James White Joins Controversial “Booze and Tattoos” Church

Apologia Church is the congregation that became embroiled in a controversy after the Christians News Network posted an article about a number of questionable fundraisers undertaken by the church. On two separate occasions, church members hosted separate events that exchanged booze and tattoos (respectively) for money designated to a Hawaii church plant. Christian News Network found a video posted online under Marcus Pittman’s personal Facebook page. The Tattoo fundraiser was held by a tattoo artist, who attends Apologia, in which the video shows a man receiving a tattoo on his arm in exchange for charity to financially assist the tattoo artist in his participation in the Kauai church plant.

Phoenix apologist, James White, became enraged, as the church was that of his daughter’s and the man receiving the tattoo in the video was his son-in-law. Furthermore, that tattoo was designed to match one already received by the Reformed Baptist statesmen, his father-in-law, James White. The entire controversy stemming from this is referred to as the “Booze and Tattoos Debacle of 2016.”

Christian News Network questioned the wisdom of associating what most consider a vice – alcohol – with a church function. The fundraiser included a “beer flight” (a sampling of various alcoholic beverages) as a part of an event pre-planned and posted on the ReformCon (a Bible conference held by Apologia) website advertising a ‘beer flight from Boulders on Broadway’ with proceeds going to ‘benefit our Kauaii church plant.’ Tickets were $22.09.

In that original article by Christian News Network, entitled Tattoos for Jesus, Pastor Sonny Hernandez was quoted as to the perceived lack of wisdom of flaunting Christian liberty to those who may struggle with alcoholism. Polemics Report posted an article about the Christian News Network post, entitled When “Reformed” Theology is a Cloak for Debauchery. White continued angrily decrying Christian News Network, Pulpit & Pen, and anyone else who questioned the wisdom of combining vice with religion, calling our (factual) reporting, “Yellow Journalism.” He was joined on his Dividing Line podcast with Jeff Durbin, who insisted that the articles consisted of “misrepresentation” and “mischaracterization” of Apologia Church.

At no point in the argumentation from Durbin or White did they – even marginally – come close to even attempting to demonstrate any such mischaracterization. Rather, they engaged in special pleading, claiming that the money was going to a good cause. They argued that these weren’t fundraisers, but only “events used to raise funds.” They insisted that Apologia Church was a positive recovery environment for alcoholics and addicts, in spite of a booze fundraiser and certain lay leaders – like Marcus Pittman – who encouraged alcoholics to drink with control in order to prove their sanctification. Little did they know, while attacking those urging caution regarding Christian Liberty, that the man at the center of the video – White’s son-in-law – would soon relapse and (according to a public statement put out by Apologia Church) commit adultery. White’s daughter, co-host of Apologia’s Sheologians podcast, now has a new husband. White’s former son-in-law’s family blamed Apologia Church for their loved one’s stumbling into sin.

Apologia made further waves when it added to their lineup a bizarre late-night comedy show called Next Week with Jeff Durbin. The triteness of the endeavor was not the controversy but, in particular, the irreverent humor. Durbin again made headlines when he made a lascivious joke about sodomy. This was written about in an article by Heather Clark entitled, ‘Hipster Pastor’ Makes Late Night Comedy Show ‘Mocking Sin,’ ‘Making Christian Entertainment Not Su**.” Ryan Denton, a well-known evangelist, criticized Apologia in that article, saying:

Where in the past have you ever seen the Reformed church advance on the culture with such carnality? The Reformed church has always tried to separate themselves from the world and the culture. It believed in gospel preaching and holiness.

It should be noted that Apologia Church is passionate about the abolition of human abortion and holds to orthodox, non-heretical theology. It has many good traits. The doctrine there, however, seems to be shifting. Sadly, Durbin claimed only several years ago to hold to theonomy, a viewpoint with which James White does not agree. Likewise, Apologia is not confessionally Reformed, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession is not listed as a confession of faith on the church’s website. Durbin has claimed in the past that he holds to the 1689 Confession but on several important points, he deviates wildly. Durbin seemed to agree with Robert Jeffress last year that there are many saved Roman Catholics. White is an amillennialist, and Durbin is a post-millennialist and his post-millennialism seems to drive the rest of his theology. These are all points of seeming disagreement with White.

Apologia noted over the weekend:

We are very pleased to announce that Dr. James R. White is officially joining Apologia Church as a member and scholar in residence.

He feels a great connection to our church family (we exist because of his life and labor), he graciously wants to invest in the leadership and members of our body, and work closely together as ministries (we already are but this will provide even more opportunities).

This is truly an incredible opportunity for Christ’s Kingdom and we are grateful to our Lord for this blessing.

Here’s to #TheNewGeneva

It is unclear, at the time of publication, whether White is leaving Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church as elder and member, however, dual-membership is not really something that happens regularly in Reformed Baptist Churches (but on the other hand, Apologia is not a Reformed Baptist Church).

Neither is it clear what a “Scholar in Residence” is, a term usually applied to academic institutions and not churches. It is presumed that this means White will be called upon to teach and preach at Apologia, but not have the burden of eldership and pastoral ministry while being freer to continue his itinerate ministry.

We pray that James White will influence Apologia Church more than Apologia Church will influence James White. Hopefully, that’s the point.

[Contributed by JD Hall]

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