Pastoral approaches to opposition...
(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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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,