The connection between doctrinal rebellion and sloth...

He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.

                                                                    -Proverbs 18:9

In connection with pastoral ministry, I've been thinking a lot this past year about pastors who choose not to guard the good deposit, rather spending their time focusing on evangelism and church growth techniques. Question them about their silence in the pulpit concerning sodomy, sacramentalism, Rome, abortion, divorce, or the love of money and they'll come out with some high-sounding platitudinous statement like, "I've determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I want to be all things to all people. We must not allow our pulpit to become a divisive presence in our church, alienating seekers and young believers."

A couple months ago, I spoke to a young professional who attends a flagship PCA congregation on the Eastern Seaboard...

I asked my friend his analysis of the preaching ministry of his church's senior pastor, and he responded saying his pastor is "very sophisticated," and thus intentional and careful in the issues he addresses and the words he uses to address them in his pulpit. He went on to say this meant that, despite the extremely large and politically aggressive homosexual population of their city, across the years he could not remember his pastor addressing homosex from the pulpit. Same with abortion and marriage--in their pulpit, his senior pastor was silent on these subjects. He could remember one sermon on marriage, and during that sermon his pastor had made some statement about husbands leading. But this was the exception to the rule of safety pervading his pastor's pulpit ministry.

My friend explained his pastor was silent on such matters because he believed preaching on controversial subjects was incompatible with a Gospel-centered ministry. For himself, be preferred to focus on the positive work of leading people to faith in Jesus Christ.

Such justifications are naked in their self-interest. Nowhere in Scripture do we find the Apostles arguing for such cowardly compromise. To be silent concerning God's justice while magnifying His grace, to avoid calling men to repentance while speaking much about faith, is to eviscerate the power of the Gospel. It is to rob grace and faith of the only biblical context in which they come into view and are used by the Holy Spirit to change lives.

Like Sen. Ted Kennedy, such men typically claim their doctrine is orthodox. They're personally opposed to abortion, sacramentalism, homosex, and feminism, of course. They believe in the holiness of God and the necessity of man's repentance just as much as the next PCA pastor, but their church long ago decided they weren't going to "lead with their chin." Rather, they committed themselves to focus on being approachable and engaging the surrounding culture on the issues it already cared about. Each church to her own, but their ministry is about racial reconciliation, the fine arts, and TESL--not talking points cribbed from the platform of the Republican Party.

Does it really need to be said that culturally sensitive evangelization is never in tension with, let alone antithetical to, prophetic calls to repentance? In fact, as the Apostle Paul demonstrates among Athen's Areopagus, a prophetic witness against the sins of the indigenous culture is always the door through which new believers walk into faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Evangelism is just the tired excuse used by pastors caught in the act of scratching ears to justify their cowardice and sloth.

As Proverbs 18:9 points out, the pastor who blurs the distinction between the sexes by having women serve as deacons, administer the Lord's Supper, and exercise authority over men as a professional "Minister" of the congregation while protesting that he's in conformity with his denomination's "traditional" position on sexuality is brother to the pastor who says the Apostle Paul was wrong in banning women from exercising authority over men.

Our Lord took up His cross and called us to follow Him in taking up ours. May we be found faithful.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

What is "sacramentalism"? Is the WCF guilty of it?

I know that i am *VERY* outspoken about sacramentalism. I advocate it every time i get a chance.

But more than anything, i try to apply the text i'm preaching. I just don't have the ability to moralize everything i teach about and twist every sermon i preach about to abortion or homosexuality. If it is something that applies from the text, i address it; if not, i don't.

More than anything, though, i want to address the sins i know my congregation are guilty of. I have no idea what secret sins they may have. They'll come to light soon enough; i don't need to try and play spiritual "Battleship" and guess where the sins might be blindly. There are enough sins i know about--and one of them is a woeful disregard for the sacraments, baptism as the sacrament of regeneration and initiation and the eucharist as the sacrament of nourishment and participation in Christ's body and blood.

The best way, in fact, of guarding against schemes is to use the "methods" that Christ ordained: Word, Sacraments, and Prayer. If we'd do those things and have a high regard for them all equally (not just one or two of them above the others), then we'd soon see the difference in our churches.

Well, I thought Trey was a friend.

ISTM, a great deal of this spiritual sloth, if you will, arises out of the confusion of worship with evangelism.

Kamilla

Dear Trey,

Try reading my post again and see if, instead of putting the worst possible construction on each of its points, you can't find something/anything helpful in it. Did you stop to consider the Bible text at the beginning and its application to our work of preaching and teaching? Or was I not straightforward enough?

On the other hand, maybe...

Johnson used to say he never considered he'd hit his mark unless he got a rebound...

