Saturday, 15 December 2012

Evangelical blindness

The Bible clearly commands Christians to separate from the immoral and heretical.

That separation must take place in a proper manner, of course - which the Bible regulates. It's not the work of ten minutes, or based on the arbitrary declarations of private Christians. Sin must be brought to the church, and dealt with patiently and prayerfully there.

Sometimes the church refuses to deal with it, and then Christians must separate from the church. Or churches within a fellowship (denomination, organisation, etc.) must separate from that fellowship, if it refuses to deal seriously with sin.

For many years now it has been clear that certain denominations, including the Church of England and Church of Scotland, as a whole not only refuse to deal with certain obvious sins and false doctrines (such as sodomy and feminism), but that they actively promote them. The main ruling bodies of those denominations not only won't discipline anyone for promoting them; they actually approve of them. They have a few dissenters, but that's their settled position in the main, as shown by the decisions they hand down.

It's sad when evangelicals remain, to this day, so blind to this reality and manufacture endless excuses as to why their Biblical duty does not apply, or can be infinitely postponed. When they come out with preposterous nonsense about how the CoS or CoE each remain a "Reformed evangelical church", because there's some centuries-old paperwork that says so (or at least, it said so centuries ago). (Just like the Pharisees were all faithful Israelites because they sat in the seat of Moses... that's not how Paul or Jesus assessed them, is it? Is the Reformation Roman Catholic Church to be judged as basically Reformed or evangelical based upon the writings of Augustine etc.? Totally absurd, isn't it?). They come up with unending reasons why a body, such as the CoS, should still be considered a "faithful church" which they can remain joined with in good conscience, despite its refusal for generations to take a clear stand on that which actually defines a church - namely the gospel. Then they are surprised and wounded when the non-church actually behaves like one...

It's embarrassing when you end up with the unfaithful forcefully evicting the gospel believers who refused to face up to these unpalatable, awkward truths. When the non-church which took over the organisational structure so many moons ago finally evicts the remnants of the church who refused to face up to what was happening, the church acts as surprised, and cries foul. Oh dear! The "Tron" is full of people much better and much more fruitful than I. But if they invested millions of pounds in the CoS's building, whilst perpetually ignoring the Scriptural warnings, refusing to read the signs of the times and paying no attention to the implications of the red skies in the morning. At last the inevitable is arriving. Now that it is doing so, are they actually suffering for the faith, or just facing the very predictable consequences of their own refusal to practice Biblical separation and lack of wisdom? Should we honour their courageous stand, or shake our heads at their lack of Scriptural discernment and folly in investing so much time and effort in improving the facilities of a ship which was long holed below the water line and already tilted towards the ocean's bottom?

I note from that above link that the minister now fears being evicted from "their" manse. My dear brother, whose ministry has blessed thousands for every one that mine has blessed, wake up!


Ned Kelly said...

Well said, David. For some time I have watched with sadness this watering down of the Gospel by those who would compromise with the secular mores of the modern world. In so many cases, I struggle to reconcile the activities of churches with the example of Jesus. In my own town, millions have been spent erecting bell towers and other grand artifices while the poor go hungry. Perhaps the case can be made that bells call the faithful to glorify God, but I do wonder whether these organisations have their priorities right.

Peter Dunning said...

Shouldn't we at least applaud the Tron for doing what you suggest in choosing to leave the Church of Scotland? Despite the fact that it cost them. What's happening now will serve as a deterrent to churches that may wish to follow the Tron.


David Anderson said...

Hi Peter,

Not sure if you followed my point... "choosing to leave" is precisely what the Tron did not do... they doggedly insisted on remaining in union with the ungodly, right up to the point where the ungodly forcibly separated the Tron by disfellowshiping them.

Peter Dunning said...

Hi David

It was my understanding (and what the Tron's website seems to say - see that the Tron seceded from the CoS on the 11th June and not the other way round. The CoS now wants the buildings back that they own.
I am not involved in any way, and you can argue that they should have left earlier and that they shouldn't have spent all that money on a building they were to lose, but to me at least, it seems that the Tron bit the bullet and left because they could not accept homosexual ministers in the CoS.

My point was that I think many CofE and CoS churches are reluctant to leave because they know that their buildings and manse are really owned by the denomination, which will take them away.

You may well know something I don't, but this is my understanding.


