Where our churches are headed...

Early in my ministry, I warned Evangelical pastors within the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA) that their failure to rebuke and discipline fornication, adultery, and unbiblical divorce within their own session and congregation rendered their campaigns against the normalization of sodomy at the presbytery and general assembly level impotent. After all, PC(USA) liberals were only asking for their immorality-of choice to be granted the immunity the immoralities of conservatives had already been granted.

Time and again, I saw and had reported to me the failure of tall-steeple Evangelical pastors to do anything about the sins of their elders, particularly unbiblical divorces and adulteries. But then these same rich and famous pastors would mount their white stallions and sally forth against homosexual ordination once a year at General Assembly, taking home the reputation of Biblical integrity and courage they deserved not one bit.

So twenty years ago, my church and I resigned from the PC(USA), transferring into a southern denomination called the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)... In our session meetings twenty years ago as we chose which denomination to transfer into, we said to each other that the PCA would likely get us twenty years or so of orthodoxy and then it would go bad, too. That was about right. After ten years, I looked on helplessly as the PCA's seminary professor of theology and ethics began rabble-rousing for the repeal of sodomy laws, and working at the general assembly level, I was appalled by the most famous and rich pastors' refusal to preach against abortion or homosexuality or racism.

So where are we headed now?

Again, I've been saying for some time now that we're headed into polyamory and lowering the age of consent for sex with children. We've already declared immunity within our own churches to those who are serial polygamists (successive divorces and remarriages), so what possible moral authority can we have when we try to speak up against straight polygamy, or as it's commonly called, "polyamory?"

When supposed Biblical churches are so weak at defending the honor of Christ and His Church within our own fellowship, how can we possibly mount any sort of righteous campaign against the Unitarians as they declare that the lost is actually found, the evil is actually good, and the wrong is actually right.

The Washington Post reports the Unitarian and Universalist Church has maintained a growth rate of fifteen percent over the past ten years and within its fellowship is an organization called Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness:

(Unitarian) is the religion of last resort for the intermarried, the ambivalent, the folks who want a faith community without too many rules. It is perhaps no surprise that the Unitarian Universalist Association is one of the fastest-growing denominations in the country, ballooning 15 percent over the past decade, when other established churches were shrinking. Politically progressive to its core, it draws from the pool of people who might otherwise be “nones” – unaffiliated with any church at all.

But within the ranks of the UUA over the past few years, there has been some quiet unrest concerning a small but activist group that vociferously supports polyamory. That is to say “the practice of loving and relating intimately to more than one other person at a time,” according to a mission statement by Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness (UUPA). The UUPA “encourages spiritual wholeness regarding polyamory,” including the right of polyamorous people to have their unions blessed by a minister.

If we don't correct and discipline child-abuse and incest and serial polygamy and racism in our own churches, we have no moral authority to oppose those who are forthright enough to advocate publicly what we advocate privately through our cowardice and complacency.

Tim Bayly

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

Comments

A good reform would be if a presbytery required that   its churches submit a report listing all divorced members and the reason for their divorce.  That data would at least give a way to start a discussion.  When a majority of churches in the presbytery have gone soft, such a thing would be impossible, but perhaps there are some good presbyteries left. Clearnote, maybe?  Too small now. But the time to start such administrative steps is *before* the rot has gone all the way through. Then, it can help: we behave better when  other *people* are watching, even though it is God we should fear. 

Sadly, bestiality isn't far behind; just look at the Netherlands!

So where are we headed now? How about the URCNA.

When preaching against racism, one may wish to learn the difference between a racist and a racialist and a white supremacist and a white nationalist. The bible has a problem with hate, not segregation.

As to the larger point, the average person wants salvation, but they want it without cost. Really, one of the hallmarks of Christianity is discipline. Pure selfishness is pure evil, while pure good is pure selflessness. The truly selfish, and non-elect, basically have a complete lack of discipline. The most devout Christians are among the most disciplined.

Most of today's church leadership have been corrupted by money. It's much better, in terms of overall financial reward, to have a large inclusive and undisciplined congregation  where every sin is excused as long as money keeps hitting the collection plate----hmmmm, sounds a bit Catholic (and Methodist)--than it is to have a disciplined congregation led by principled pastors whose congregations are much smaller, but whose reward will be much greater.

As to the Polyamory thing, are you kidding me!?!. Two wives=stereo bitching.....three wives=surround sound bitching.....I'll stick to one wife thanks. I've got enough problems to deal with.

One of the canons of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is that a marriage where either the prospective bride and/or groom has been divorced cannot take place unless the priest that will be marrying the couple endorses the marriage. In theory, the priest doesn't do this without premarital counseling (in church or with a qualified counselor recommended by the priest)  that assures that the couple is ready for (re)marriage and understands the reasons behind the divorce(s) and how to eliminate these actions in the new marriage. The priest's endorsement goes to the local diocese's bishop. If he doesn't approve the marriage, it cannot take place in an Anglican church. I have no idea how seriously this requirement is taken. I hope it is taken seriously, though.

Mike Shields wrote:

As to the Polyamory thing, are you kidding me!?!. Two wives=stereo bitching.....three wives=surround sound bitching.....I'll stick to one wife thanks. I've got enough problems to deal with.

Well, maybe some women would have complaints (although different ones) about two or three husbands and say they have enough problems dealing with the one husband they already have :).

Well Sue, since men are much closer to Godly perfection than women, I can't see why the ladies would have any complaint ;p. Seriously though, I cannot imagine two men sharing one woman.......well, perhaps in today's world full of emasculated libtards, it's possible, but not back in the day. One of those men would have to end up taking the other one out.