Tim Bayly

Trey,

I know in my own life that sins I have kept secret have been the most destructive to my faith and to my relationships with others. Only preaching to the sins that you "know your congregation is guilty of" would be almost laughable if it weren't so pathetically sad. Are they so limited in the scope and diversity of their sins that you must restrain yourself to make sure you hit the mark? Do you really think that an improper view of baptism will poison a man's faith as quickly as living in sexual sin or alcoholism does? Even if noone in your congregation was engaged in sexual sin, which is as ludicrous a premise as can be imagined, would you not still have a responsibilty to preach and warn them of it lest they fall into such particular sins in the future? If you want an accurate idea of the sins your congregation is guilty of read Matthew 5:21-25 and then examine YOURSELF. With the definition of sin so broad and heavy as what Christ teaches in that passage, I can barely begin to comprehend the expanse of my own sin. Multiply that as many times as you have people in your congregation and I would be surprised if you could come up with any sin that your congregation is not guilty of. This may sound pessimistic, but anything less blunts the surgical edge of gospel centered preaching. Hebrews 4:12 calls the Word sharper than a two edged sword, dividing the thoughts and intents of the heart. Preach it fully and have faith that it will work, on both the secret sins and the blatantly obvious public ones.

Special attention should be paid to the sins that our culture loves most dearly. If you don't know what those sins are, you are blind, and should not be leading anyone. I don't intend disrespect, but I also won't pat you on the back and say "let's agree to disagree." This is serious and souls are at stake.

An aside, do you only advocate sacramentalism when you preach on the Biblical texts that explicitly advocate it as well? [sarcasm off]

Pastor Bayly,

What is "sacramentalism"?

dave

Sacramentalism: the doctrine that observance of the sacraments is necessary for salvation and that such participation can confer grace....

*

Boil it down- it turns the sacraments into a work that saves ...

>Sacramentalism: the doctrine that observance of the sacraments is necessary for salvation and that such participation can confer grace....

Well the WCF teaches that the sacraments are a means of grace. Go figure. I suspect Pastor Bayly's definition would be at least more nuanced.

Pastor Bayly, point well taken. May God save us and our congregations from our sins. Not only the sin of sloth but of pride. We really want to be liked by those we love. In fact we will take "liked" over "respected" any day, if our flesh has its way.

I think Trey's point was that if you preach expositionally you will get to Romans chapter 1 eventually (usually near the beginning of a series on Romans). To jump around and try to hit all the major sins may result in hobby horse preaching. (Not that pastor Bayly was advocating that approach in any way. Trey was a bit harsh in his insinuation in that respect.)

al sends

David;

The means of grace are the reading and preaching of God’s Word, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, prayer, and the fellowship and accountability of the church family.

They are means given by which the elect grow in grace.

It is altogether a different animal to claim that the sacraments are the vehicle of SAVING grace.

Sacramentalism is the notion the saving grace of Christ is conveyed to men through the channel of the sacraments themselves. It is not just a visible sign and seal of the covenant, the sacrament saves you and without it you are not saved.

It turns the sacraments into a "work" and treats the perfect and completed work of Christ, his life as well as his death, into a 'common thing' and incomplete. It tramples under foot the atonement and takes one back to obedience of the law as a means of justification. It is at the heart of the gospel.

> ISTM, a great deal of this spiritual sloth, if you will, arises out of the confusion of worship with evangelism.

I agree, Kamilla. A church is the assembly of the called-out saints, yet many feel the need to tailor it to make lost people feel comfy there. That makes worship become man-centered and common, not God-centered and sacred.

If church mimics everything else in our culture (entertainment, whatever), what's the point? It gets lost in the general blur.

I think a lot of this gets subconsciously driven by the need to pay the large bills: professional staff, big, fancy buildings. You can't be too "contra mundum" and keep the lights on under those circumstances -- a tyranny of the urgent sets in. Not a problem early house churches had.

People were converted by seeing how differently individual believers lived their lives, not by them snuggling up with the surrounding pagan culture as much as possible, to be able to "relate."

--Michael

> My friend explained his pastor was silent on such matters because he believed preaching on controversial subjects was incompatible with a Gospel-centered ministry.

Part of it is the American capitalist notions of what it means to be successful transferred into the religious realm. Success inadvertently gets related to size. It's all about marketing, packaging, keeping the customer satisfied.

More people means more successful.

Bigger is better.

Nicer is more loving.

More tolerant is more spiritual.

More casual is more accepting.

Diversity is more unifying.

Commonness is more elevating.

Entertaining is more interesting.

[you get the idea]

Which, in typical Doublespeak, eventually ends up saying: "Error is truth," to enable the subliminal goals of being liked and seen as successful (by the numbers) to be achieved. In the end, it becomes a dead end trap.

> For himself, be preferred to focus on the positive work of leading people to faith in Jesus Christ.

