BENYOLA: I’ve heard it said that every organization, whether it’s a church or university, any institution is bent toward apostasy. As Christian individuals, we forget we’re all just a few steps from falling away. If that’s our condition at the individual level, why wouldn’t it be just as true at the collective or organized level?
PRATT: Yeah, absolutely. And our Reformed institutions are tempted toward apostasy on an intellectual level because of this high valuing of the academy. The more we hear their music and the more we dance to it, the more we become like them.
BENYOLA: He who pays the piper calls the tune. That old aphorism.
PRATT: That’s exactly right. And that is the constant problem that we face.
BENYOLA: So here’s a question I’m thinking of just as we’re talking about this. As Presbyterians, we value the layers of governance that protect even the most devout, committed, well-intentioned men of God. So how do you think is the most proper and effective way that para-church ministries, who often have the widest influence with the most media and the most funding, how can they best be held accountable to the church?
PRATT: That’s a great question, because Third Millennium is, by most definitions, a para-church organization. And we should recognize that many seminaries that serve Reformed churches are para-church ministries as well.
BENYOLA: So how does the church make sure that the para-church is falling in line with orthodoxy?
PRATT: One of the interesting things about the Machen Revival and the founding of Westminster Seminary is that they were self-consciously para-church. In fact, what caused Machen to be thrown out of the mainline Presbyterian denomination at the time was that he formed what was called the Independent Board of Foreign Missions. He did this because the bureaucracy of the church had become so corrupt that they were no longer sending missionaries that preach the Gospel. So Machen and some of his friends formed this independent board.
When Machen formed Westminster Seminary, because the bureaucracy of the Presbyterian church had become so apostate, they decided that Westminster Seminary was going to be para-church. It was going to be independent. And that’s why you have the birthing of seminaries like Reformed Theological Seminary, which is independent of any church authority. And there are others. Why has that happened? It’s because of the recognition that the hierarchy of the church, even the courts of the church themselves have become corrupt. Historically, they have not provided the protection that they were established to provide.