I’m amazed at the way church leadership acts–and perhaps should be more amazed at the way they think. I get more clarity and common sense from the bartenders at work. Why? There are probably a great number of factors, but one possibility that first presents itself is that cocktail bartenders live in the real world, and don’t have much time for postmodern sociological constructs and terminology, therapeutic abstracts and cliches, or faux-intellectualism. How educated Christians get duped into adopting those patterns of thought when they have the Bible and Christian tradition is then the next question!
Someone can talk in a half-hearted but flowery way about worldviews and lack the awareness (or education?) to recognize he betrays or is demonstrating the unbiblical nature of his own worldview. And don’t say there are multiple ways of interpreting key passages which can lead to multiple ‘Christian’ worldviews! Is that what the Bible itself says or assumes about itself?
The Ancient of Days, crowned with power and authority, can’t make himself clear? Or, which of his words are open to multiple, valid yet contradictory interpretations, and which are not? And can the first category suffer this fate of multiple ‘readings’ without also suffering degradation of scripture’s perspicuity, infallibility, etc.?
This situation exemplifies the arrogance of (post)modernity–operating in a chronological vacuum and an intellectual bubble. Ingrates and imbeciles!
Is it possible to be jealous of someone else’s conviction or integrity? I think it certainly is possible, even for those who have sold out to the Zeitgeist. If only more CRC people had gone to a place like Hillsdale, rather than to Calvin, where they were evidently not taught to think and not equipped to resist the ebb and flow of culture and philosophical fads. And where ought they to have learned to put Jesus before their families? Shouldn’t need seminary for the application of Luke 14:26.
You’ve made a mistake –you believed what you were told without having seen the Thing for itself. That is the responsibility in any investigation—verification, confirming the truthfulness of a claim. (Proverbs 18:17)
You’ve made a second mistake–you were warned by three different parties that you’d judged in haste, and you ignored them.
You’ve made a third mistake–you acted on your first intelligence without checking in with Celestial HQ.
You’ve made a fourth mistake–when challenged on your first three, you declined to own your part in the unfolding drama of injustice, and have since scrambled to cover your tracks and double-talk your way out of responsibility.
Now in the denouement, your every correspondence is another stroke, another dip of the spade into the earth, ever deepening the hole of your denial.
Evangelicalism is dying, and people who are awake on the ramparts are asking why. It is because of people within, people like these who speed its demise by encouraging and nurturing its disease, when they should know better, when they’re told better, when the watchmen have spelled it out for them.
Clergy should be scholars as well as all the other things required by pastoral ministry. How can it be beyond such men to think in biblical categories? This (whether a pastor is being unfairly treated and dismissed without biblical grounds) should be a case of going back to basics.
Instead, these clerical spectators and meddlers operate in ways that would bring a blush to the cheek of the Christian intellectual tradition. Disciples and apostles–among them educated men. The students of the Word among the Patristics and throughout the Middle Ages, particularly the As–Augustine, Athanasius, Ambrose, Anselm and Aquinas. Where would Christendom be if it weren’t for such as these? Lost to heresy long ago, but God used men and their minds. The Reformation and the brain-efforts that rivaled the achievements of Plato and Aristotle (in my opinion!)–where would we be if such people who led the charge for the Word had dealt in the subjective, feelings- and perceptions-based intellectual ‘economy’ of our day?
Where is forthrightness? Where is commitment? Where is discipline? Where is wisdom? Where is prayer?
To be assaulted by indignant believers demanding justice, and to answer them with hollow, easy, Google-level therapeutic platitudes is so unworthy of true Christianity. But it’s no wonder that the shrewd among the worldly academics perceive the intellectual bankruptcy of so much of contemporary ‘Christianity’. Cotton candy self-esteem aids (or placebos) can be gotten anywhere, from any dime-a-dozen NY Times bestselling author with an active pen and originality enough to regurgitate ideas about life improvement and self-validation and -justification in a ‘fresh’way for 130 pages. Why do you need organized religion for that?
One of the reasons for being in a local fellowship of believers is to hold one another accountable. When there is no longer any ‘accounting’, why should people leave the comfort of their homes on a Sunday? Socializing and a sense of belonging can be had at the pub or bowling alley or book club, or group therapy.