And the conclusion I would jump to under such circumstances is that he will likely have a church of lukewarm, double-minded people perfectly at home in their society, not strangers and aliens to it.

--Michael

Matthew 5:13-- "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."

To me, this verse is a perfect example of the church wanting to become so like the world it becomes not only blah, but also totally useless.

It implies that we are to be radically different, and that we have some sting, some PRESERVATIVE power. We add spicy flavor, not provide the same old rotting pop stuff.

> Does it really need to be said that culturally sensitive evangelization is never in tension with, let alone antithetical to, prophetic calls to repentance?

John the Baptist, made this 'mistake,' calling the lawyers, scribes and Pharisees to repentance, instead of trying to meet their needs and identify with them personally, adapting to their preconceptions. Jesus also called them snakes and white-washed tombs. (They didn't have good pastoral sensitivity training back in those days.) Well, John lost his head for being so narrow-minded and judgmental, so let that be a lesson to us. And Jesus might not have died if he'd been nicer to those hostile religious people in authority. That's no way to win converts.

[Downing:] So the challenge City Presbyterian faced was how to reach out to a culture that would be inherently hostile toward its policy of not ordaining women as church officers.

Making the church tolerable to hostile, secular ultra-liberals in Denver (especially by going against Scripture) is not what the church should be about. What about all the other deceived and self-centered groups who are disgruntled with the church? (I won't start a list, but it would include much more than just appeasing feminists by appointing female leaders.) How must we adapt to make them comfortable? It is the people who must be converted to right thinking, not the church to wrong thinking, to win them.

[Downing:] ...there is a growing number of evangelical Christians who are politically moderate-to-liberal and are finding it increasingly difficult to find a church where they “fit.”

It is very fashionable to reach out to the growing number of liberals (by going with the flow and becoming liberal). Follow the growing market. How ingenious or unique is that? It is also goofy to say that the majority are having a hard time finding a place to "fit."

Matthew 7:13-14-- "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

Some churches choose to plop down along Broadway and pat people on the back and say "God Loves you and we do, too!" as the crowds pass by.

That wasn't John the Baptist's approach.

--Michael

>The means of grace are the reading and preaching of God’s Word, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, prayer, and the fellowship and accountability of the church family.

>They are means given by which the elect grow in grace.

No arguments there.

>It is altogether a different animal to claim that the sacraments are the vehicle of SAVING grace.

Well Peter wrote:

when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Now the question is not how to explain how the Bible doesn't mean what it says but rather how does it mean what it says. It clearly, in light of scripture, does not mean that baptism is a mechanistic rite in which man is sovereign rather than God. But while one avoids that trap one shouldn't minimize what scripture says and say it is unrelated to salvation.

>Sacramentalism is the notion the saving grace of Christ is conveyed to men through the channel of the sacraments themselves. It is not just a visible sign and seal of the covenant, the sacrament saves you and without it you are not saved.

See above. Anyone who says God cannot save without baptism is in error but according the the WCF it certainly is normative for those who are saved as is the visible church "outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation." They were prudent when they worded that merely indicating what is normative.

>It turns the sacraments into a "work" and treats the perfect and completed work of Christ, his life as well as his death, into a 'common thing' and incomplete. It tramples under foot the atonement and takes one back to obedience of the law as a means of justification. It is at the heart of the gospel.

Anyone concluding that is in error and out of accord with the WCF. Just as anyone who denies that the sacraments are a means of grace is out of accord with the WCF.

I am going to tie this back into the death of Jerry Falwell. There is a line that we cross where we lose the view of law as the tool of conviction through preaching to the point that it becomes the means of social engineering. Preaching against sin must be coupled with the attendant doctrine of depravity, clearly, so that the listener understands that Christianity does not offer a "reconstrutionist" religion than can bring Christ down from heaven.

Often this is the result of "social" preaching. The irremediable problem becomes the cause celebrated, to be fulfilled by the efforts of man. It then becomes a form of sacramentalism. Participation in social reform becomes a sacrament that if one is not involved in it as a means to reform and maintain peace in society, then they are considered to be in some way engaged in sin. Society, that is the fallenness of mankind is irremediable. That is it cannot be reformed. When Christianity crosses that line it is no longer preaching the Gospel. Our Gospel message must include the inevitability of the final judgement that is coming upon all men, and the promise of eternal life, not by some remedial work of Christ but by his mediatorial life given freely.

