The Catholic Church is like a thick steak, a glass of red wine, and a good cigar.” ― G.K. Chesterton link
(Quick note: A comment was made at TGC under a 9 Marks post by a "dee." That was not me. I only rarely comment at other websites since I have a pretty good bully pulpit here.)
Once again, we have a reader to thank for drawing our attention to an article posted on 9 Marks. When I first read the comment, I removed it from our site, thinking that the reader must be making up such a derogatory statement. In other words, I couldn't believe that even 9 Marks would say such a thing.
Well, he was telling the truth. I then found another 9 Marks article that seems to indicate that there is a concerning lack of respect for both our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox friends. Just so you understand my bias, my father was Russian Orthodox. Although he was not a devout man until the very last weeks of his life, I grew up attending the festivals and celebrations. I knew some deeply committed Christians in that setting. I also have been privileged to know a number of Catholic priests. Fr Bryan Ochs has commented on this blog. Frankly, some of them have struck me as more godly than some of the megachurch stars and their fanboys.
I guess this might sum up my position on this subject. I believe that there are devout Christians present in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and 9 Marks churches, SBC churches, PCA churches and also among those who do not attend church. I also believe that there are nonbelievers in all of these entities. (Dee hits the ground, incoming……….)
Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are "bad" people. Calvinistas are "good" and not like them Catholics.
This first post was published in 2009 in the 9 Marks Journal. The purpose of Putting Contextualization in its Place is to discuss how to share the gospel in a culturally sensitive manner without taking away from the message. The author's name is not mentioned. The first part of this post is interesting and relatively noninflammatory. The author discusses four areas for Christians to consider in a cross cultural setting.
1. Give Up Your Rights
As a free American, I have a "right" to do a lot of things that would be offensive in my new cultural context: wear my shoes indoors, eat or touch someone with my left hand, put up a fence around my own yard without my local community leader's permission, or even leave a Central Asian birthday party before the rice is served!
2. Become a Servant of Non-Believers
So Paul not only chose not to make use of his rights, he went farther and chose to make himself the servant of those whom he is trying to reach with the gospel.
3. Adapt to Others' Lifestyle as Much as Possible Without Sinning
(Paul) He became all things to all people that by all means he might save some. He identified with the people he was trying to reach. He adapted his lifestyle to theirs in anything that might block them from hearing the gospel. He valued the gospel more than his own rights,
4. Stay Within the Bounds of Scripture
The same must apply to us. Every human culture reflects common grace, but every culture also reflects the fall. We must not adapt to that which contradicts Scripture.
The author then turns his attention to the Muslim culture and suggests ways to engage them with the gospel. Apparently, the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox people are quite "bad" and our "good," 9 Marks boy does not want to be associated with them.
In this context, the word "Christian" can be particularly problematic. To much of the Muslim world, America, Europe, and Russia are "Christian" societies, and whatever is true for those countries is true of Christianity. Thus, when a Central Asian Muslim asks me if I am a Christian, what they mean by "Christian" is an alcohol-drinking, pornography-watching, sexually promiscuous, picture-worshipping Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic person who is part of the culture that has attempted to conquer and oppress them for centuries. Therefore, I never simply say yes. However, since Christian is a biblical word, neither do I say no. I define who I am in biblical terms apart from their historical experience.
How do I give this guy the benefit of the doubt? Perhaps he is naive and has forgotten about 9/11. The United States, founded by the Puritans and dominated in the South by Southern Baptists, has been the object of particular scorn by some Muslim groups. Does the term "The Great Satan" ring a bell?
As for the "good" Protestants, well, 9 Marks, along with all of their buddies in The Gospel Coalition, have written post after post on the pornography problem in their churches; the issues surrounding sexual promiscuity amongst their young; and those who have difficulties with substance abuse. As for worshipping images, well, I guess Protestants do it a bit differently. We just have conferences in which the celebrity pastors are held up for particular praise. Then, there is the stained glass window at SWBTS with a picture of Dorothy and Paige Patterson. Then, there are the mobs, trying to get their Bible autographed by John Piper and other super Christians. Nah-we don't look any different and to say so is arrogant and deceptive.
9 Marks trashes InterVarsity over their acceptance of Catholics in student leadership.
Then, I began to wonder, is this an isolated post with the author having a bad day or is there more? Unfortunately, I found another disconcerting 9 Marks post. It appears that 9 Marks doesn't want Catholics to be in any leadership position in InterVarsity because they don't get the gospel.™
In 2010, the 9 Marks Journal published What's Happening to InterVarsity? This was written by J Mac Stiles and you need to know who he is.
J. Mack Stiles is a former InterVarsity staff worker. Mack and his family currently reside in Dubai where he serves as an elder in the Redeemer Church of Dubai.
There are two 9 Marks churches in Dubai, a very rich city. Remember that. These guys are not slogging in the slums of India. They are tending to the well off people who are sent by their companies to work in Dubai. The UCCD 9 Marks church is the one which gave Todd Wilhelm the left boot of fellowship. Stiles is the head pastor of Redeemer and is very close to John Folmar of UCCD who is a close friend of Mark Dever. Mac Stiles truly represents 9 Marks.
