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Under This Sign Conquer: James White and ReformCon

Seth Dunn

For years now, Pulpit & Pen has been writing articles about the dangers of associating with false or unorthodox teachers on the conference speaking circuit.  Pulpit & Pen contributors have written so many articles about unwise partnerships that it almost doesn’t make sense to link to them in order to provide examples.  Do I link to articles about John Piper speaking with Christine Caine?  Do I link to articles about Ronnie Floyd speaking with Mike Bickle?  Do I link to articles about Beth Moore and Ravi Zacharias giving praise to Joyce Meyer?  Do I link to articles about Russell Moore and Rick Warren speaking at a Roman Catholic conference in Rome?  Today, I link to James White speaking with Jeff Durbin at the ReformCon conference.  Today, I link to James White defending the character of Jeff Durbin on the Dividing Line in the face of criticism of the fundraising activities of the very conference at which he spoke with Durbin.  The old adage is true: when you lay down with dogs, you get fleas.


What in the world was James White doing at a conference hosted by theonomist Jeff Durbin and Les Lanphere of the Reformed Pubcast?  Well, on the one hand, he was speaking to his target demographic.  Asking what James White is doing at reformed or Calvinist conference is a little like asking what Patrick Stewart is doing at a Star Trek convention.  Where else would you expect him to speak and who else would you expect to pay to listen to him if not reformed folk?  What I’m really asking, though, is “What was James White doing with these so called reformed Calvinists?”  The answer to this question is not as obvious, on its face, but it is just as clear under scrutiny.  James White, the godfather of the reformed subculture was getting fleas.

Durbin is Unqualified for the Pastorate

What in the world was James White doing on the Dividing Line talking about what a dedicated pastor Jeff Durbin is?  That’s a bit like talking about what a dedicated pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is. Yes she may be dedicated and really care about her people, but she is unqualified to be a pastor.  So is Jeff Durbin.  As a theonomist, Durbin is not “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.”  Every time Durbin promulgates a theonomic worldview, he contradicts sound doctrine.  Does James White really believe that Jeff Durbin is qualified to shepherd a flock?  Forgive me for sounding like Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glenn Ross, but it doesn’t matter how nice Jeff Durbin is if he can’t rightly divide the word of truth.  He’s a pastor; certain expectations go along with that.  So why is White speaking at his conference?  Why is White talking about what a great pastor Durbin is on his show?

ReformCon is One More Rogues’ Gallery

One wouldn’t expect to look at the lineup of a reformed conference and think “Code Orange”.  One would expect to see the kind of solid lineup Josh Buice has pulled together for the 2016 G3 Conference (which actually includes White).  Yet ReformCon, which was advertised as “not your typical Christian conference,” included some people that no Christian is wise to pay good money to go hear.  For example, the ReformCon lineup, in addition to the aforementioned theonomist and pubcaster, included filmmaker Darren Doane.  Doane is the director responsible for the Christian-themed lemon Saving Christmas, which boasts a very rare 0% rating on popular film-rating website Rotten Tomatoes and was co-branded with coffee sold by Kirk Cameron for $19.99 per pound.  Doane’s most notable contribution to the ReformCon conversation was the following:

“Theology makes things better. Theology gets you drinking. Theology gets you dancing. Theology gets you celebrating things and enjoying food and that’s what theology does. And for all you married people you know what I’m talking about. I mean it makes it better. That’s what theology does. And if it’s not doing that, you’re gay.”

That’s the theological standard of Reformed Con, along with raising money for a church plant by selling beer.  At a later, related event, tattoos were given away to support that same church plant.  As of yet there is no word from Doane on whether or not eschewing a tattoo is”gay.”

The Church Plant

The fundraising event, which White (and his daughter) defended, was intended to raise money for Apologia Church’s planned church plant in Hawaii.  Apologia Church is pastored by Jeff Durbin.  While many have asked the question, “Was it appropriate to sell beer or give away tattoos to raise money for a church a plant?” no one seems to be asking, “It it acceptable to support a Theonomist church plant?”  Do the people of Hawaii really need well-funded Theonomists coming to their island and teaching them to “take dominion”?  Of course not! No one should give any money to fund-raise for this church plant.  However, according to reporting done by the Christian News Network, James White may have himself contributed to the Hawaii church project by paying for a tattoo for his son-in-law at the fundraiser.  (White’s daughter is a member of Apologia Church.)  According to White, both he and his son plan to get tattoos that match that of his son-in-law.  That tattoo is the historic Christian “Chi-Rho” symbol.  This is the very symbol that Roman Emperor Constantine claimed to have seen in a vision along with the words “In this sign you will conquer.” It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate tattoo to get at a Theonomist fundraiser.

The Moral of the Story

The moral of this story is an old one: Be very wise in your associations.  One is left to wonder if White would be passionately defending the actions taken at ReformCon and by Apologia Church if he had not become so closely associated with both.  Individual Christians can decide for themselves if they want to take part in events like ReformCon.  Perhaps it’s “cool” to wear skinny jeans, grow a big beard, smoke cigars, and drink craft beer.  Perhaps it’s not.  It’s certainly not wise to run around with certain crowds…lest the fleas bite.  When they do, don’t bed down and dig in.  Get away from the dogs.

At ComicCon and DragonCon, the attendee costumes are Ninja Turtles, Mandalorians, and video game characters.  At ReformCon, the accoutrements seem to be skinny jeans, craft beer, and beards.  There should be concern when Christian fellowship revolves around getting together with those people who look the same, dress the same, and think the same worldly things are “cool.” There’s an old episode of King of the Hill with a father-son dialogue that illustrates this best:

BOBBY: When I turn 18, I’m going to do whatever I want for the Lord. Tattoos, piercings, you name it.
HANK: Well, I’ll take that chance. Come here, there’s something I want you to see. (Hank takes down a box from the shelf and opens it up) Remember this?
BOBBY: My beanbag buddy? Oh, man, I can’t believe I collected those things. They’re so lame.
HANK: You didn’t think so five years ago. And how about your virtual pet? You used to carry this thing everywhere. Then you got tired of it, forgot to feed it, and it died.
BOBBY (looks at a photo of himself in a Ninja Turtles costume): I look like such a dork.
HANK: I know how you feel. I never thought that “Members Only” jacket would go out of style, but it did. I know you think stuff you’re doing now is cool, but in a few years you’re going to think it’s lame. And I don’t want the Lord to end up in this box.

Perhaps ReformCon belongs in Bobby Hill’s dusty old box.

[Contributed by Seth Dunn]

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.