Still, all sin must be approached from the pulpit at the same level. The Scripture knows no disparity in sin. Paul condemns homosexuality and lying, backbitting, and disrespect all on the same level. It is not "targeted" sins, it is all sin that is in play in the pronouncing of the curse of the law due to lawlessness. Romans 1, and various other places demonstrate clearly that our message must be all encompassing. We must clearify for the listener that the reason that society is perverted in its relationship to God is that we all are. The wrong headedness of Falwell and the religious right, is that it is non-Christian; it was a political movement that at its core showed forth the very kind of Pharisaical discrimination condemned in Scripture. That is typical of a "sacramentalist" legalistic system such as the Arminianism of Falwell. It makes salvation; our justification and sanctification, dependant upon our works. The logical extension is that if a man can reform himself, then he can reform the world. Peter tells us though that these systems are scheduled for destruction, not reconstruction.

Once we return to the heart of the issue, we discover that to preach the Gospel we must warn as John the baptist did, and as Christ did and sent his disciples to do, of the impending doom. Namely, that the wrath of God is (is now) being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and men who hide the truth in unrighteousness. It reveals that the ills that we see around us are because of sin in us. All those things listed in Romans are God's judgement and reveal to us what can be known of God, that he is coming in JUDGEMENT. These things Christ said will not pass away until all is fulfilled. The Law and the penalties justly meeted out will continue until that Day. One of those things that must be fulfilled is the judgement that is to begin with the household of God. It could be that what we are seeing is judgement, a time when the Church has lost its mission, exchanging its first love for the love of the things of this world.

The time is already upon us that the laws of the land are changing and making it a crime to speak against the sins of man. The entire world it appears is going after lawlessness. Now is not the time to be selective, the time now is, that men filled with the Holy Spirit speak even more forcefully of the depravity that is the cesspool of humanity and proclaim the grace of God, a righteousness which is revealed from heaven to all who believe.

I'd like to build on Trey's comments with a little twist. If a man preach through the Bible, and not just through a few hundred passages selected by those pushing a particular agenda, he's bound to be confronted by something having to do with marriage and sexuality a couple of times per year.

And, as others have noted, it's highly improbable that someone in the congregation is not struggling with some kind of sexual sin.

Andrew,

Perhaps i wasn't clear either. My point was that it is always very easy to preach against someone else's sins. People love to "Amen" sins they know that others are guilty of. I think it fits into the sloth of the pastor to preach against all of society's ills, but leave off from preaching against the ones he knows are most prominent in his congregation, especially those spiritual problems that would, eventually lead to all those other things if coddled or ignored.

Why, though, would i constantly preach against abortion and homosexuality when the need of the hour and my congregation is to hear how their racism and bigotry are sins that cut to the heart of the Gospel? The PCA is rife with elders, ministers, and congregations who think that pragmatic answers to cultural prejudices are really Gospel-centered answers. Sure, i preach on marriage and the family, and there are times when both the women and the men are upset at what i say when i am faithfully preaching God's Word. But the point i was making (i hope you can see) is the same point Luther made: "If you preach the gospel in all aspects with the exception of the issues which deal specifically with your time, you are not preaching the gospel at all."

I think that's the point Tim was making, and, BTW, Tim, i do agree with you in almost all respects. I just wish you hadn't poisoned the well about "sacramentalism." I am a sacramentalist in no different a way than Calvin or Nevin were, and i don't think it's unhealthy or un-Reformed. I honestly believe that preaching the Gospel faithfully will lead one to address whatever is being attacked, whether it be the oneness we all have in Christ, regardless of race, abortion, homosexuality, biblical marriage and the family, and anything else we can think of, but it also includes, no matter how controversial, addressing a low view of the sacraments.

And, Stephen, i don't know what you mean, but if you think that because i call myself a sacramentalist that i'm no longer a friend, i feel very sorry for you.

Trey,

Your quote from Luther is exactly what I'm talking about. A low view of the sacraments may be an issue in your particular congregation, and I'm sure it is a consistent problem in many churches across the U.S. but it IS NOT a prevailing sin of our culture. Abortion, divorce, homosexuality, greed and sloth are. Preaching to believers about the sacraments is useful and necessary, but c'mon now, do you think that militant anti-sacramentalism is the breach in the wall in our time? You can't be serious!

>Preaching to believers about the sacraments is useful and necessary, but c'mon now, do you think that militant anti-sacramentalism is the breach in the wall in our time? You can't be serious!

Arguably how we worship God is more important than how we vote. This does not imply that either is devoid of importance.

Yes, i agree with David Gray. As the Church goes, so goes the culture. Why do you think that the Church went down the "new measures" route, where we comport ourselves in Church, worship in Church, and run the Church in a way that the world dictates to us, allowing the world to be the influence on the Church rather than visa versa? It was because of the decline in understanding that our salvation comes through the Church by means of the ordinary means of grace, namely, Word, sacraments, and prayer. Revivalism (i.e., the so-called "new measures,") led to *BOTH* liberalism's innovations in theology *AND* evangelicalism's innovations in worship, the latter of which, of course, led to the so-called "contemporary" worship movement and the "seeker" worship movement, and now the so-called "emergent" worship. I know i sound like a wacko for saying it, but i honestly *DO* believe that a misunderstanding and devaluing of the sacraments has led to great disaster in the Church in America. It was the downgrade of the Church as a whole that has led to the cultural decline in America (and, more broadly, in Western Christendom altogether).