But since when did we proclaim a person or a body ‘good and godly’ based on someone’s, anyone’s, say-so? What about the sons of Sceva? They knew the vocabulary–how come what they ‘said’ didn’t count? By their fruit shall you know them. ‘God is blessing there.’ ‘Oh, in what way?’ ‘They’re growing.’ ‘Oh, in what way?’ ‘Membership rolls are needing constant updates!’ ‘Oh, so people are being saved?’ ‘Well, they’re being reached…’ ‘With what?’ ‘Why, with them, of course! They’re doing such a good job!’
When the praise you hear (from even pastors outside, in this case) about a church is for the people, about how great they are, with only an obligatory but meaningless nod (when pressed about the spiritual state) to our remnant sin nature, and there’s no mention of the Gospel or move of the Spirit, you have to wonder if the congregation want themselves preached. Why not? They’re so good and godly and generous and loving that surely God would want them set forth as an example! After all, who can see himself in Jesus without a bit of extra effort? Jesus preached straight only embodies a challenge for them to open their eyes. They’d (perhaps the congregation and their visitors) prefer to keep him in the periphery as much as possible, or else trot out a sanitized, squishy version of him that puffs their pride and approves their moral waffling. After all, he is the Word, and they didn’t like the Word unless they got to pick which bits applied to them, and unless they got to define with they meant.
The other Dutch Masters–Bavinck and Berkhof–how would they describe the plight of this denomination? How would they respond to these deniers of inerrancy, of sufficiency, of transcendence, of authority, of kingship, of unity, of gifts, of forgiveness, of growth, of love and of the gospel itself… how did it happen?
To deny, as a knee-jerk reflex, the possibility of a church at risk, just because it hasn’t proclaimed itself (or owned up to being) liberal, is naive–it’s denying what must be obvious. Apostasy is not usually determined and revealed in a matter of hours–it is a gradual decline, a gradual backsliding. Modernity and Postmodernity, in the ways they’ve manifested in the Church, did not materialize out of nowhere. They’re extended periods in a historical process, developments in a chain along a timeline. Once devotion to and respect for scripture goes (and the ‘giving up’ of that often happens only gradually, without anyone realizing it), it is only a matter of time.
Certain denominations in America are presumed dead, as are their local bodies, unless proven otherwise by a visit. But that doesn’t mean that other denoms not so presumed are healthy. Regression–the process–is at work; churches all over are dying or already dead, and people don’t know it yet. And, dying doesn’t necessarily mean shrinking, which means diagnosis must be done with more than a superficial glance. Decline is measured in a number of ways, although American pragmatism, with values and judgments revolving around RESULTS, so easily leads us astray here. It is a mode of assessment which can’t be applied to scripture, and therefore it should be viewed with suspicion. E.g., Jeremiah was an abject failure. ‘Nuff said?
Some of the biggest ‘churches’ in America have been places where the Gospel is obscured, or outright denied. Success? Must be doing a lot of things ‘right’ anyway, with all that money and all those names and all those ‘satellites’.
At any rate, a church still on its feet that ‘looks good’ and ‘happy’ at first blush, especially one that will tell you everything is great (at least, with the sheep!) should pass a certain number of litmus tests, the most important of which concern their relationship to the Word of God. The pharisees lived out the law, to all appearances, and they’d have been the first to tell you how on track they were. And yet Jesus knew their hearts, and it wasn’t a pretty picture. We can see some of what he knew for ourselves, in passages of the Gospels, like when Jesus healed on the Sabbath. At least the pharisees knew God’s Word, even if they didn’t understand it, honor it, or live it.
In some churches, respect paid to the Bible is all lip-service. Some people in our case study have acted if their ears bleed when they hear sound doctrine (they would rather hear, from behind the pulpit, evil called good!), and praise and pass around offensive (because misleading or deceiving), unbiblical rubbish on their own time. This tells you something, if you know your Bible, take it seriously, on its own terms, and if the Lord speaks to you and gives you a modicum of discernment. If you are consistently being more and more conformed to His image, your mind will be more like His, and so will your ‘eyes’. You’ll see this kind of situation for what it is –what it really is. Certainly early signs should have been enough, while the abuse and maligning of the pastor apparently isn’t. How can people be so dense?
