You can judge the quality of their faith from the way they behave. Discipline is an index to doctrine.-Tertullian link
Link Whose wrong?
A few years back, I wrote Mark Driscoll: He Ain’t No Captain Sullenberger. Driscoll had come out with another one of his odd pronouncements, comparing himself to a skilled pilot. The audacity of his statement left me cold.
“Assume that they have way more data and training than you. Assume they see stuff out of their window you don’t see out of yours. Assume they did the right thing, even if you are wearing your drink, your luggage came flying out of the overhead bin, and you need to buy new underwear to replace the ones you were wearing. Just maybe the pilots saved your life and spared you from a less disruptive turn that would have ended in a fiery crash you never saw coming.”
Who is most likely to trust the pilots? Frequent fliers, those who have been on board long enough to have survived hard banked turns before. And former pilots who have themselves sat in the cockpit of an organization and had to make the same kind of tough decisions.
Who is least likely to trust the pilots? First-time fliers, those who are new to leadership and/or new to the organization and subsequently lack the experience to simply buckle up and ride it out. Also fans of flying who have studied flight and/or visited the cockpit to peer over the pilots' shoulder enough to maintain an illusion that they know how to fly and could do a better job themselves, even though they have no hours in the pilots' chair.”
Read that first paragraph carefully. He is comparing himself to a highly skilled pilot who can see "a fiery crash" coming and who saves the lives of those on the plane. In that post, I compared the training and actions of a real pilot, Captain "We'll be in the Hudson" Sullenberger to the training and actions of Mark Driscoll. Needless to say, Driscoll did not come out smelling like a rose. In fact, he sounds rather weird.
Driscoll likens himself to an airline pilot who, because he is upfront in the cockpit, sees what is going on. His church attendees are the uninformed passengers who cannot see what is coming.
To explain this, he launches into an explanation of bank turns that airliners have to take.
25–30 degrees: 1.1–1.2 g-force on the body, most people won't feel a thing.
45 degrees: 1.5 g-force, people start to feel it
60 degrees: 2-2.5 g-force, people really feel it and start to freak out.
70–80 degrees: Around 5 g-force, people start getting tunnel vision as the blood rushes out of their eyes.
He then goes on to pontificate that an experienced pilot might be forced to make one of those significant turns. He likens himself to that pilot-the guy who has to save the lives of his people. He fusses that, when such a sharp turn is necessary, many people freak out, storm the cabin and trash the pilot after they have, get this, “Landed safely.’
I do not know what newspaper Driscoll has been reading but, when a pilot makes an emergency turn, and lives are saved, the passengers usually give him a standing ovation. You know why? They know it! He has informed them and they clearly see it. This whole analogy is not making sense . But, Driscoll rarely makes sense to me.
So who is in authority over you and what do they have the authority to do or say? Grace to You, John MacArthur's blog, had a post answering the question What is the pastor’s responsibility, besides preaching and studying?I think most people would agree that he represents the thinking of many of today's gospel™ crowd.
Shepherds Are Protectors
Sheep are almost entirely defenseless–they can't kick, scratch, bite, jump, or run. When attacked by a predator, they huddle together rather than running away. That makes them easy prey. Sheep need a protective shepherd in order to survive.
Christians need similar protection from error and those who spread it. Pastors guard their spiritual sheep from going astray and defend them against the savage wolves that would ravage them. Paul admonished the pastors at Ephesus to stay alert and to protect the churches under their care:
(Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:28-30).)
Are you really being taught correct™ doctrine by your authority driven pastors?
So, one of the functions to the authority driven ministry is to protect people from incorrect teaching.This sounds really good, doesn't it? It makes you feel really safe. The question is, "Are you actually safe and is what you are being taught correct?" This is where it gets sticky.
Today I read an excellent article, Setting the Record Straight, by Neil at the Godless in Dixie blog on Patheos. In this post, he looks at the beliefs and actions of those who would be recognized by many to be Christian leaders, meaning they were "in authority."
The word *Christian* is rather difficult to define.
Neil considers the word *Christian* to be a *slippery label.* (I rather like that.)
It is rather convenient that over the last half century so many members of this faith have come to speak of the Christian religion as if it were a single, unified, monolithic thing. The reality is that there isn’t really one single Christianity, but many “christianities,” each one picking fights with the others over matters they swear are so important that thinking differently on those things is tantamount to betraying the gospel itself. Those divisions render them unable to worship under the same roof, unable to train at the same seminaries, and unwilling to share funds for joint mission efforts, property holdings, or sometimes even for local charitable causes.
