The Philosopher King Wars
“The sheep are catching on. They are pushing back against being owned by anyone other the Lord who purchased us with His own Blood.”
In our day, most pastors, indeed, most, fit into two categories: the philosopher kings of the first gospel wave, and the philosopher kings of the second gospel wave. First, I will explain what a philosopher king is, and then I will explain the contemporary eras in which they function. Thirdly, I will describe some of the contemporary wars between them and the saints. Then I will explain the theory of the third gospel wave.
The contemporary reign of philosopher kings in the church began in circa 1950. The concept of the philosopher king as pastor began with St. Augustine. He got the concept from the fraternity of philosophers that has shaped Western culture; ie, Plato’s Academy, which was the first institution of philosophy and higher learning in Western culture. This philosophy was founded on four basic principles:
1. The total inability of man (Augustine projected that into Christian discipleship as well).
2. The ability of some to connect with the true, beautiful, and good (those who love knowledge).
3. Those who have striven and succeeded in knowing the true, beautiful, and good, should rule over the remainder of mankind; ie, philosopher (lovers of knowledge) kings.
4. The laws of men are necessary to restrain the ignorant, but are empirical, and not intuitive, and therefore not the most expedient in all cases for the philosopher kings.
Until the second century A.D., churches were primarily led by a group of common people. Various pressures that eventually culminated with Augustinian thought ushered in the one church—one bishop concept. In essence, a philosopher king for each congregation. Today’s seminaries have become Plato’s Academy where men go to become philosopher kings, and then go to congregations to lord it over the flock.
The First Gospel Wave
This era is from 1950 to 1970. It was primarily predicated on the inability of the saints. Just believe only and get your fire insurance. Commendable kingdom living was devalued because of a fundamental belief in inability on the part of the saints who are still “sinners saved by grace” instead of holy ones empowered by the Holy Spirit and aggressively colaboring with Him. The clarion call of the first wave philosopher kings was to get people saved in church under the auspicious of the enlightened ones. Hence, the same gospel that saved us was the predominate theme, not discipleship and kingdom living par excellent. Christians in our day are theologically illiterate because the philosopher kings of the first wave did not teach congregants the theology that they learned in seminary—deeming them unable to understand it. “Change” was just a pipe dream in the realm of theory. “You can’t fix stupid.” Pastors refused to counsel with the word of God and farmed counseling out to the secular philosophers. As one pastor told me: “I am not going to let counseling distract me from the gospel.”
The Second Gospel Wave
The second gospel wave not only devalued discipleship, it returned to pure Augustinian thought which rejected it all together. Man is so inept—even after conversion—that he can have no significant role in either salvation or discipleship. Augustine believed that biblical imperatives only exemplified God’s desires and besought Christians to pray that God would bring about His desires in the lives of Christians. He believed that goodness was manifested in a spiritual realm—not by Christians. Hence, theology only focuses on the works of Christ and our own depravity which continually magnifies the same gospel that saved us. Therefore, the primary goal of the second wave philosopher kings is Comfort Care until God comes for those whom He has predestined. This entails a constant, “showing forth of the gospel” that saved us and constantly reminding us of our total depravity.
In both waves, the survival of the philosopher king is paramount for the comfort of the sheep and the salvation of souls. Though enlightened, they are still totally depraved like the rest of humanity with expected behaviors following. Hence, some philosopher kings fall into deep sin, but must be protected for the benefit of the whole. Their fall would result in lost souls (first wave) and horrendous discomfort (second wave) among the pathetic, pitiful sheep. Those who are victims of the philosopher kings must be sacrificed for the benefit of the whole.
Eventually, the sheep begin to reject this notion. Because of this rejection, pure Augustinian theology eventually dies a social death within Christianity. Some examples are Colonial Calvinism and Confederate Calvinism. The saints begin to rise up. But after the pain and the memories of the tyranny subside, coupled with a historic shortfall of appropriate action/ education to prevent its return, the door is opened for the rebirth of the philosopher kings. This is commonly known in Reformed circles as “Gospel Recovery movements.” We are now seeing the beginning of this social death in our own day via the Philosopher King Wars. The following are examples of a few major battles, and are by no means exhaustive.
