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Published on July 11th, 2013 | by Dr. Joel McDurmon


Why Escondido Professor R. Scott Clark publicly called me a “jerk”

A couple of days ago, a friend linked me to a post by Westminster Seminary California (WSC) Professor of Church History and Historical Theology, Dr. R. Scott Clark. It is entitled, “The Attraction of Legal Preaching,” and is a mildly creative rant against a fictional preacher “who the-jerkmajors in the law to the neglect of the gospel.” Acceptable so far.

And the post cannot, on the surface, be accused of antinomianism, for it begins with the disclaimer, “All biblical and Reformed preachers must preach the law in both the pedagogical and normative or moral uses. . . . So, this post is not a diatribe against preaching the law. This post is a diatribe against the abuse of the law.”

With that out of the way, Dr. Clark goes on to describe this alleged “legal preacher.” He writes, “In practice, he preaches nothing but law. He thinks that mentioning Jesus periodically or even regularly means that he’s not a legal preacher and he can’t imagine that people are concerned about the tenor of his preaching because he doesn’t see anything wrong with it.”

That is where things begin to get fuzzy, and the disclaimer starts to seem like a fig leaf. Then, more:

Every so often he mentions grace and faith but he doesn’t dwell on it or get caught up in it. When salvation comes up in a passage at hand (e.g., the crossing of the Red Sea) he covers it but he doesn’t leave the people there. In his application he presses them as to whether they really believe it enough and whether they’ve really obeyed God.

Now, this guy just preaches this way because he “doesn’t know the law from the gospel,” Dr. Clark tells us, but rather reacts to an impulse to advance sanctification and obedience, and to stave off a declining culture. Then come the guilt-by-association references:

After all, those guys in Moscow seem like good fellows. They believe the bible and they understand that the culture is going to pot around us and they publish some pretty good things on the family and school.

Now we’re getting a little closer to home, and can begin to see something of whom Dr. Clark has in mind. One problem here is that like many critics, Dr. Clark won’t name a target openly, nor interact with him directly, and yet the description he provides of these now mentally-associated persons is perfectly false. It is at best a bad parody.

Dr. Clark follows with a series of “diagnoses”: the law-gospel-ignorant preacher also has never been convicted by the law himself (implying he’s unregenerate), doesn’t see himself as a sinner saved by grace (and thus can’t even think of sins he has to confess), doesn’t really even like the gospel, and is a power-hungry puppet master who manipulates his congregation by pushing their guilt buttons.

Now that’s one degenerate control freak in the pulpit! And I assume there probably are such preachers out there, especially in the Arminian world, but why would Dr. Clark drag the boys from Moscow into such a description? Why would he leave such an association like that hanging? By extension it certainly implicates the entire Christian Reconstruction movement, and well as every theonomist or those even close to us. And as we know, Clark has a history of criticizing such.

Indeed, one of the first commenters noted a good balance on the topic in John Carrick’s book, The Imperative of Preaching. Dr. Carrick is a professor at Greenville Seminary, which is a very conservative Presbyterian and Reformed seminary. Dr. Clark was apparently unimpressed, and met the commenter with a series of skeptical criticisms of his assessment of Carrick. It appears that even a non-theonomist, but simply classical Reformed preacher, will not escape Dr. Clark’s suspicion, if not condemnation, of the “legal preacher.”

Bugs me

What began to bug me about Dr. Clark’s parody was that he seemed to be criticizing general preaching of the law under the guise of criticizing the abuse of preaching the law. But he made that clear disclaimer up front, right? He’s not opposed to preaching the law at all, in fact he demands it.

So my simple question was this: what, in Dr. Clark’s view, is the proper or permitted mixture of law and gospel in a sermon? This is a starting point. So, I did something I rarely do, I left a comment in the comments section to another person’s blog. Then, after just a few short exchanges, as you shall see, my comments were being deleted and Dr. Clark was on another person’s thread stating, “Since Joel decided to be a jerk rather than a gentleman, he’s now on moderated status.”

Now, I have observed Dr. Clark in the past revise such over-the-top rhetoric on his blog posts without any notes of revision. So, just in case he decides to remove this uncharitable comment, I saved a screenshot for record.

In the meantime, I invite my readers to examine the exchange between me and Dr. Clark. And then I will reproduce my final response to Clark, which he deleted, as best I can from memory (upon request, he has so far refused to respond to me concerning the text which he removed).

Here is the exchange (or here) with some commentary post-hoc. Please pay close attention to see if I “decided to be a jerk” or, on the contrary, if someone else reacted to my repeated inquiry with condescension and belittling innuendo:

The Exchange

Joel McDurmon
July 9, 2013 @ 12:13 PM

Perhaps RSC could link to examples of such preaching, because his description seems a bit like a parody to me. I know plenty of preachers who emphasize the uses of the law, but would not fit these descriptions in general. Nor have I heard of ANY seminary pushing that standard.

Also, RSC comments, “where is that [L/G] distinction clearly spelled out and applied to preaching in the way, e.g., that William Perkins did it?” As if this were the defining criteria. But this merely creating his own works-standard for preaching—i.e., that one must “clearly distinguish” to your extra-biblical satisfaction in order to escape his condemnation as a “legal preacher.” In trying to isolate and marginalize the so-called legal preacher, RSC has become one himself.

Joel McDurmon
July 9, 2013 @ 12:14 PM

One also has to like the criteria for comments below: “Comments are welcome but must observe the moral law. . . .” Lol. RSC is a “legal blogger.” It must be outside the Gospel.

R. Scott Clark


is this your way of saying that you deny the third use of the law?

R. Scott Clark

I take it that the post struck a neonomian nerve?

This is the traditional tactic of one who does not want to engage the subject. It is a particularly Christian sin which I’ve written about in my sermon on 1 Samuel 17:1–39. See point 2 under Application: “Ignore the mockers and naysayers.” This is the attempt to discourage or dismiss an opponent by claiming he has some kind of spiritual problem, or by reading his heart in a negative way—in this case, my stricken nerve. It’s a red herring and it’s also dishonest at best in that one must be God to read another’s heart and mind. So much for the moral law.