Now, think back to the first post. It dealt with cross cultural contextualization in a Muslim country. Dubai is the most populous city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates according to Wikipedia. It is in a Muslim country but allows Christians to worship in churches within Dubai.
My guess is that Stiles agrees with the first post in its representation of Roman Catholics. In fact, he believes in the marginalization of Roman Catholics, particularly in any group that he joins. He used to work for InterVarsity but now he is with a real gospel™ group instead. So, he gives us a negative look at his previous employer.
It appears that those "alcohol-drinking, pornography-watching, sexually promiscuous, picture-worshipping Roman Catholic" students want to be involved in the leadership of InterVarsity. Gasp!! This is a parachurch organization which is not affiliated with any particular denomination. As some of you may know, parachurch groups are the latest target of the Calvinistas. They believe that they should be "under the authority" of the local church which really means any 5 point Calvinist church that is a member of their club. However, that defeats the purpose of such groups.
Here is what Stiles had to say about his old group.
But lately InterVarsity seems adrift.
A recent Christianity Today article chronicles the pressure a group of InterVarsity students felt to include practicing Roman Catholics on their leadership team. When the students discovered that IV's new doctrinal statement allowed for Roman Catholics in good standing to sign on, they decided to separate from IV. The national president of IV wrote a response, but seemed defensive and never answered the question, "How many Catholics are on staff with IV?" Sadly, this was a double personal blow as one of the students on the leadership team was my son, who had looked forward for much of his life to being a part of IV on campus, but was disillusioned by the shape of doctrine in IV.
The very Gospel™ is at stake according to Stiles. He claims that thoughtful™ Catholics agree with him but gives no evidence of such.
What's happening to InterVarsity? Has the fellowship become so thoughtless about its theology that it now rejects the solas of the Reformation? I understand that Catholics can be born again. I am happy to partner with Catholics on moral issues in the political arena such as religious liberty. But to partner with Roman Catholics in gospel outreach is a confusion of the gospel. Thoughtful Catholics agree. So, why is IV confused? I worry that it is because IV is muddled about the gospel.
What's at stake is confusion over the Gospel.
One of the amusing comments in this post is the following.
An egalitarian stand on women in ministry is so sacrosanct that complementarians are unwelcome in IV.
Pastor Stiles, let's get something straight. The Gospel Coalition, the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and just about every conference out there, all para-church, do not allow an egalitarian point of view. In fact, in one Southern region, a few pastors and seminarians got together and told some students not to attend InterVarsity because they allow women in leadership. So cut the rhetoric. If you don't want a woman leading your Bible study, stay home and read a CJ Mahaney book on humility. You guys seem to like his style.
It appears that he is upset that some groups do not worship at the altar of John Piper and actually like NT Wright instead! Batten the hatches!
. Not only that, but InterVarsity seems more and more willing to partner with churches that do not hold to the gospel, from liberal protestant churches to the Roman Catholic church. At the same time, IV is breaking fellowship with people who are solidly evangelical: John Piper, for example, is a persona non grata because of his view of women in ministry. Yet N.T. Wright, who's book Justification opens the door for a quasi-Catholic view of justification, speaks regularly at IV conferences.
Here is a little 9 Marks hypocrisy for you. It appears Stiles was disturbed that Bono was allowed to speak at the InterVarsity Missions Conference in Urbana.
It's disturbing, for example, that Bono had a live video feed into the last Urbana Missions Conference, drumming up support for work with AIDS victims. I don't have anything against Bono or those who work with people stricken by AIDS, but I could come up with a hundred people, rather than Bono, who should speak about why we should work with AIDS victims as an implication of gospel.
Wheaton College also had Bono speak in 2002. The school has long been warm towards Neo-Reformed theology and so he gets to overlook that. (PS Dee likes Bono and would have loved to hear him. He is most convicting). So, unless the speaker is on Stile's definitive list of 100 speakers (all of whom will be ardent complementarians, by the way) it will not be the true gospel.™
What is his solution? Well, turn to the real Christians who are NeoReformed. Let's throw the bums out of IV leadership and get some real leaders that preach strict complementarianism and have John Piper and Al Mohler speak at all conferences. Them's the real gospel™.
There is still time for IV to turn things around. I'm hopeful. It's been done before. Just look at what the leadership of Al Mohler did for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. But if IV continues to be forgetful of its mission, confused about the gospel, fearful of the world, and pragmatic about ministry, there is little hope for IV to ever become again what it once was: a force for truly evangelical gospel ministry.
To our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox friends out there, I apologize that you had to read this nonsense. You are always welcome on this blog. We know many, many evangelicals who would disagree with this perspective. I wish that 9 Marks had a heart as expressed by Pope Francis in this video.
To 9 Marks, listen to Pope Francis in this video. Do you know how to express love as he does? You can do better than these two posts.
To our readers, this is a beautiful expression of unity from Pope Francis. At a meeting I attended a year ago, Luis Palau, a well known evangelical, told us that Pope Francis asked him to lay hands on him and pray when Francis was elevated to cardinal. I wish some of our leaders would be so humble.
Pope Francis' Message on Christian Unity to Pentecostal Conference
Lydia's Corner: Amos 4:1-6:14 Revelation 2:18-3:6 Psalm 130:1-8 Proverbs 29:21-22