David Anderson said...

> My point was that I think many CofE and CoS churches are reluctant to leave because they know that their buildings and manse are really owned by the denomination, which will take them away.

Yes, absolutely - there's the rub; there's the hard choice to be faced. Sadly they seem to have faced it much too late and have not achieved anything on either side - they've lost the assets, and by the naive attempt to hold onto them they've greatly compromised their witness in the act of separation.

My point to folk like those brethren in the Tron, should they be reading, is this In days like these, if you knowingly, with both eyes open enter the ministry of a mixed denomination, and receive your housing and church facility from them, you can't be surprised when they take it away from you after you start complaining that they're not faithful to the Bible. Of course they're not faithful... but neither were they when you joined them, so why the fuss now?!?

Anthony Smith said...

David - you've mentioned biblical separation, and you have a strong point. But what about biblical catholicity? 'The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”' (1 Cor 12:21) and "bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body..." (Eph 4:2-4).

If we make biblical separation the only consideration, then we will have next to nothing to do with any professing believers who don't fit within a particular narrow circle. There will be no evidence that we are obeying 1 Cor 12:21 with regard to the church down the road. The only "need" we might have of that church is for their abundant resources.

But if we make biblical catholicity the only consideration, then we will claim to be in communion with all professing believers, and ignore the command not to associate with some professing believers (1 Cor 5:11 etc).

Is there a way of affirming both biblical separation and biblical catholicity?

It seems that the evangelicals in the mixed denominations are at least attempting to do both - in that they would like the denomination to exercise some form of discipline. But many churches outside of those denominations seem to make no effort to associate with churches with whom they don't see eye to eye on all details. They don't deny that those churches are genuine Christian churches; they just say to them, "We have no need of you".

David Anderson said...

Anthony, the contribution is appreciated. I was not attempting to give a complete theory of separation and fellowship. The post begins with identifying the situation: how to deal with the (unrepentantly) immoral and heretical. Much more would be said about other situations. But it is not solution to those other situations to disregard the Bible's teaching about *this* situation.

Stephen said...

Written like a true independent!

Actually the Tron congregation chose to secede from the CofS by an almost unanimous vote of the congregation back in June. So what we are seeing now is not a church being booted out of the denomination.

Rather it is a dispute over property. The congregation has been under no illusion that they own the buildings. It has always been clear that they are held in trust for the CofS. The exiting congregation had sought to reach a negotiated settlement but were rebuffed. Hence they have vacated the buildings.

The most recent intrusion by officers of the state into a prayer meeting was the result of a further dispute over movable property (books, piano, organ etc) and the manse. The situation is complicated by the existence of a separate trust set up some years ago (under Sinclair Ferguson's leadership) to facilitate further outreach activity beyond the strictures of the denomination. The question is: which trust owns the property?

I should say, that while the manner of their treatment has been shameful, the congregation have taken these steps with good spirits, are rejoicing in the Lord and have plans for church plants now that they are free.

You have been kicking the likes of the Tron for staying in for a lonf time, and now you seem to be kicking them as they come out. In my view they deserve our encouragement, brother!

David Anderson said...

Hi bro, thanks for contributing. I thought whilst writing it, 'better try to write something that may have a chance of standing up when Dr. D scrutinises it!'.

I didn't write anything in favour of independency... my points wouldn't have applied if the CoS were Biblically faithful on core issues whilst maintaining its own ecclesiology.

The clarifications are helpful, but I'd say tend to re-inforce the point. Setting up separate trusts, and the like, is a way of trying to mitigate the effects of denomination's unfaithfulness. But that's not the Biblical way of dealing with the problem (and it has not worked). If you're in a denomination, then the way is to prosecute the heresy and ungodliness in church courts, and then shake the dust off your feet if the church courts side with the heresy and ungodliness. Where are the church court cases raised against ministers in the CoS who don't preach the gospel?

The point was not to kick the Tron, and I'm glad that they're going forward. They were a foil for the larger point, and I don't claim to know their details. We're on the same side. The point was to flag it up as a warning for those who are still trying to mitigate the unfaithfulness instead of confront it Biblically. The point of talking about Biblical separation is not to have a stick to whack people who differ from us with, but to promote true Christian unity. It's a stumbling block to true unity when folk are joined in mixed denominations, because some of us can't see how we can get involved in that.