Very rarely, when we're looking for the reason for a decline of the culture around us and a corollary decline in the Church, can we simply say that it is a lack of preaching about or taking up the causes in question. It is almost always a weakness in some area that might seem unrelated, but which has an effect that is greater than would be expected or possibly even completely unforseen. I beleive that a decline in the respect for and understanding of the Church itself (including all her ministries) has led to a decline in the Church itself, and that weakness in the Church has led to moral erosion in the culture at large.

Thomas,

You said:

>>>Once we return to the heart of the issue, we discover that to preach the Gospel we must warn as John the baptist did, and as Christ did and sent his disciples to do<<<

Like this?

For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because John had been saying to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her."

Matthew 14:3-4

Or this?

Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true."

John 4:16-18

Sounds to me like they were both putting their fingers on particular sins. I think if you look carefully, you'll find that this is the rule. You can look at Romans if you'd like, but you'd have to remember that Paul had never been to Rome. Try looking at Galatians or 1 Corinthians and drawing the same conclusions. Or as a matter of fact, any other letter Paul wrote with the possible exception of Ephesians.

It seems to me that you're superimposing an awful lot onto this particular post- reconstructionism and all. Here's the key to understanding it: "In fact, as the Apostle Paul demonstrates among Athen's Areopagus, a prophetic witness against the sins of the indigenous culture is always the door through which new believers walk into faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." Perhaps you should consider the fact that the difference between "participation in social reform [that] becomes a sacrament" and preaching against the pervasive cultural blindness in order to convict people of their sin and call them to repentance and faith is astronomical. Further, the difference between what you were implying that Tim was advocating and confessing the sovereign authority of Christ in the public and social sphere is just as astronomical.

Sounds like you've stumbled into a blog and preached a very directed and particular sermon without any context. It would have served you well to have kept silent. And if you just had to write something, it would have suited you well to write a Romans-like epistle instead of sending a letter directed at Corinthians to the church in Galatia.

I recommend that you be a mite slower to speak in the future. Otherwise people will start to believe that your intention has nothing to do with Christ or the authors or readers of this blog, and everything to do with exalting yourself and your great biblical wisdom. When I googled your name and read some comments you posted on other prominent blogs, what I discovered certainly affirmed that suspicion. I certainly hope I'm mistaken.

With love,

Jacob Mentzel

Wait a second on your history there, Trey. The historical fact is that liberalism in theology comes from the German form critics, who were largely members (although apostate) of the thoroughly sacramentalistic "Evangelische" (Lutheran) churches of Germany. Although Rockefeller's American Baptists were early adopters of it here, the strongest adherents to it at the end of the 19th century were the Episcopalians and Methodists, both sacramentalist churches, and the current strongholds of this theory are generally the sacramental denominations.

Moreover, the "Emergent" churches generally come out of not the "revivalists" like evangelicals and Baptists, but out of the "frozen chosen" like Presbyterians.

In other words, dear brother, your history needs a bit of work! There are certainly things to dislike about revivalism, but it's not the central issue in either liberal theology or the "emergent" styles of worship.

Robert Perry,

If you call Methodists "sacramental," i do wonder if you know your history at all. You are correct that liberalism made large in-roads into Episcopalianism, and that it is a largely sacramental Church (though, it wasn't always so in the American branch of the Anglican Communion), however, i spoke about what paved the way for downgrades in the Church. Revivalism in the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church (Methodists were almost exclusively revivalistic and conversionistic from their beginnings well into the 20th century) paved the way for both liberalism and broad evangelicalism--and, if you'll read Nevin's interactions with them, you'll see that there was a great deal of influence that Revivalism had on Lutheranism in America. The fact that other churches not nearly as affected by Revivalism (Episcopal Church and to a lesser degree the Lutheran Church) also fell to liberalism, or that branches of those churches in other countries not affected by Revivalism also fell into liberalism, does not invalidate what i have said (i was speaking of the American Church); it just proves that Revivalism wasn't the exclusive means through which liberalism had an effect on the Churches, and i never claimed that it was.

Also, those "Emergents" who are out there touting their po-mo Christianity may come, in some cases, from Calvinistic backgrounds, though, i'm sure you'll find most don't; but rather that most Emergents come from a broad Evangelical background, and that the "Emergent" move is the next logical innovation in a long line of innovations that began with the Revivals in America, as far back as the mid-18th century, and went through everything from the Jesus Movement, "contemporary" worship, and the "seeker" movement.

