Pastoral approaches to opposition...

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(Tim: For those who skip the comments, here's one just posted as part of an exchange under the post, "Slaughterhouse-Two hundred and fifty thousand...." It would be good to read this in context, seeing the comments that gave rise to it. Regardless, the issues here dealt with come up frequently enough on this blog that I thought I'd give it main level posting in order to make some of the methods David and I employ on this blog more clear to our readers.)

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Dear Friends,

It's unusual for such comments as that made by Ben above to be
signed, and thus for us to know the person and life that's given rise
to them. My guess is that, almost always, such comments come from
desperate sinners who make no effort to hide it; their anger and
tormented consciences are right there in plain sight.

It's my inclination to deal with them one of two ways: Either
dismiss them and delete their comments, or call them to the Cross.
Arguing and exposure are not my first choice.

On the other hand, most of the comments put up here on this blog
that oppose what we write--particularly on matters such as abortion and
sexuality--come from those who think of themselves as leaders, wise
souls, deep thinkers, the cream of the crop. These people should be
treated in an entirely different way; not at all with patience and
tenderness, but satire, irony, and any other weapon that will expose
them before the eyes of the sheep...

To help myself in this, I always keep the distinction before my eyes
that Jesus made between the scribes and Pharisees, on the one hand; and
poor sinners, on the other. With the first, He was satirical, ironic,
and inscrutable; at times with weal, but almost always woe. Sometimes
even a whip. He called them "hypocrites" over and over again, publicly.

Sinners, though, He hung with and led to faith and repentance.

We ought to take Him as our model. It won't be easy to diagnose the
person with just one comment, lacking the additional details personal
contact gives us. And often our diagnosis will differ with one of us
seeing a sinner where the other sees a wolf. That’s fine.

What we all need to see, though, is that there is a place for
exposure of wolves. And when we’re dealing with an elder or pastor
who’s a wolf, exposure is required. In this connection, I often think
of Luther’s comment (particularly the final paragraph):

“In regard to doctrine we observe especially this defect that, while
some preach about the faith by which we are to be justified, It is
still not clearly enough explained how one shall attain to this faith,
and almost all omit one aspect of the Christian faith without which no
one can understand what faith is or means. For Christ says in the last
chapter of Luke [24:47] that we are to preach in his name repentance
and forgiveness of sins.

"Many now talk only about the forgiveness of sins and say little or
nothing about repentance. There neither is forgiveness of sins without
repentance nor can forgiveness of sins be understood without
repentance. It follows that if we preach the forgiveness of sins
without repentance that the people imagine that they have already
obtained the forgiveness of sins, becoming thereby secure and without
compunction of conscience. This would be a greater error and sin than
all the errors hitherto prevailing. Surely we need to be concerned
lest, as Christ says In Matt. 12 [:45] 'the last state becomes worse
than the first.'

"Therefore we have instructed and admonished pastors that it is
their duty to preach the whole gospel and not one portion without the
other. For God says in Deut. 4 [:2]: ‘You shall not add to the word
...nor take from it.’ There are preachers who now attack the pope
because of what he has added to the Scriptures, which unfortunately is
all too true. But when these do not preach repentance, they tear out a
great part of Scripture. They have very little good to say about the
eating of meat and the like, though they should not keep silent when
they have an opportunity to defend Christian liberty against tyranny.
What else is this than what Christ says in Matthew 23 [:24]: ‘Straining
out a gnat and swallowing a camel?’

"So we have admonished them to exhort the people diligently and
frequently to repent and grieve over their sins and to fear the
judgment of God. Nor are they to neglect the greatest and most
important element of repentance, for both John and Christ condemned the
Pharisees more severely for their hypocritical holiness than for
ordinary sins. The preachers are to condemn the gross sins of the
common man, but more rigorously demand repentance where there is false
holiness."

With love and deep appreciation for the help you all give in your comments, here,

Tim Bayly

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