be an 8.

Before I proceed, I hope I’m being fair here. I don’t want to misrepresent anyone and I don’t mean to be insulting to Carl or Doug, I’m simply trying to paint a picture of where the various folks are. If anyone is offended by this illustration or thinks it is unfair, I totally apologize.

All of that to say that Doug believes in a good degree of continuity between the old and new covenants. And that’s where I have a problem with him saying that David could not be an elder in his church, especially for the reasons he cited. What I’m going to try to do now is explain my problem with his statement from within his perspective. Wish me luck.

Israel’s kings and priests are referred to as Israel’s shepherds, see Jeremiah 2:8 and Ezekiel 34:23 for example. David was a shepherd when he was called to be the king and as a king he was to be a shepherd of Israel. Same thing with Moses. Of course the fulfillment of David and Moses was Jesus and elders are not kings and prophets the way they were. However, they are charged to shepherd the flock of God under the authority of the Great Shepherd Jesus (1 Pet 5:1-4) so in that way, elders are shepherds.

So in the old covenant, David was qualified to be an elder/shepherd and God didn’t remove him from that office even after the Bathsheba/Uriah failure. If in the old economy David was fit to lead, why is he not in the new? David did commit adultery and murder but he also showed the fruits of repentance in 2 Samuel 12 and Psalm 51. Apparently God forgave him for it too. His child died but that is the last mention of it. As a matter of fact, when David sinned and counted a census in 2 Samuel 24 the punishment was worse.

So if God did not remove David from the office of elder/shepherd in the church/state of Israel, why should we deny him that role? Well, Doug did indicate that there might be other issues that would bar David from being an elder. The one that comes to mind is that an elder must be “the husband of one wife” and David had many (1 Chron 3:1-9). In my book that would disqualify him right away but there is more to be considered. Since we’re seeking to make David an elder in Doug’s church and David is dead, we might assume that David is resurrected. If that’s the case, he is no longer married (Matt 22:30) so perhaps he’s still eligible.

Alright, I’ve picked enough nits here. My point is that Doug sees a strong connection between old and new and so excluding David from church leadership in the new when he was the head of the church in the old seems inconsistent. It is a good kind of inconsistent since we’re letting the New Testament have the final word on church leadership.

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