Joel McDurmon

Nerves are beside the point (i.e., red herring). The still unanswered question would be, “Who gets to define how much law and/or how much Gospel must ‘preaching’ contain in order to escape your condemnation of ‘legal preacher’?” And exactly where does this apply? In the pulpit only, or on blogs, etc., too? And should we expect the same amount of admixture in whatever criteria you produce? And where does the Bible (not Perkins) say this? or who says so? and what makes them authoritative? If there is no clear biblical imperative for such a determination, then you have created your own imposition upon preaching, and thus you are the one being the legal preacher—and worse, since your criteria is not even biblical, one might say, “Pharisaical preacher.”

R. Scott Clark


The Reformed Churches have a confession of what the Word teaches. The Reformed Churches confess a clear distinction between law and gospel. On the role of the confessions see RRC (in paper and on Kindle).

Perhaps you’re not familiar with this distinction? Here are some resources. There’s a chapter on this in CJPM (in paper and on Kindle).

blessings on your studies.

What? We have to go back to Reformed Confessions 101 now? Now run along, boy, go do your studies. “Blessings.” Is Joel so far behind the curve that he must be spoken to like a member of R. Scott Clark’s youth group? And worse, the path out of my ignorance leads right through . . . Dr. Clark’s books! Oh wow. It’s one thing to be condescending and treat a fellow doctor like a school child, but then to entreat him with your own books and articles is the height of self-aggrandizement at the same time.

But I was undaunted by these childish tactics. Being insulted doesn’t bother me as much as watching a trained theologian with a reputation use such tactics to evade a simple question.

Joel McDurmon

Perhaps you realize you can’t answer the question simply without establishing some kind of “legal” requirement for preaching content not found in Scripture, and thus violating your own description above. Thus the evasions.

I’ll be happy to read you books in my spare time. You can send review copies to: 3150A Florence Rd, Powder Springs GA 30127.

That is the address to American Vision. I would, honestly, not mind reading Dr. Clark’s books on the subject. But I refuse now to spend money on them after being treated with contempt by their author. Never honor bad service with repeat business. I just let him know that.

Clark fired back, this time with more condescension, and this time he called in some backup:

R. Scott Clark


I know it’s a fool’s errand but one more attempt.

Why do you assume that I’m opposed to the law? Don’t you understand that the confessional Reformed view is that there are three uses of the law?

    • Pedagogical
    • Civil
    • Normative

I affirm all three.

Don’t you understand that one of the great differences between the Reformation and Rome is the distinction between law and gospel? That’s why Ursinus wrote:

Zacharias Ursinus. In What Does The Law Differ From The Gospel? The exposition of this question is necessary for a variety of considerations, and especially that we may have a proper understanding of the law and the gospel, to which a knowledge of that in which they differ greatly contributes. According to the definition of the law, which says, that it promises rewards to those who render perfect obedience; and that it promises them freely, inasmuch as no obedience can be meritorious in the sight of God, it would seem that it does not differ from the gospel, which also promises eternal life freely. Yet notwithstanding this seeming agreement, there is a great difference between the law and the gospel. They differ, 1. As to the mode of revelation peculiar to each. The law is known naturally: the gospel was divinely revealed after the fall of man. 2. In matter or doctrine. The law declares the justice of God separately considered: the gospel declares it in connection with his mercy. The law teaches what we ought to be in order that we may be saved: the gospel teaches in addition to this, how we may become such as this law requires, viz: by faith in Christ. 3. In their conditions or promises. The law promises eternal life and all good things upon the condition of our own and perfect righteousness, and of obedience in us: the gospel promises the same blessings upon the condition that we exercise faith in Christ, by which we embrace the obedience which another, even Christ, has performed in our behalf; or the gospel teaches that we are justified freely by faith in Christ. With this faith is also connected, as by an indissoluble bond, the condition of new obedience. 4. In their effects. The law works wrath, and is the ministration of death: the gospel is the ministration of life and of the Spirit (Rom. 4:15, 2 Cor. 3:7) (Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 92).

The law/gospel distinction isn’t a law, it’s a hermeneutic. It’s a theology and it’s the confession of the churches.

Have you read the Heidelberg Catechism?

2. How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily?

Three things:1 the first, how great my sin and misery is;2 the second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery;3 the third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption.4

3. From where do you know your misery?

From the Law of God.1

1 Rom 3:20. * Rom 7:7.

4. What does the Law of God require of us?

Christ teaches us in sum, Matt 22: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (22:38, 39,40)

18. But who now is that Mediator, who in one person is true God and also a true and righteous man?

Our Lord Jesus Christ,1 who is freely given unto us for complete redemption and righteousness.2

1 Matt 1:23. 1 Tim 3:16. Luke 2:11. 2 1 Cor 1:30. * Acts 4:12.

19. From where do you know this?

From the Holy Gospel, which God Himself revealed first in Paradise;1 afterwards proclaimed by the holy Patriarchs2 and Prophets, and foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law;3 and finally fulfilled by His well-beloved Son.

1 Gen 3:15. 2 Gen 22:18. Gen 49:10,11. Rom 1:2. Heb 1:1. Acts 3:22-24. Acts 10:43. 3 John 5:46. Heb 10:7. 4 Rom 10:4. Gal 4:4,5. * Heb 10:1.

Nowhere in any of this does Clark come close to addressing my actual question. It’s all bluster and dust in the air, relatively speaking. It is one long series of red herrings, as well as falsehoods. I never “assumed” he opposes the law. I never said anything from which one could even deduce that. My understanding of the three uses of the law, or the confessions, is not the issue. I never said the law-gospel distinction was a law. All of this is beside the point. Professor! Please pay attention.

Dr. Van Til would have thrown his eraser across the classroom at this point.

But notice the repeated condescension: it’s all my lack of understanding, my lack of having read this or that document or theologian—and all without any reference to my question or any explanation of why this is the case.

Worse, my ignorance is now asserted to be incurable: discussion with me is now a “fool’s errand”!

