Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Gulf

I received an email from someone today, upset with my position as a theological conservative. They wrote, "I have been a member of the same Reformed church since my baptism many long years ago, and this denomination is beginning to make make me sick to my stomach. Whatever happened to Christ's message of love, the real Christianity?"

To which I replied, "I agree that what is happening in the RCA is making me sick. Whatever happened to Christ's message of a holy God who will rain down judgment upon the ungodly?"

This illustrates the gulf which exists in American Christianity between those who believe that "real Christianity" is about love, and those who believe that Christianity is much more than that, as Christ calls us from the darkness of sin to repentance, and empowers us to victory over sin through the sanctifying power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, there is no real tension in the New Testament between love and holiness. The tension exists only in the sinful heart, which wants to think of itself as righteous, but retain the privileges of a sinful life. The gulf, then, is between our desires and God's holy nature, between His holy expectations and our rebellion. This is the Holy War waged within the soul which John Bunyan wrote of so expertly, having thoroughly plumbed the depths of his own heart. This is the war the Apostle Paul wrote of in Romans 7. This is the war waged in the heavenly places between spiritual forces (Eph 6:12). This is the war being waged in our denomination between those who would use love as a license for sin, and those who would uphold the whole counsel of God.

We have no need for despair, as we already know the outcome: "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).


Blogger PaulQBall said...

One of the greatest sign of love a parent can show is discipline over a child that has gone astray. This is the same love that God shows to the world. Our permissive post-modern society has lost the act of obedience. When we attempt to use the Bible and Christianity to justify sin we are rebelling against God and he will judge those actions.

Keep up the work of the lord reforming society beginning with the church.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

"God chastens those whom He loves..." Hebrews 12:6

1:37 PM  
Blogger RogueMonk said...

I agree. There is a gulf that exists within the RCA. I think many people see it and expereince it. What gets me the most, however, is the failure by those who lead our denomination to face that gulf honestly. It seems that for years there have been efforts to downplay and minimize it. There have been all sorts of efforts to 'plug' the gulf. But its still there. My fear is that those who are more conservative will simply give up and the RCA will be lost to attrition.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Rileysowner said...

I also agree. There is a huge divide between the theological conservatives and the theological liberals which seems to be ignored by many. The RCA is two groups, and no matter how often the plea comes for us to unite in our mission (a horrible statement as the only place were true Christian unity can be found is in Christ) it will not get rid of that division. For, that division is between those who seek to have the Word of God as their final authority and those who claim to follow Christ, the Word, while ignoring the written word that was inspired by His Spirit.

I don't think that sort of divide can be or should be covered over. It requires those who have turned from Christ and his word to be converted by the power of God, repenting and believing in Christ. Anything else is a syncretism that destroys.

Finally, I find it ironic that those who say they want theological conservatives to be more tolerant are shown to be as intolerant as they claim we are. I have heard many people who I consider solid believers who have called for the RCA to return to Christ and his word, who have been attacked verbally by theological liberals in phone calls. So much for them being open and inclusive.

3:51 PM  
Blogger anman said...

This is starting to sound a lot like a bunch of people I know. They claim there is no bad side to their religion (or cult more like), by claiming that if you turn out to be a sinner, you dont go to hell, you just die.

If Jesus was all about love, then why would there even be a hell? I do not know the person who sent that message or what it was about, but it sounds like some one hasnt read their bible.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

In contact with several leaders of our denomination, I have been told that unity is more important than doctrine.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Well said, sir.

Peter, I've heard this too. My thought is that it is 180 degrees backwards of the postmodern, fractured world we're heading towards, where everyone joins their own voluntary community based on common beliefs, interests and activities. Here in the RCA we have just the reverse: people slapped with penalties for leaving a community with which they have little common beliefs.

I think the baby boomer leaders of the RCA need to wake up and do what would lead to the least turmoil in the Kingdom (especially if they're so interested in the unity and peace of the denomination): realize they are a minority and leave for pastures more to their liking, rather than try to impose their liberlism on everybody else. As they DON'T do that, we realize more and more that they have an agenda for changing an institution, not for unity.

9:04 AM  
Blogger RogueMonk said...

Perhaps some letters and overtures (and whatever else) to some of the RCA higher-ups would send a message?

12:44 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

I believe that sending overtures is like talking louder to a deaf man. If an overture from Albany Synod (not exactly evangelical country) to make the General Secretary an elected clerk of the General Synod didn't make any difference, what effect would our voices have?

One thing I have learned these past few years, is that we face a determined, unelected, enemy, who has concentrated power in the hands of a few liberal elites. They will not go quietly into that good night, and worst of all is the apathy and spiritual confusion of the mass in the middle. Most of them believe our agenda to be a form of extremism - whereas it is merely the Christianity of only a few decades ago.

3:44 PM  
Blogger RogueMonk said...

I agree that overtures get nowhere, but they do have the effect of stating publically that a given classis has no confidence in the General Secretary. Maybe an ad in the church herald requesting a resignation would be more effective?

8:45 PM  
Blogger homo unius libri said...

I like that idea!

12:40 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I think we're facing the same issue that I believe we face with the civil gov't. Much of the bureaucracy centers around stuff the gov't has no business doing in the first place. A return to Constitutional powers would mean eliminating 90% of it all.

Same as a denomination, as Scott is on to. An overture would have to be such that it removed all the commissions and councils and staff and budgets. Defunding much of the GSC's work would force a return to clerking, instead of CEO-ing.

Of course, this wouldn't go anywhere, either.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Rileysowner said...

There is another reason overtures need to be made even though they just get killed in advisory committees. The overture is the first step in our church order. We need to take that step, for only when it is shot down do we have grounds to say that the GS is actually holding the views that seem to be held. In other words, overtures are like a test or trial of the GS.

I am not sure if I am staying that clearly, I am pretty tired right now, but I hope you get the jist.

10:11 PM  

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