First Wave Wars
Jack Hyles is the premier philosopher king of the first gospel wave. For years, his family members and understudies reined unfettered terror upon God’s people. Regardless of this, fellow philosopher kings in the same denomination refused to confront him, and even went as far as to name a Christian college after him. Finally, after years of crying out from victims falling on deaf ears for the betterment and comfort of the whole, the organization Do Right Hyles-Anderson has struck a powerful blow for the justice God loves. Their ministry statement reads as follows:
This group was created to be supportive to all the victims of FBC/HAC and the IFB community. This is not a group started out of hatred, resentment or bitterness. The core of our group is grace, unconditional love, and redemption. We support all the victims. We want our voice to be heard. We will hold IFB churches accountable for abuse and corruption. And we will report any and all cases of abuse that are brought to our team of victim advocates. We’re not going away…this is a life long mission and we will help the helpless.
Undoubtedly, this organization played a large role in the very recent dethroning of Hyles’ son-in-law as pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond which at one time had the largest Sunday School program in the world. His sins, though criminal, are tame compared to the past terrors of the Hyles cartel. The fact that he has been dismissed by FBCH is a gargantuan step in the opposite direction from the tolerance of the past. This is about Christ’s 1 of 100, and the Jewish proverb, “He who saves one life—saves the world,” and not Socrates’ sinful sacrifice of the few for the sake of the many.
The ABWE Bangladesh Missionary Kids verses Philosopher King Donn Ketcham
For some 20 years, the abuses of GARB hero Donn Ketcham fell on deaf ears. Other ABWE/GARB philosopher kings such as Wendell Kempton covered for Ketcham in a massive and shameful cover-up. Nevertheless, Kempton is presently being honored with a multimillion dollar sports complex on a Christian college being named after him. For the most part, the GARB community has shown only token distaste for what has occurred. Again, protecting the enlightened ones is best for the community as a whole. Because of the ineptness of the great unwashed—the likes of Ketcham and Kempton must be protected due to their irreplaceable contribution to the totally depraved.
Second Wave Wars
SGM Survivors .com verses Philosopher King CJ Mahaney
SGM Survivors is one of many such organizations pushing back against philosopher king CJ Mahaney, who among other various travesties was taped black mailing SGM cofounder Larry Tomczak. Regardless of this, the who’s who of second wave philosopher kings are protecting Mahaney and investing in media spin on his behalf (John MacArthur, Mark Dever, Al Mohler et al). This has resulted in him being reinstated as president of SGM. However, the pushback against second wave philosopher kings is becoming more formidable by the day.
Julie Anne Smith verses Beaverton Grace Bible Church
There is perhaps nothing more representative of the revolution against second wave philosopher kings than the everyday Oregon housewife Julie Anne Smith. When big name second wave philosopher kings came to BGBC’s defense against this humble soccer mom—she didn’t even blink, calling out the likes of John MacArthur lackey Phil Johnson who has recently stopped blogging (supposedly by his own choice). MacArthur hack and executive director of his media, Fred Butler, recently published unconfirmed smut/slander concerning Smith’s daughter after she prevailed against BGBC in a 500,000 dollar lawsuit. After years of striking fear in the hearts of pastors coast to coast, the second wave philosopher king pastors are incredulous in the face of Smith’s unsinkable courage. Their fears of her are warranted as others will follow including American pastors who exemplify a spirit of spinelessness never before seen in any other generation.
The Third Gospel Wave?
The sheep are catching on. They are pushing back against being owned by anyone other the Lord who purchased us with His own Blood. He owns us, not the philosopher kings. Nor do the philosopher kings own us by proxy. We are only slaves to Christ, not cruel masters who demand our children to be their willing and unwilling concubines. We will follow those of the Lord who lead us by His example. We remember our brother Paul who exhorted us with tears to only follow him as he followed Christ. And trust me, the philosopher kings of our day are no Apostle Paul. Not only can they not even carry his water, they are the clouds without water that Jude spoke of. As clouds come and promise nourishment for the crops, they come with the same promises—but they have nothing but lies instead of rain.
Authority only resides in the full, complete, and infinite philosophical statement of the Scriptures. The only authority elders have is truth as judged by the Bereans. We are not obligated to follow delusional hypocrites because of their Reformed accreditation and name-brand clothing, but only the Chief Shepherd. We detest those who say that the very breath of God is nothing more than a narrative for mystic gospel contemplationism. The Scriptures are written for Bereans who’s hearts are set on fire by our Counselor and Helper—the blessed Holy Spirit. The Bible contains its own hermeneutic, and we do not need the arrogant to teach us how to read it or listen to it as it supposedly comes from them.
We pray for a third gospel wave that endeavors to make disciples, not “saved” mindless followers of philosopher kings. We pray for leaders who will equip us to be full of goodness, full of knowledge, and able to counsel each other (Romans 15:14).
Not those who suffer us to glory in our supposed total depravity in order to satisfy their own lust for control.