At this point I decided to wrap up my interaction. I got as much as I expected up to this point. I gave my final response to Clark’s failure to engage. This is where I have to recall from memory exactly what I wrote. This is close:

Dr. Clark, go back to the beginning of our “fool’s errand” and read through. From the beginning I have done nothing but ask a simple question restated in many ways. From the beginning you have done nothing but belittle me me with condescension, attribution of assumptions I never made, question my understanding of basic concepts that are only tangentially related (and now long quotations to that regard), and now calling discussion with me a “fool’s errand.”

Grant for the moment that I, in fact, have read and do understand the law-gospel distinction as taught by Luther, Calvin, WFC, Heidelberg, and all the Ursinuses you can dig up, and I agree with them. Given that we agree on this, and on the uses of the law, can we now address the real question at hand?

[And I would add, now, given Dr. Clark’s disclaimer on the necessity of preaching the law, can we get to Dr. McDurmon’s real question?]

I am translating Calvin’s Sermons on Deuteronomy as we speak, and from all of them I have seen so far, I am afraid Calvin could easily fall under much of your description of the “legal preacher” made above. He preaches through the law, preaches it AS law, makes plenty of applications as to what his congregation should do, and yet mentions Jesus or the Gospel only periodically. [Here is a brief example.]

Would Calvin fall under your condemnation as a “legal preacher” (at least for the eighteen months he preached through Deuteronomy)?

If not, why not? He certainly fits this part of your description above.

So I am afraid that and the end of the day, you will still have to answer the question: How much law is a preacher allowed to preach before he falls under RSC’s condemnation as a “legal preacher”? And who gets to decide this? By what standard? Can it vary from church to church? Where is the line between the necessary preaching of the law and the alleged “abuse” of the law, per RSC?

Perhaps you see that in answering this question, you cannot escape your own criticism above, for you have to impose a “legal” requirement of your own upon preaching.

Further, I would still like to see some examples of such preaching to avoid. Since I apparently don’t understand very well, some clear examples will go a long way in helping me. Thanks!

This post was almost immediately deleted, and quickly afterward, as far as I can tell, Dr. Clark went to the comment immediately below our interaction to post: “Since Joel decided to be a jerk rather than a gentleman, he’s now on moderated status.

Now it was never my intention to be a “jerk,” but if I was, I apologize to Dr. Clark and all affected. I will let the reader decide, but I don’t think I was. Rather, I think RSC was being evasive, discourteous, and even arrogant in dealing with a very simple question. The last tactic for evasion is to play moderator and censor your opponent, then demean him further without letting him respond (at least not in the same forum).

Quite frankly I am surprised that a seasoned scholar would have such thin skin, and would resort to such dirty tricks so readily. Moreover, I am shocked that such a leader in a prominent Christian seminary who demands that others on his blog “must observe the moral law” in their comments would take the liberty to name-call while hiding behind such tricks. Jerk or no jerk, this is not how a Christian man, let alone a Christian leader and scholar, settles such disagreements.

Why would Dr. Clark not actually pursue the question? Aside from the obvious logical conundrum into which I believe it puts him, it would have taken most of the thunder away from his post by showing that it only applies to a handful of people, most of whom are outside of our broader theological tradition. It certainly could not apply to the John Carricks, the boys in Moscow, and many others which Reformed readers would likely assume, and as Clark himself implied in both the post and the comments. This would reveal once again that it is the boys in Escondido and Dr. Clark who have an agenda: an agenda to refashion that which is “Reformed” in their own image and likeness.

Repeat offenders

It is to this point that I would refer the reader to John Frame’s critique of The Escondido Theology, and Dr. Clark’s book Recovering the Reformed Confession in particular. He deals at a more general level with the same type of self-contradictory issue I was trying to get at:

Clark’s procedure in defining the nature of “Reformed” thinking is not itself found in any of the confessions or favored theological writings. Nor is there any way, so far as I can see, to support it from Scripture. But Clark thinks we should never claim that anything is Reformed unless it can be supported from the confessions. Clark’s methodology, therefore, is self-referentially incoherent. He is trying to establish the meaning of “Reformed” by what he regularly describes as a non-Reformed methodology.

What Clark really does in this book is to advocate a kind of Reformed theology and church life that appeals to him more than the more recent versions. But he has no authority, I think, and no good reason, to impose that vision on those of us who find it less attractive.

Right. He’s in a bind but either doesn’t realize it, or won’t face it. Yet he has no authority to impose his view. But, voila! He does have the authority to delete you and treat you with contempt on his own blog.

But recalling how Westminster Escondido condescendingly dismissed even John Frame’s very scholarly critiques, I feel I am in good company.

In the end, however, playgrounds tactics only go so far when the playground is bigger than you think it is, and your opponent has his own bat and ball.

In the world of blog bluster, it’s best not to try to censor your opponent when he has his own website with a web presence five times bigger than yours.

In the world of theological blogs, it is assumed mandatory not to misrepresent or belittle your opponent, for Christ’s sake and for love of neighbor.

Further, in the world of theological blogs that carry the following warning—“Comments are welcome but must observe the moral law”—one could earn the charge of hypocrisy by engaging in dirty tricks and/or name-calling.

If you would like to contact Dr. Clark in regard to this instance of calling yours truly a “jerk,” I would suggest sending him your very friendly and courteous displeasure at:

The administration for this Christian leadership can be reached at:

Westminster Seminary California

Address: 1725 Bear Valley Parkway, Escondido, CA 92027
Phone: 760/480.8474
Toll-Free: 888/480.8474

Fax: 760/480.0252
Administrative Office Hours: Monday through Friday 8:00am-4:30pm (PST)

Further contacts can be found here.

In the meantime, I will model my own preaching after Calvin’s. And I suppose that if Dr. Clark ever gets around to answering the question, he will, too.

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About the Author

Dr. Joel McDurmon

Joel McDurmon, Ph.D. in Theology from Pretoria University, is the Director of Research for American Vision. He has authored seven books and also serves as a lecturer and regular contributor to the American Vision website. He joined American Vision's staff in the June of 2008. Joel and his wife and four sons live in Dallas, Georgia.