Also, after SSM is handed to us on a platter, won't Christian elopement explode since a couple would only need a Justice of the Peace to marry? Once they acquire the marriage license, a few weeks later she could plead with her home Reformed PCA pastor for a White Wedding though her new civil husband (who she met at the State U.) be an almost Christian at best.

To Eric's point, if the PCA ever delves into the nefarious divorce and remarriage accounting business, they'll eventually have to add a tab noting those in the denomination who are only civilly-licensed and those who also got married in a church. Then, the PCA could have two tiers of marriage: (1.) Entry-level marriage and (2.) the more excellent sacramental level.

Or perhaps most Christian couples will just call it good (and cheap) with a level one marriage.

Isn't this, too, where church and family are heading?

Mike - regarding your first comment where you said, "Pure selfishness is pure evil, while pure good is pure selflessness."  I encourage you meditate on Is 22:14 and Gal 1:8-9. 

Here you have two passages, one saying that a particular action will not be atoned for and the other saying another action will result in you being accursed.

I for one can't find a lick about selfishness being pure evil in these passages.  In fact what I find is that trying to live your life without God (Isaiah 22), especially trying to be good or righteous without God (Gal 1) is at the heart of pure evil.

Also, I believe that by defining sin in terms of selfishness, you have a man-centered understanding of sin that just can not account for the rebellion against God that is mentioned in passages like, Deut 31:27, 1 Sam 15:23, Job 13:23, Is 30:9; 57:4, Jer 29:32, Ezek. 44:6, Micah 7:18, Jude 11, etc.

Sin, in short, is an inborn-hatred for God that manifests itself in such ways as distrust and/or outright rebellion against God.  (In other words, sin is "dissing" God.)  This definition of sin allows both religious and non-religious expressions of sin, viz. I will openly defy God's Law and mock Him (e.g. by practicing Sodomy) or I will seek to establish my own righteousness (e.g. by rejecting Christ) (Rom 10:3-4).

I hope I've been helpful.

Mark Mars

Sue and Allan, here are a couple of theological points worth thinking about: 

1. The biggest concern is not that a divorced person will behave as badly in their new marriage as in their old. Indeed, nowadays their first divorce might not have been because of bad behavior at all, just the husband and wife getting bored with each other. Rather, the big concern is that their first divorce was invalid in the sight of God, and hence *any* remarriage  is really adultery. No amount of counselling can help with that. 

2. Allan is right that it isn't enough just for a pastor to refuse to perform the  marriage ceremony when a divorce was unlawful: he has to teach his congregation what lawful marriage means and act if he discovers adultery. In the PCA though, as in Protestantism generally, marriage is not a sacrament. See Calvin at: http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Fti...

Thanks for your comments Mark, but the inborn hatred for God is due to selfishness. Think back to your childhood. The times you hated your parents were the times they did not let you do what you wanted. All desire is sin and all sin and hatred of God derives from selfishness.

All desire is sin? 

Freida,

From James 1:15, "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

Think about that for a minute. It actually makes a lot of sense since desire stems from selfishness and selfishness is evil. Jesus says we can be condemned for our sinful thoughts, but consider that if your spouse asks you what you want for dinner and you say you desire a Big Mack, technically, you could be on your way to damnation, and that's even if the burger itself doesn't flat line you.

Desiring relations with a spouse would, for example, be a forgivable sin because marriage is a contract with God and desiring a lawful spouse would be acceptable.

I wonder what Paul's problem was then? He seems to have had a lot of desires...

(1 Thessalonians 2:17) But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while--in person, not in spirit--were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.

(1 Corinthians 14:19) however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.

As a matter of fact, he commands us to desire...

(1 Corinthians 14:39) Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.

(1 Corinthians 12:31) But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.

I think you'd better rethink things, Mike. Either it's a sin to desire your wife, in which case the only way it's forgivable is through the blood of Christ, and even then you should stop desiring her as you grow in sanctification, or it's not a sin to desire her per se. (I grant that you could still have wicked desire for her.)

The Bible is very clear that not all desire is sinful. If the above commands to desire aren't clear enough, God describes himself as desiring obedience rather than sacrifice, and we have the following:

(Galatians 5:17 ESV) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Well, there you go then. Good desire v. bad desire. Considering human nature though, I'd say most of OUR desire is bad. That's certainly the implication we get from James.

Mike, you said "most of OUR desire is bad."

And I agree wholeheartedly with you about that. Now let's return to the issue Mark raised. In some sense you're right, every sin is rooted in selfishness because every sin is a raising up of self into the place of God. This is what Satan tempted Eve with in the garden. "You can be in the place of God, knowing (and thus determining) what is good and evil." 

However, selfishness only communicates one side of the problem, and it's the lesser side. Yes, when we raise ourselves up above God, we are being selfish and thinking too highly of ourselves. But the really wicked part is that we are not giving God the glory he deserves and demands. It wouldn't be a sin to raise ourselves up if it weren't for the fact that God is at the top.

This is why using selfishness as the base of all sin is so ironic. It is man-centered, as Mark said, which is to lower God out of his place. In other words, defining sin as always flowing from selfishness is actually selfish. That's why the Bible focuses so much on rebellion and so little on selfishness. 

Of course we have wicked desires that flow out of wanting to please ourselves. Of course that is properly called selfishness. But why is it wrong? Because it is at its root, rebellion against our maker.

In Christ,

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