I know (at least i should say that i hope) you're not defending Revivalism, Liberalism, or broad Evangelicalism. Yet, i also think that you shouldn't discount that there are connections in all of them from a common root.

Dear Trey:

You seem to like Nevin quite a bit.

Have you read Hart's recent biography of Nevin? If so, what did you think of it?

David W.,

I haven't finished it, but Hart's description of Nevin is quite compelling. It is interesting that Nevin was accused of Romanizing in his own day for his high sacramental and ecclesiastical views. His fight against revivalistic tendencies in the German Reformed Church and the broader Reformed Church against conversionism (what he called "Methodism," interestingly enough)--which was really nothing more than the Puritan tendency to require knowledge of a personal conversion experience that we find so prevalent in Evangelicalism and Calvinism today--it may not have been successful in his time in opposing conversionism and low-church tendencies, but he was ultimately vindicated, because the German Reformed Church (the RCUS), united with the Evangelical Synod NA and the Congregational Churches, to form the United Church of Christ, arguably the most liberal Protestant denomination ever to have existed, at least in the United States. Nevin's warnings against innovations in the Church proved right, since those innovations began a long and slow decline in American Christianity.

If you haven't got the biography of Nevin by Hart, get it. If you have read the chapter on Nevin in "Recovering Mother Kirk" and enjoyed it, you'll really love the full biography. And, too, you should just read the original source material. Nevin's "Mystical Presence," is absolutely a must-read for any Presbyterian who is flirting with Zwinglianism (and which Presbyterians don't?), and his "Catholic and Reformed" is a hard read, but still worth the time, because it will challenge your presuppositions.

Just in answer to the allegation that the problem with the Church today *CAN'T* be a problem with the Church and her worship, here's an article speaking on the issue of homosexuality and how the Church is the real culprit in its propogation--though not in the way you might think.

http://www.credenda.org/issues/16-2memorandum.php

Here's a quote:

"We must have reformation in the Church.

At the same time as offering no resistance in the civil realm, we increase the fight within the Church. Worship is the key to reality, and we lead with our confession of failed fatherhood followed by protections for those Christians within the church who are threatened by this disintegration of the civil order. False and corrupt worship brought sodomy to us, and genuine worship leads to national reformation. This reformation includes the necessity of preaching that the nation as a nation must submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ."

Good preaching will be the answer, but good preaching isn't the only thing that there is to worship. Christian worship has become corrupt, and hence the Church has become corrupt, and the culture around us has reacted to that in the most vile ways--but it is still rooted in the sin of the Church, and it is a sin from which we need to repent.

Read the whole article, because our sin is more pervasive than worship, but it is *AT LEAST* as pervasive as a dumbing down of worship and the Church.

"I've determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I want to be all things to all people."

Interesting how the Apostle Paul shows in 1 Cor that "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" is all that he "knew" among them, not because there wasn't more to talk about but because they had been new converts when he first came to them and the cross of Christ is the foundation of our faith. Since they were new converts, he couldn't go into the deeper things yet. (Granted, the gospel is something we always need to be reminded of weekly lest we forget.) Paul then made the point that he'd like to go deeper, but they were still babies and couldn't handle strong meat - much to their shame as a church.

A pastor who uses this as a slogan for his life's ministry is admitting that all those under his care are continuing in ignorance of Christ. Yikes.

> [Trey Austin:] Read the whole article, because our sin is more pervasive than worship, but it is *AT LEAST* as pervasive as a dumbing down of worship and the Church.

> [Jones and Wilson:] Our most immediate response is almost always in terms of "Here is evil; let us condemn it," without a thought to, "Here is evil; let us confess it."

They make some great points.

> [Jones and Wilson:] Our focus in this situation is not preaching the law to secularists. It should be searching out the cause of the curse in our own hearts, and in our own traditions.

We've got plenty of problems of our own. And I'm not talking about a denomination. Us as individual people. Too often we think like secularists, so naturally the church suffers in the long run.

> [Jones and Wilson:] At its root, homosexuality is a love of sameness rather than difference. Jehovah teaches us to love difference, and in this fallen world obsessed with finding ways to deface God, homosexuality rejects difference in order to spite God.

Yes, I think this issue of sameness is very important. I find it ironic and hypocritical that evangelicals in unisex blue-jeans & t-shirts (including very short-haired women and long-haired men) are so bothered about homosexuality. It is amazing how easily we conservatives accept this "gender doesn't matter"-thinking in our own lives. Looking like a dyke in public is okay, just not acting like one privately. Not much of a testimony, if you ask me.

> [Trey Austin:] Good preaching will be the answer, but good preaching isn't the only thing that there is to worship. Christian worship has become corrupt, and hence the Church has become corrupt, and the culture around us has reacted to that in the most vile ways--but it is still rooted in the sin of the Church, and it is a sin from which we need to repent.