61 Responses to Why Escondido Professor R. Scott Clark publicly called me a “jerk”

  1. Christopher Lee says:

    This exchange is getting a little interesting…

    See Clark’s (sort of) response post to this… It is a little rambling though..

  2. Jon Mathys says:

    He attends Escondido URC. I’m sure he would say, “be my guest.” And I would agree with him.

  3. sdm says:
    Here is one of the writers of the Westminster Confession warning of those who use phrases like “an Old Testament Spirit,” and critique sermons by saying there “is nothing but an explanation of the law….” Anthony Burgess goes on to say” we should glory in hearing God’s holiness explained in his law.” Machen said in What is Faith that those who have a low view of law have a low view of the gospel as well.

  4. sdm says:

    People like Clark need to understand that every OT prophet was a legal preacher according to his view. They used the law of god to call people to repentance. Was Amos, Joel, Jeremiah, Micah, Malachi, etc legalists and not right in their heart with God because they preached the law? It is funny that Psalm 119 never cautions people against too much law and no one else in the OT does either for that matter. The problem is that most so-called Reformed people, denominations, seminaries, are now dispensational in their view of sanctification and good works (I have had some people cringe at the word good works even though there is a whole section on it in the Confession). I wish people like Clark would quit calling themselves Reformed. All these neo-Presbyterians are so ignorant of history that they view confessional Presbyterians as heretics. He needs to read Martin Foulner’s book called Theonomy and the Westminster Confession and see what his heroes say about law and gospel. A sample of writings from the blog Reformed Covenanter or Theonomy Resources would answer his stupidity.

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  6. Rupert, REC says:

    Wow, if John Frame is a scholar then the word has no meaning. He didn’t even sustain his dissertation defense. His is the worst scholarship in existence. If Joel Osteen can be described as preaching the same gospel as the Reformed faith, then someone needs to check his odometer, because his car is well overdue for a tune up.

  7. Wayne Walters says:

    I do not eat Raviolis (Kibbles & Bits in Tomato Sauce). About once a year I will eat one just to keep myself reminded of why I don’t eat them. I’m the same way about blogs. I have to have a real good reason to go to a blog site. I followed Joel as he led an excursion into blogdom. Although I enjoyed reading Joel’s exchange it served as a reminder of why I do not read blogs.

    I visit AV every day and am never disappointed. Joel, Gary etal serve up steak dinners. If I want Kibbles & Bits in Tomato Sauce, I’ll spend a few minutes at a dog food counter.

    God bless American Vision.

  8. Donald Wright says:

    If the above exchange is an accurate representation of the conversation between Clark and McDurmon, it is clear who is behaving like a jerk–and it isn’t McDurmon. McDurmon has asked a reasonable question of Clark that has essentially painted Clark into a corner of his own making and from which there can be only two possible escapes: 1) The honorable one of answering the question and thus admitting error, or 2) The dishonorable one of refusing to admit error, and instead responding with condescension, name-calling, and censorship. Clark has chosen the latter route.

    I’m reminded of the anecdote that the great preacher Joe Morecraft tells: that he was once called “the Antichrist” in print by Hal Lindsey. Far from having the deleterious effect upon Morecraft’s ministry that Lindsey apparently intended, the accusation instead caused many to come to Morecraft’s church in order to see the Antichrist for themselves–and many of those stayed to become the most faithful Reformed members of his congregation! In the same vein, the well-positioned back-cover blurb “Jerk! –Dr. R. Scott Clark” might have a salutary effect upon the sales of McDurmon’s next book!

    • KenTomWil says:

      I agree with Donald Wright!
      So far:
      Dr. R. Scott Clark <>1

    • Laird Bean says:

      Where “in print” can this be found? I have a hard time believing that Hal Lindsey would seriously call anyone “the Antichrist”!!

  9. Drew says:

    For crying out loud, American Vision is an organization that was specifically invented to talk about politics. It is not a church. What in the world do these people expect you to talk about?

    I, for one, think you should maintain your emphasis on theonomy. If we start routinely getting into whether Calvinism is correct, whether Catholicism is bad, whether Mormonism is a cult, etc., all it does is distract from the organization’s main purpose. Let the Mormons and whoever else wants to join up, do so. Once we take over, then we can battle it out to see who has the best theology.

  10. Santos says:

    Yawn. Who cares…

  11. Tom Mills says:

    Quite an interesting read, Joel was not the “Jerk” but I do think that Clark did indeed act in that way. I do think Joel handled the situation quite elegantly, however, simply by writing this article, it ensures that Joel loses. It shows that you were very disturbed by his attack, and indeed it was an attack! However trying to understand why the foolish are so is a “grasping of the wind.” Comment threads have become the gutter of the internet, and based on his responses it does not seem as he is even capable of defending the position he took in his original article, why else delete them? It’s clear you got under his skin, and only truth is capable of eliciting such a reaction. Truth that might have convicted, but will now likely fester into hatred by the official posting of this soap opera drama.

  12. BJ says:

    Mr. DeMar: I think your views put you out of accord with the URCNA, the OPC and the PCA. I also believe that the word, ‘exonerated’ is a bit strong. They did not EXONERATE but decided on points–there are CLEAR rumblings of a potential split in the PCA, especially over these findings…so I would think that using the expression re: PL’s views and outcome as ‘neither here nor there’ is quite appropriate.

    and Dr. McDurmon: Me thinks thou dost protest too much. I read that exchange and knew precisely (or so I believe) what Dr. Clark was saying. I found your comments ‘pricking’. I am not extraordinarily well-educated but I feel compelled to state that I found your tone strident and argumentative. It seemed to me, a casual reader, that you had a bone to pick and did not answer HIS questions.

    and as far as linking “Moscow” wink wink: didn’t you do the same thing? Make a presumption as to whom he was referring?