How is this for a logic puzzle? Only in Christian churches does someone who has been tormented for months and months and then unjustly fired get asked, ‘What can you learn from this? What is God trying to show you?’ lege hic: ‘Now what did you do to bring this on yourself?’** The culture pounces on people for victim-blaming. Only into the church has psycho-therapy, with an accompanying reluctance to hold people accountable for sin, for fear of ‘losing’ them (while sin as a concept has been rejected by the world), seeped and stuck in its toxic barbs so deep that it has been carried long past biblically reasonable application ad absurdum–and it shows a church that has fallen from its foundations, or else allowed them to be blown out from under it by the insidious creep of godless thinking and rebellion from the world’s culture.
Oddly enough, it’s admitted that ‘everyone is (still) a sinner’, but this is given as some sort of placatory concession; folk don’t really operate (believe?) as if they’re sinners, nor as if the people whom they support are sinners. In this situation, it doesn’t take two to tango. Just a pastor who takes a stand, who preaches the trustworthy word as taught even if some people with no biblical credibility grumble. Back on track: if the church is full of people who are still capable of sinning, why is it assumed that they never actually do? Is it because it’s the word of many against the few, or the one? What does that mean, that right is decided by a majority? Dangerous reasoning!
In this case, you don’t even have to be a howling mob to get what you want–you just have to create the impression that you’re a howling mob, and that you’ve been screaming for ages, and Big Brother will give you exactly what you want, even if it’s not what the Bible says is good for you, or is the right and godly thing. Oh wait, did I say Big Brother? That’s a reference to a totalitarian (secular) government–what is fitting for the powers and colleagues and players in a church drama?
**I return to this question. How come the gangbangers aren’t asked any questions? They’re allowed to go on their merry way, with the loot, their self-righteousness, and all. Sinners? Yet somehow immaculate, and no one of them, on his or her own, will have to give an explanation (on this earth) for what they’ve done, or even demonstrate how they justify it even to themselves, individually and as a group. But there’s nothing to justify when justice isn’t a priority–just expediency. If it is possible to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake, then can it not be possible for one party to be wholly in the wrong, and the other wholly in the right? Or, since we’re now so equal-opportunity and so postmodern, perhaps we should ask the persecuted one whether he realizes now that he could have been a little less righteous, and the beating wouldn’t have happened to him.
When the group of senators determined to kill Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, several of them had knives–only one stab wound, the lethal one, was necessary, but he was left with more than 20. Surely the intent was for the conspirators to prove their permanent and irrevocable commitment to the plot by getting their hands dirty–bloody, even. Was that one of the reasons for the whole of the council standing together to make official announcements in our case?
They’ll put themselves on the record backing this wicked nonsense, and somehow, pastors and denominational higher-ups can’t commit the time and mental and spiritual energy to finding the truth, declaring it and securing justice for the injured party, while obeying God’s Word and calling to account the wrongdoers, who sound like they need the Gospel preached to them anew, and also a physical shaking by the shoulders like a child that’s kicked the baby or the dog. Their fruit does not offer much cause for assurance that they actually know Christ, after decades in a church, within a tradition that is still so widely respected for its commitment to the Bible.
Pastors in this church’s denomination are being punished for standing up for the whole Truth in the face of the degradation of the authority of scripture, threats to their personal security, and opposition to the Gospel, all from and within their flocks. If a pastor does not cow-tow to the demands of extortionists, he’s drummed out, ridden out of town on a rail, and slapped with a black mark called an Article 17, from which he’ll spend years trying to recover his reputation and on account of which he may not get another job. And he’ll have to abide by a clause, a gag order, keep his mouth shut, lest he forfeit his severance pay. And who will hold the flock accountable should they gossip about him after his ignominious departure? We already know how this story (well, the council’s scandal, though no one recognizes it) is still on people’s lips–it’s actually continuing to evolve, the narrative of why the pastor was kicked out! And God help the disgraced pastor’s successor, if he has any godly mettle in him; because that flock will face no consequences for their abuse of the minister of God whom they called. They’ll do it again if they’re chafed by the challenge of scripture, if that Hole in their Holiness is exposed afresh. I do hope that the cavalry is just on the other side of the ridge, and that the riders actually have the mind of Christ.