> [Jones and Wilson:] The calling of Christian men is to be godly husbands and fathers, within the family and within the Church.

Yes, speaking of "sloth," worship is much more than preaching and the mechanical assembly of a church service. It is how we live personally as individuals outside of church. How I treat my wife is an important form of worship, even how I think. Either God gets glory or He doesn't.

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Colossians 3:17

--Michael

> [Trey Austin:] Christian worship has become corrupt, and hence the Church has become corrupt, and the culture around us has reacted to that in the most vile ways--but it is still rooted in the sin of the Church, and it is a sin from which we need to repent.

What would our own spiritual forefathers think of us? Would they recognize us? ...disown us?

Why is the 'salt' complaining about all the rotten meat around it?

--Michael

Michael wrote: "Why is the 'salt' complaining about all the rotten meat around it?"

Now *THAT* is a very profound question. We're studying the "salt and light" passage from Matthew in Sunday School, and i think i will recount your quote to them.

In terms of what our forefathers would think of us, i honestly think that they may indeed disown us. We worry about some very small things, but we let some major issues go without a thought--what Jesus referred to as "straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel."

Just as one issue in my own congregation: there was some hubbub about communionware about a year ago. It was my fault (my own lack of communication and a larger misunderstanding), and a couple of people in the congregation (one of which was one of our elders) were upset by the new communionware (not replacing what we used, but only what i used--a ceramic goblet, paten, and flagon with a grapevine pattern on it). It led to some heated words and the need to resolve the issue, but the elder in question protested that i had brought "images into worship." Now, i know i hadn't done that, but he was terribly scrupulous about it. But all the while, that very same elder is trying to put off disciplining his son's ex-wife (who left him and is living with another man), because he is afraid that she will retaliate against us all, and especially him and his wife, by keeping them from seeing their grandkids. What we won't accept for our own purposes, but we're most ready to condemn others on "principled" issues.

We're in a mess, both morally and ecclesiastically. Do we honestly think that our Christian forebears who fought against Arianism, Donatism, Nestorianism, and all the other heresies of the early Church would recognize what we do every Sunday as Christian worship? Ironically enough, we are following the "Reformation" tradition, but the Reformation was self-consciously trying to recapture ancient Christianity from that same grand period.

I personally don't think that the Church will be able to do anything about the culture around us until we are able to come together in some kind of unity and Catholicity again. The primitive Church stood unanimously against an entire Empire and many people who sought even to kill them, but they were victorious in their unity and devotion to our God. I'm praying for our collective repentance from schism. It's the only thing that will make a difference.

Thanks Jacob Mentzel, I will take your rebuke. But, I think you missunderstood. I never said the Scriptures do not finger particular sins. The point that was being made is that "targeted" sins have the tendency to obsure the real nature of sin. Stealing a cookie from the cookie jar is just as evil as homosexuality. That is a message that the world needs to hear. Hot button issues only distract, unless the preacher goes from there to the root cause.

"In fact, as the Apostle Paul demonstrates among Athen's Areopagus, a prophetic witness against the sins of the indigenous culture is always the door through which new believers walk into faith in our Lord Jesus Christ."

This never happened. Paul generalizes sin in Acts 17. "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everwhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteouness by the Man who He has ordained." It was not the "sins" but the sin of not honoring God as God that Paul attacked. And, of course that carries with it the inference that sins are an affront to God.

It is these mishandlings of Scripture though that I was also alluding to. No where in the Areopagus discussion are the sins of an indigenous culture even mentioned. And the Scriptures you quote are of a completely different nature, also. First of all, John the Baptist is rebuking a fellow Jew, under the Mosaic Law, not the civil law. Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan is alike, with a fellow, albeit disenfrancised Jew. In this conversation you will take note, Jesus does not rebuke her for a particular sin. Ain't there. Oh, it is most definitely implied. But, unlike the rebuke of John to Herod, there is not even a call for repentance, is there? Her sins are not central to Christ's message. His message was simple, "I am the water of life." What is implied is that she has no life in her. Her sins are like her drawing water. The fact that she is never satisfied is a sign of spiritual death, death with is not a result of her adultery, but of Adam's. Now you and I both know that his statements cut her to the heart, but he did not call her an adulteress, nor did he condemn her for that, just as he did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. Contrarily, he said he did not condemn her. And the woman at the well, he did not condemn, either, for hers. Something greater than reforming their lives, or their culture was at stake.

Here: Matthew 5:13-- "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."