    I’m sorry but I think your call to action is unloving. Oh yes he is a professor etc and you promise it’s his lack of scholarness (slipperiness?) that you find offensive but I do wonder (can’t read the heart) if in reality you aren’t just a wee bit upset that Dr. Clark moderated you…

    I know of those legalists that Dr. Clark speaks of and I know enough of theonomy, FV, NPP and the ‘results’ / behaviors in certain circles/churches and I despise them for the abuse of the sheep. You may be a fine man and a wonderful preacher and you had some salient points but I would not attend your church for fear (and I do mean fear: I’ve been abused by a reformed pastor) that you would abuse your sheep, based upon the tone on the Heidleblog and your ‘over-the-top’ response here. At least I ‘hear’ it as overblown and frankly I want no part of someone like you who may suffer from certain ‘bents’ and leanings theologically-speaking.

  13. Dear Mr. DeMar,
    IMO, this puts you in a position where you need to examine the evidence and make your own decision. Isn’t this what our forefathers of the Reformed faith did with such matters? Perhaps I’ve been studying the Covenanters too much, but I think they would encourage you to look at FV and those accused of being proponents in an objective light and let the chips fall where they may. I will be praying for you as you are a man of strength and character. :)
    Your reformed sister in Christ,
    Angela Wittman

    • Joel McDurmon Joel McDurmon says:

      Angela, Thanks for your readership and concern. I see it is genuine, and I respect that highly. But FV is not the issue in this case. It may be a vital issue, but it is to the side of what is taking place in this interaction between me and RSC. We do appreciate your prayers.

      • At the risk of being offensive, I think that Christian Reconstructionism would have more credibility if the leaders were faithful in small things, as well as the larger. I realize these small things are often found in or labeled as “side issues,” but hope you will think about what I’ve said. As for me, I think I’ll move on to other things. :)

    • ACS says:

      Ms. Wittman, the FV controversy in the PCA is serious business and you are correct in calling attention to it, though it is not appropriate to the context of this posting. The article addresses the Law-Gospel debate that rages in the church especially as it relates to the Escondido (Crypto-Lutheran) gang.

  14. I also find it interesting that now none of the conversation between Dr Clark and Dr McDurmon that was posted here on AV is on the Heidlblog. I guess RSC decided to delete the entire exchange.

  15. Dr McDurmon,
    Thank you for the peek into your conversation with Dr Clark.

    I too have had similar interactions with Dr Clark in which his normal MO is constant misrepresentation and mis-characterizations.

    For instance, he constantly uses the term “Constantinian” for such doctrines as theonomy or Christian reconstruction. And of course, his followers end up simply parroting what he says without really thinking about how that term really does not represent theonomy at all.

    For those not familiar, the term “Constantinian” refers to during the time of the Constantine during the 4th century when he ruled the Roman empire and the official religion was Christianity.. We can get into debates about what exactly he did and to what extent Christianity was merged into the state etc… but the point is that RSC uses that term to refer to a merging of the church and state…

    The problem is that theonomy’s intent is never to establish a state religion in that sense of their being no distinction between the civil minister (magistrate) and the pastoral minister. There is also a misunderstanding in that many still think that Israel as a nation was one.. there was not distinction between the church and the state.. This is clearly wrong, and there is a clear distinction between both..

    So, since the caricature is that theonomy recognizes no difference between the OT and NT, and since WSCAL disciples think that Israel had no distinction between church and state, many R2K folks wrongly think that theonomists want to institute the government and church in one body since we are so “bent” on using the Mosaic law… hence, the term “constantinian”…

    My concern is the same as Dr McDurmon’s… This is a highly respected theologian and minister who cant put one logical thought together when pressed as he was, when he deleted the latest response from Dr McDurmon.

    When anyone presses him very clearly about the logic and consistency behind what he says, he never will ever answer your questions… EVER… He did it with McDurmon, and another theonomist who runs (Ron). To put it nicely, Ron really took RSC to task, and RSC interacted with him in the same way that he did with Dr McDurmon.

    It is concerning because he has so many people who literally adore him and link his articles through their facebook accounts etc… and they have no idea of the kind of sloppy thought, illogical thinking, and just plain deception that Dr Clark conducts with anyone who doesnt agree with him..

    And his disciples end up simply using the tactics that Dr Clark uses, not realizing just how ridiculous and sloppy and wrong those arguments are.

  16. Laird Bean says:

    If this current controversy has anything to do with Christian Reconstructionism, I have to say that anyone expressing their opposition to this error, I would agree with them. There may be many differences in the universal Body of Christ over secondary doctrines, but I find this particular movement to be particularly damaging to our over-all Christian witness to the unsaved world!
    I think that I would not engage in any kind of unkind rhetoric in addressing a brother in Christ, but I would not shy away from very direct language in my treatment of the error contained in Christian Reconstructionism!

    • Joel McDurmon Joel McDurmon says:

      Fine, just so long as you don’t mind “very direct language” back at you.

    • Justin says:


      I find that a few of your statements here are overly-general and broad, and I would like to explore them, if you don’t mind:

      the error contained in Christian Reconstructionism

      Which error(s)? Please be specific; I am curious to know where you find error with the movement/ideology.

      but I find this particular movement to be particularly damaging to our over-all Christian witness to the unsaved world

      In what way? Also, in what way is this relevant to the truths involved? Are you saying that “our over-all Christian witness to the unsaved world” is a valid metric of the validity of a belief? I cannot agree with judging a truth-claim on pragmatic grounds.

      FWIW, I am not a (capital “R”)econstructionist or a (capital “T”)heonomist, but I am most definitely theonomic in my views and convictions.

      Is it the Reconstructionist movement itself you have issues with, the people in it, or the primary thesis behind it?

      Please, be as direct and specific as you can. Please note that just like Mr. McDurmon at RSC’s blog, I am not being a jerk. There is a difference between being direct and being, well, a jerk. ;-)

      • Laird Bean says:

        Please correct me if I am wrong. I want to make sure that I am not misrepresenting the Reconstructionist beliefs.
        Do they believe that the world should be brought under a form of Christian theocracy and the restoration of Old Testament civil and moral laws, with their accompanying O.T.punishments?
        Do they also believe that the whole world will be converted before Jesus Christ physically returns to Earth?
        Do they advocate removal of prisons in favor of restoration of damages?
        Do they believe that the nation of Israel has been replaced by Christians as God’s chosen people?
        There are certain eschatological points in all of this that is at variance with the majority of Biblical scholars, as well as questionable hermeneutics.
        As I said before, I am very willing to be proven wrong, if indeed any of these purported beliefs are Reconstructionist.
        And, whatever the response I recognize that you, Mr. McDurmon, and others are my brothers in Christ, inasmuch as you hold to the cardinal doctrines of the faith. So, you don’t have to worry about any name calling, for sure!

