Brave Heart and the Great White Shark

About one year ago, in January of 2019, I went to South Africa to preach at two pastors’ conferences, one in Pretoria and the other in Cape Town. Sharing preaching responsibilities with me was David Carmichael, a pastor in the Church of Scotland, serving the same church in a small town for 37 years. He claims that as we wandered the shore of Cape Town and I carelessly waded in the ocean water, he saved me from a mortal attack of the great white shark because sharks are afraid to approach a place occupied by a brave-hearted Scotsman.

So I suppose I owe him my life; but beyond that his faithful life experience as a pastor shed light on other important issues, perhaps more dangerous than the great white shark. In the course of our conversations, we not only developed an edifying friendship, but found that we shared many of the same concerns about the direction of theology in Reformed Evangelical circles of thought and ministry. Both of us heard laments about the impact of Social Justice ideas on the churches of South Africa. He had felt personally the impact of intersectionality on his ministry in Scotland, both in the ecclesiastical as well as the public spheres. Pressures from the Church of Scotland brought him and his church to seek, in his words, “to extricate myself from the Church of Scotland and gain entry into the Free Church of Scotland.” The Free Church is eager to welcome him and his congregation into its ranks in light of their decades-long witness to the purity of the biblical gospel. The Church of Scotland has made seemingly extravagant demands for payment for the property upon their exit, but David and his congregation have worked through this with patience and integrity.

By March of 2020, they should be received into the Free Church. His experience both in the Church of Scotland and in the town where his church is located made him perk up about the impact of Social Justice, CRT, and intersectionality in other evangelical connections. He has given some attention to Southern Baptists and the ways, in his macro-perspective, in which he discerns the influence of these ideas. When I gave him some information on SBC Resolution 9, 2019, he responded,

 I’m always on edge when people tell me they have a “tool” that helps them understand scripture. The problem with a tool is, that if it’s a drill, you only ever see something that needs a hole in it. If it’s a saw, you only ever see something that needs cut. If it’s a spanner, you only see something that needs a turn. Theologically, if your tool is the spectacles of liberalism then the lenses in them will ensure that you see a Bible empty of the supernatural and promoting of social action. If your tool is the spectacles of liberation theology, then such lenses will make sure that you see Jesus as a rebel and a revolutionary. If your tool is the spectacles of CRT and Intersectionality, then your lenses, tinged with Marxist colouring and a focus that will accept no correction or adjustment, will [make you] miss all that the Bible has to say about real justice, true equality, sincere repentance, deep forgiveness, as well as oneness and new life in Jesus. Tools that are spectacles are such as will always help you to see exactly what you want to see. I think the best “tool” to make use of in approaching scripture is one’s knees. The “knee tool“ is the tool of humility and teachableness. It is the one tool designed to make us all humble students of the word of God. It is the tool that leaves us on our knees before scripture, persuaded that inerrant scripture interprets inerrant scripture.  It was the use of this tool that gave us the insights of Luther and Calvin and the good Bible-taught men who followed them down through the ages and became the best of the churches scholars . . . . and preachers. Excuse my simplicity. I can’t help the fact that I am of the mind that anything that complicates Christianity does the gospel of Jesus Christ a great disservice. If we preach the gospel fundamentals well, call people to obey the commandments and encourage Beatitudes living we will do much more good than is currently being done. Evanjellyicalism is as much a danger to the church as rampant, arrogant liberalism. God help us!

On Christmas Eve, David preached on the star of Bethlehem. He described his purpose: “A Glorious Star – A Guiding Star – A Gracious Star – A Guaranteeing Star (Follow the star to Bethlehem. Meet Christ truly and yours will be the guarantee that you will not regret the journey made). It’s a message for the world and not once will I feel the need to mention CRT or Intersectionality. The intellectual elite would mock my message. The socially aware, bee in their bonnet people would do the same. But here’s the thing; it’s a message full of biblical truth and capable with God’s help of saving souls.”

…anything that complicates Christianity does the gospel of Jesus Christ a great disservice.

When I asked to use his comments, David responded, “I’m not sure that anyone would be the slightest bit interested in the comments of an unknown Scotsman. My comments were simple and empty of scholarly weight or jargon. Those of an ordinary minister who has quietly served the same church for 37 years in a small Scottish village.” But that, of course, is precisely what gives them such strength, power, and relevance. As a pastor responsible for the souls of his people and for a faithful message of gospel truth to the lost in his community, and as one who cherishes “the cause of biblical orthodoxy and Christian sanity in an insane world,” his analysis and pastoral concern carries great weight. He consented. He is not a blogger or a writer and, as he cautioned, “I never put anything out there. Not even my sermons.” His comments are by his description “unpolished words.” But he has indeed put it out there for these 37 years, and has done it with the kind of biblical polish and gospel panache that should challenge and enchant us all: “a message full of gospel truth and capable with God’s help of saving souls.”