The problem with this being interpreted in the "preservation mode," is it is only partial Scripture. And, if we as the Church are just another social reform organization how is that we would taste any different than the world? This subject begins this way: "Every sacrifice is salted with fire...have fire in yourself." Far from being a preserving factor the "salt" talked about here is fire. Because he has made his ministers flames of fire, and he has a sacrifice and it is the world, he salts the world with fire, us. The entire context is the preaching of the Gospel, Lk 12.49; Mk 49-50. We are to have fire in ourselves. It is we that Christ was speaking of when he said that he did not come to bring peace but fire and he salts the earth with his disciples and sets the world ablaze. We are to preach the Gospel of repentance from works, not the Gospel to works. Meaning simply that we must be clear that there is no stopping the coming judgement just as Paul said in Athens. The difference between the conservative social gospel of Falwell and reconstructionists like him, and liberal social gospel reconstructionists like Carter, both by fellow SBC'ers of mine, is that Falwell offered God's blessing on society through works of moral obedience. Carter offers God's blessing though social work. The end result of both approaches has been about two generations of political Christians who lack true knowledge of the Scripture. I know, I go to church with them and they cannot tell the difference between political, social coservativism and Biblical conservativism in response to the righteous demands of the moral law of God, our utter failure at adhering to it, and the righteousness of Christ imputed to us for it because of his life and sacrifice on our behalf.

You may think from what I wrote that we are not to condemn sin. Far from the truth, if you followed the rest of my schpeel, as you inferred it to be. Quite to the contrary. I activly write to the Editor here to keep in front of the eyes of the people sin, and it is never far away from anything that I write in any venue. The issue, however, and I did not stray from it, is should we confront the culture with sin. In this I whole heartily agree, we should. The question is how, and to what end. If the how is in condemnation instead of the conviction of the holy law of God, then we are no more than Pharisees. If the end is soley for the reformation of lives and of culture or country, then we are no more than zealots.

I was not implying any such thing about Tim. I believe his perspective is that he finds it offensive that moral compromise or silence, is the preferred mode of social cooperation with in evangelicalism and the mainline churches in general. And though I would disagree with him about what Paul had to say in Athens, I whole heartily agree that a call to repentance from sin and a face to face confrontation with the perversions in culture is necessary. I was appalled at the fact that when the VT shooting took place that I could not find a decent exposition of the why. And far from asking that my brethren not confront the society, I asked why none were standing up and defining depravity for the nation so that they might see, as Os Guiness overtured, that we are all responsible because of sin. This issue of the depravity of, not its results they need to know to see the error of their ways. Their problem is that they believe that they are good. Unfortunately the Falwell's of Christendom do not make it clear. In fact they obfusticate by blaming people rather than the root cause. It is not the sins of people, it is rather, sin, for which the wrath of God is being poured out. The sins are the wrath, see Romans 1. If we do not make it clear, they will not repent because they will be repenting of the wrong thing.

So, thanks for taking the time to rebuke me, please accept mine. I accept yours. I am an angry man, but in a good way. Next time, do this for me. Read past you prejudices and you will see that I am not preaching me, but Christ and him crucified.

With the truth in love,

tt

Thomas T. said: "Stealing a cookie from the cookie jar is just as evil as homosexuality. That is a message that the world needs to hear."

Where in the world did you ever get such a distorted and skewed notion?

Not only do some sins bring more open scandal on the guilty party (this is self-evident), but there are some sins that, in themselves and by their very nature, are more heinous and, and call for greater wrath than others.

WLC 150:

Question: Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?

Answer: All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Can a small sin send someone to hell just as well as a large one? Sure, all guilt is damning (though, the truth is, we're all damned even before our first sinful act, by reason of our guilt and corruption we inherit from Adam). That all sins bring guilt, and that all guilt is damning, i hope, is the point you're making. However, it is absolutely not true, nor is it a corollary to saying that, that all sins are equally sinful and evil. That's just not biblical, because not all sins bring the same "amount" of guilt, because not all sins are equally heinous in God's sight.

Thomas T. said: "It was not the "sins" but the sin of not honoring God as God that Paul attacked. And, of course that carries with it the inference that sins are an affront to God."

Yes, brother, that's because the *GREATEST* commandment is to love Jehovah with our whole hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Not to do so is to be guilty of breaking the greatest commandment. You see, if there can be a commandment that is "greatest" or "second" greatest, that means that breaking those commandments does not render equal guilt for all. Of course, though, Paul went after the greatest sin, which is breaking the greatest commandment, to love Jehovah only and supremely.

You're right, though, in that respect. We need to be preaching, like Paul, that sins such as we see being committed around us (similar to those in the Roman Empire) are all symptoms of rampant idolatry. Idolatry (i.e., breaking the greatest commandment, and hence the greatest sin) leads to myriads of other sins of varying degrees of guilt and flagrance. Yet, we should, even while addressing those, point to what the real source of it all is: a heart that is corrupt because of the sin into which we were all born, which does not love God the way it should.

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