        • Justin says:


          Here’s the rub- “Reconstructionists,” in my experience, have differing opinions on the specific questions you ask. Honestly, any one of those questions could provide for a lengthy conversation, one that could prove quite interesting. Several of those specific questions are not at all unique to “Reconstructionists” at all.

          I personally believe that the definition of “evil” in Romans 13 must be a Biblical one, and that the magistrate has been given a clear mandate. I believe in the “general equity” of God’s civil law (ie as described in the WCF), and the universal obligation of the moral law.

          There is in the Bible no such thing as an “OT moral law.” The moral law is universal and eternal.

          Although eschatology can be brought into the conversation, Reconstructionists are not all postmillenialists, and at any rate, I am not concerned with or convinced by appeals to majority as far as eschatology is concerned. What is important to me is what is true, not what the majority believes. I am sure you would agree.

          What hermeneutic do you find questionable that is unique to Reconstructionists?

          Do you believe that the geopolitical entity of Israel and the ethic Jews have replaced those justified by grace through faith as God’s covenant people?

      • Laird Bean says:

        Justin…..In reference to your last reply, I don’t think I referred to the word “evil” in my last post.
        Regarding “O.T. moral law” you are, of course, correct on that point (my error). The moral law is indeed universal and is what leads a person to realize their need for a Savior.
        As to the majority view of eschatology, while I agree that the “majority” does not always represent the final truth, in the scholarly realm it does indicate a studied and thus a more authoritative conclusion as opposed to just a denominational stand. It still requires personal study, as laymen, to come to a Biblically solid conclusion, but there is still a valid argument to be made for giving a measure of credence to a majority of scholars who have done the research and are in agreement.
        One very great concern of mine is the decidedly fringe view that the Jewish people are not God’s chosen people, and that the nation of Israel has no significance in end times prophecy. I find this to be in direct contradiction with the scriptures and God’s covenants which do not change dispensationally, and have no expiration date or transfer clause. This coincides with my reference to hermeneutics, which I believe to be flawed on the part of Reconstructionists.

        • Eric Heil says:

          One very great concern of mine is the decidedly fringe view that the Jewish people are not God’s chosen people, and that the nation of Israel has no significance in end times prophecy.

          It was the majority view until at least 1830 (Darby) and at most, 1909 (Scofield). Just because dispensationalism is the majority view, it doesn’t make it any more correct. You also misunderstand the postmillennial view on national Israel. She will be converted and thus be ‘reconciled to all nations’.

  17. Jerritte Couture says:


    I do agree that Dr. Clark’s responses were evasive and disingenuous. However, I just have one question. You stated that, “Westminster Escondido condescendingly dismissed even John Frame’s very scholarly critiques,” and kindly provided a link to that dismissal. Though I do think it trite of them to not interact with Dr. Frame by stating, “We do not wish to engage in a protracted discussion of these things with John,” I wanted to see if you could explain how their response was otherwise “condescending.”

    I’m just curious here. Their response didn’t seem condescending to me.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Jerritte Couture

    • Joel McDurmon Joel McDurmon says:

      IMO, to state that Frame’s extensive, heavily documented, and heavily quoted (in their own words) critiques of their positions are “utterly representing” them, and neither “fair” nor “accurate,” but them refuse to take the time show how is to dismiss him as not worthy of their time to refute, when in fact there is anyone more worthy of it. I though the entire gesture was condescending.

  18. Garrett Craw says:

    I’ve dealt with Professor Clark in the past and find him to be rather unedifying. I think his roughshod ramrod of the “guys in Moscow” (I assume I’m probably one by extension) misses some main points. One is that we (in liturgical Reformed circles) tend to see the sermon as part of a larger whole (the entire service of Word and Sacrament). We always have a clear declaration of the Law and the balm of the Gospel after the confession of sin with the declaration of absolution. If you’re only trolling online sermons you’ll never see this. This is a shoddy way of appraising and dealing with fellow Christians. The sermon is not the be all end all presentation of Law and Gospel in the service of worship.

    In addition, I think we do injustice to the Word of God by constantly imposing an external necessity of demonstrating an explicit Law/Gospel dichotomy with every text. We should preach what the text says. The easy way out of this is what many Reformed churches do which is to endlessly and only preach Romans and Ephesians.

  19. mark mcculley says:

    If we didn’t already know you were a jerk, this response on your blog confirms it. Neonomians don’t like being called neonomians. And it’s not only the federal visionists (who teach works as instrumental to final justification) who fall into this category. Instead of focusing on the false gospel of salvation by works, you shift the focus on to the persons who warn against that false gospel.

    Check out Dr. T. David Gordon in his book “Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers” ( P & R 2009) when he contrasts Christ-centered preaching with “Introspection”

    “Some of the neo-Puritans have apparently determined that the purpose and essence of Christian preaching is to persuade people that they do not, in fact, believe. The subtitle of each of their sermons could accurately be: “I Know You Think You Are a Christian, but You Are Not.” This brand of preaching constantly suggests that if a person does not always love attending church, always look forward to reading the Bible, or family worship, or prayer, then the person is probably not a believer…”

    “The hearer falls into one of two categories: one category of listener assumes that the preacher is talking about someone else, and he rejoices (as did the Pharisee over the tax collector) to hear “the other guy” getting straightened out. Another category of listener eventually capitulates and says: “Okay, I’m not a believer; have it your way.” But since the sermon mentions Christ only in passing (if at all), the sermon says nothing about the adequacy of Christ as Redeemer, and therefore does nothing to build faith in Christ. So true unbelievers are given nothing that might make believers of them, and many true believers are persuaded that they are not believers.”

    “It is painful to hear every passage of Scripture twisted to do what only several of them actually do (i.e., warn the complacent that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven). And it is absolutely debilitating to be told again and again that one does not have faith when one knows perfectly well that one does have faith, albeit weak and imperfect…”

    “So no one profits from this kind of preaching; indeed, both
    categories of hearer are harmed by it. But I don’t expect it will end anytime soon. The self-righteous like it too much; for them, religion makes them feel good about themselves, because it allows them to view themselves as the good guys and others as the bad guys – they love to hear the preacher scold the bad guys each week. And sadly, the temperament of some ministers is simply officious. Scolding others is their life calling; they have the genetic disposition to be a Jewish mother.” (pp. 83-84)

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  21. Dan says:

    Dear Joel,
    I agree with your opponent. 1st- was the Law given to Gentiles. Did they even know what the Law taught? 2nd- Law is law and Gospel is gospel. The goal of the Torah is to find the salvation in the Messiah which is made clear by ALL the Scriptures! 3rd- I don’t think Calvin would find your devotion to him as what is correct and in error so that you follow “Calvin” rather than the Scriptures. You may say Calvin followed the Scriptures (he put together a system as you know) so you are a “Calvinist.” So much of man’s so-called wisdom is in Christianity today its unbelievable! Jewish people, at the time of Messiah, knew the Law and desired to use it to please God and obey Him. However, the FIRST believers were Jewish who knew the Law and believed through the Gospel not throwing out the Law but knowing that the New Covenant put the Torah in their hearts and minds so that the Law’s curse was done away with through believing in the Messiah. This New Covenant was given to Israel and Judah if you read it carefully. I therefore believe that using the Law as if it applies to Gentiles is a serious error! Quoting passages about the curse of the Law, etc. and applying them to the Gentiles is not biblical! The Gospel is for the Jew FIRST and then the Gentiles. Having the indwelling of the Spirit of God enables both Jew and Gentile to use the Law as it was meant to be used with the changes that were made to it by the New Covenant.
    I consider myself as “Reformed” in regards to salvation but not as a Covenant theologian! It is a horrendous to base a whole system based on a serious error that states one should go back to the OT and replace the word “Israel” with the word “Church” a non-biblical word which is not even close to the Greek word “ekklesia!” In other words, the Church wants to steal the promises God made to the believing remnant of Israel ignoring how the Scriptures clearly state God’s covenant with Israel is forever and Israel is exactly that NOT that Israel has become a non-biblical organization (somewhat anti-semitic) called the “church.!” Even in the beginning with the so-called “Church Fathers” and especially Constantine we see this totally unbiblical man=made organization whose main point is that Jews or Israel is done away with and anyone who would dare continue any of the feasts, etc. given to Israel is a DE-JUDAIZER!
    Its time we got back to the Holy Scriptures and stop going out of our way to make up our own systems based on faulty interpretations and mistranslations, etc.

  22. Richard Anderson says:

    Translating Calvin’s sermons? Why. When you have the Gospel itself, why waste time with Calvin? He was a fallen sinner (and a nasty tempered one if you disagreed with him). I prefer the late great Dave Hunt’s opinion, “I never studied Luther, Calvin,…I was too busy studying the Bible!”.

  23. Justin says:

    I eagerly await his answer to your question and a retraction of his statement.

  24. Sacha says:

    It is so interesting to see that those who are most vocal in calling theonomists rude and un-loving, those who constantly accuse everyone of not preaching the Gospel enough are some of the rudest people you’ll ever encounter.

  25. Brother Les says:

    What’s the big deal? You, I am sure have been called worse. For in some ways you are worse than a jerk.

    • Joel McDurmon Joel McDurmon says:

      I am a sinner: much worse, no doubt. There is no big deal about me being insulted, you’re right. I been called worse by people I respect more. Frankly, I doesn’t bother me so much. The issue is about reputable theologians with some influence spreading straw men or falsehoods, then acting like children and refusing to be accountable for their nonsense. Thanks Les.

    • Sacha says:


      you might want to remove the “Brother” before Les….

    • ACS says:

      It seems to me that being called a “jerk” or any other pejorative term would be perfectly acceptable as long as RSC (or many others in Escondido) had the courage and clarity to say what they mean and mean what they say. The problem I often have with those folks is, to steal a phrase, they are pyromaniacs in a field of straw men. At least with regards to civil government, ethics, and “Two Kingdoms” they rarely define their terms, they rarely clarify their arguments, and they don’t strive to understand and engage with the actual arguments made by their opponents. I’d rather be called a “filthy dog” by the likes of John Calvin who could argue and debate with intellectual honesty than be called a “jerk” by the likes of RSC who can be as slippery as an eel.

  26. Josh says:

    “Perhaps you see that in answering this question, you cannot escape your own criticism above, for you have to impose a “legal” requirement of your own upon preaching.”

    I think out of the whole discourse this may not have been necessary or helpful. I do not think it warrants being called a “jerk”, but it might convey an attitude of presumption and potentially arrogance. It seems to me that in this phrase you are suggesting that if he actually gets around to answering your question, he’ll find out he’s wrong. I don’t know anyone that responds well to that type of discourse. I think if this phrase was omitted, then perhaps you might have received an answer.

    Regardless, press on, brother!

  27. whodatperson1 says:

    I have no reason to believe there is anything else behind the curtain here, so I see nothing jerky in your responses. I’m not a AV guy necessarily, but that is non the issue.

    What Mr. Clark has done is what many leading Christians are doing today. When given a question they don’t like, they shifting blame, call names, or ignore completely the issues.

    Whether you’re a friend of Ken Ham of AIG or not, he’s had a run in with Christianity Today on a little blurb they wrote about the Ark Project. I have sent 2 emails to them asking them to explain and low and behold… they won’t do so. They haven’t answered him and never went to him as a ‘journalistic’ source.

    Sad commentary with everything else going on in Christendom.

  28. Dear Mr. McDurmon, I plan to read this more thoroughly, but my first response is that both sides of the theonomic movement (those opposed and those in favor) often paint each other with a broad brush. Of course, I think you’re a wonderful God-fearing man whom I cheer on while reading your articles. But sometimes when we’re criticized there might be an element of truth found somewhere in the muck and mire.
    Frankly, I have contacted AV about the organization’s association with the FV men in Moscow (Idaho) and others who hold to FV theology. While they might have written some worthy books (namely Doug Wilson and Peter Leithart), they still have a serious flaw in their theology that attacks the very heart of the Gospel and I pray you all will remove their books from your website and promotional e-mails. I’m sure you can replace them with other works written by more orthodox authors.
    Thank you and may the good Lord bless you.

    • Gary DeMar says:


      Thanks for writing. Peter Leithart was examined for his views in the PCA and was exonerated. I know a lot of people didn’t like the outcome, but that’s neither here nor there.

      “In June 2011, Pacific Northwest Presbytery held a trial, and the Presbytery found TE Leithart not guilty of the five charges. In November 2011, one month after the Presbytery met and adopted the judgments on the five charges, a complaint was filed against the actions of Pacific Northwest Presbytery. In April, 2012 the Presbytery denied the complaint at which point the complaint was carried to the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC).

      “The (SJC) heard the complaint, RE Gerald Hedman v. Pacific Northwest Presbytery (Case 2012-05), in March 2013 and decided to deny the complaint, which means that the action of Pacific Northwest Presbytery that found TE Leithart not guilty of all charges had been affirmed. The vote of the SJC was 15 concurring, 2 dissenting.”

      When brought before this year’s PCA General Assembly, “two overtures to declare the Federal Vision trials of Dr. Peter Leithart and TE Jeff Meyers as mistrials were clearly defeated. The moderator moved both motions as out of order, and the floor of the General Assembly voted and ultimately supported the moderator’s decision.”

      So we have the judicial bodies of the PCA exonerating Peter Leithart, thus maintaining that he’s orthodox. So who should I follow given that I’m a communing member of a PCA church?

      I’ve been engaged in theological controversy for a long time, ever since I was a student at Reformed Theological Seminary when Dr. Greg Bahnsen was a professor. His views (as well as mine) have been continually misrepresented.

      I have not read extensively in the FV literature. Much of what I’ve read is second-hand. It’s what others say the FV folks believe and teach. I just read an article on Baptism that Peter wrote. A critic could very easily pull quotations from it and make Peter say what he is not saying:

      Gary DeMar

      • Joshua T says:


        Thank you for the polite, lengthy and public response to this question!

      • Isaac says:

        Mr. DeMar,

        In “Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t” you and Gary North defend the Reconstruction movement from the mis-characterization of various “heresy hunters” who were putting up straw-men without ever really interacting with your position. Do you think that Federal Vision has received similar treatment from the Reformed community?

      • Thanks for the response… Perhaps this (FV) is something you should examine at great length since it is so controversial and decide for yourself? Here is a link to an article called “Understanding the Federal Vision” recently posted at The Aquila Report which might be helpful:

        • Gary DeMar says:


          Here’s the point I was making: How should a member of the PCA evaluate PL when at the Presbytery and GA levels he was exonerated? I’m sure I can read a lot of critics of FV like I can read a lot of supporters of FV.

          I’ve read numerous affirmation and denials by FV advocates and did not find one item that I thought was out of bounds.

          I’m sure there are a lot of people in the PCA who think my positions on theonomy, Christian Reconstruction, and eschatology are contrary to the WCF and unbiblical.

          So where does all of this put me?

          Gary DeMar

        • From what I understand Dr. Leithart has not been fully exonerated from the Charge of holding to Federal Vision aberrations. That is a myth. The SJC did not exonerate him concerning his views. The procedural problems were a mess and that was what was ruled on. There is still much to do concerning Peter Leitharts heterodoxy. And from what I understand it is still something that needs to be addressed properly. The PNW Presbytery has not heard the end of this.

        • Tom Mills says:

          Gary, I think it puts you in the position you have always been in, to look for truth wherever it lies. The truth is still right even if nobody believes it.

          “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

    • Chris Griffith says:

      I appreciate the tone and graciousness of your comment. I am curious as to what you mean by your by saying FV supporters having “serious flaws in their theology that attacks the very heart of the Gospel…” The Gospel, in its most compact form, is simply “Jesus is Lord!” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified, dead, buried, resurrected, and ascended to the right hand of the Father where is ruling and reigning with all authority and power. That is Paul’s Gospel: Jesus the Messiah, entering into His reign, is the good news not only for Israel but for the entire world. Our believing it, and being justified by faith in what Christ has accomplished on our behalf is not the Gospel but a fruit of it. The Gospel is about what King Jesus has accomplished in history. I know of no FV proponent who would deny the Gospel of Jesus Christ or teach a theology that would contradict what I have articulated above. If you want to say that the Gospel is only “justification by faith alone,” then I understand that to be a truncated and individualistic version of the “gospel.” I agree, and completely adhere to the doctrine of justification by faith along, but again, (and I know I’m beating a dead horse) but the Gospel is primarily what Jesus has accomplished. Blessings and peace to you.

      • Angela Wittman says:

        Dear Chris, Sorry for the delay in response. I had truly moved on to other things and out of curiosity returned to see if any additional comments were posted and found yours. My understanding is FV attacks the heart (or perhaps the hinge is a better term) of the Gospel through its teaching on Justification. Here’s a link to Dr. Clark’s webpage on FV: I hope you’ll be objective enough to put personality aside and read what the man has written. Thanks and if you want to communicate with me, please go to one of my blogs. You can find them through As of now, I am shaking the dust off my feet to AV. Sorry guys – I had hoped you could be reasoned with, but it looks like you’re determined to follow the Moscow crowd into error and I won’t be going with you there.

  29. Isaac says:

    It appears his statement about you being a jerk was made on his own blog, just below your exchange, in response to another commenter.

  30. Tom says:

    One could also try to track down his home church and notify his consistory. Of course none of his “official” biographies list this information.

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