There once was a time when, if you asked Christians to what religion they belonged, they would reply with the names of their denominations. My Presbyterian grandmother used to speak of Methodists like they belonged to an entirely different religion, and Roman Catholics were most definitely not real Christians. Once upon a time, intermarriage between denominations raised an eyebrow, whereas now it’s a mundane thing—a move which hardly inspires any social commentary.
Christians and the abolition of slavery
In this post, Neil is discussing Tom Keller's book, The Reason for God. He quotes Keller who contends that Christians were leaders in abolishing slavery.
Even though slavery in some form was virtually universal in every human culture over the centuries, it was Christians who first came to the conclusion that it was wrong…[It] was abolished because it was wrong, and Christians were the leaders in saying so. (p.64-65)
He then contends that it isn't as cut and dried as Keller contends.
It appears that both Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield were slave owners. Not only that but Whitfield led the fight to legalize slavery in Georgia.
But hold on a second. Christians were also the leaders in perpetuating this inhumane institution. It was churches that validated, protected, and enshrined the practice of owning other human beings long past the time in which industrial innovation provided a way out of such a heavy dependence on human labor.
One need look no further than to the testimony of Frederick Douglass, who was a former slave, a tireless proponent of the Abolition movement, and a bitter critic of the church’s place in supporting this institution.
Revivals in religion, and revivals in the slave trade, go hand in hand together. The church-going bell and the auctioneer’s bell chime in with each other; the pulpit and the auctioneer’s block stand in the same neighborhood…We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support missionaries, and babies sold to buy bibles and communion services for the churches.
As it turns out, both of the most famous Reformed evangelists of the First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, were slave owners. In fact, not only were they both slave owners, but George Whitefield was himself instrumental in legalizing slavery in the Georgia colony in 1751. Previous to that time, there was a colony-wide ban on slavery, but Whitefield wanted to make his orphanage in Savannah financially self-sufficient, and it was plain to him that such an end could not be achieved until the trustees of the colony agreed to reverse their policy.
Fast forward to the Jim Crow era.
How many of you are aware of the Memphis Kneel Ins? This was an effort to desegregate the Southern Christian churches.
In his book The Last Segregated Hour, Stephen R. Haynes tells of a series of “kneel-ins” meant to expose the resistance of white evangelical churches to the racial integration of their congregations, starting with the Second Presbyterian Church of Memphis, TN.
Joe Purdy (a black student at Memphis State University) and Jim Bullock (a white Southwesterner) attempted to worship at (SPC) in suburban East Memphis. Fearing that the congregation might be targeted for interracial visits, the SPC session had arranged for several men to stand guard. As the students approached the church’s main entrance, Purdy was asked if he was “African.” When he answered, “No. I’m an American, but I’m black,” Purdy and Bullock were told they could not enter the sanctuary…Seeing their path blocked by men in suits and police approaching from the rear, they knelt to pray.
Gender politics and NeoCalvinism
A few years back, we posted a story about about the well known Calvinist, Andy Davis, of First Baptist Church Durham. In that post, FBC Durham’s Andy Davis: Electing a Woman Deacon Is “Wicked”, we covered a number of issues. However, the core issue was that Andy Davis purportedly, prior to his coming, stated he would not change certain things within the church, including the fact that women could be deacons.
Three years after his hire, Davis reportedly changed his mind and called the church to repentance because, get this, they elected a woman deacon over his dead body.
The church membership disobeyed Davis and elected a woman deacon!
They not only elected a woman but they did so over Davis’ vehement objections. Here is what Davis says.
“I began corporate worship at First Baptist Church (FBC) Durham by calling on the members of the church to repent. The church had just elected a woman deacon for the first time in its history, and deacons in our church’s polity were treated as spiritual leaders with shepherding responsibility for the flock. I had been teaching the congregation that Scripture reserves spiritual leadership to men, and I had made private efforts to forestall this result. Still, the church voted in a woman as an authoritative spiritual leader.”
Here is what he had to say about the church members, two of whom I know very well. They are godly, committed wonderful people who serve God in prisons, missions, etc.
“My call was an object of horror to many of the members of the church. They were outraged. In their minds, repentance was something you do at the beginning of the Christian life and then never need to do again. For them, it was as if I were saying, “Because you voted for a woman as a deacon, you are not Christians.”
The problem with authority and doctrine
One of our readers, Anonymous, made a good point today.
The NT does not give us specific guidance in the organizational details of the church or how churches relate to one another. Paul could, and did, command that churches obey what he said. The democratic results at Corinth resulted in a decision to ignore a terrible moral situation.
Paul was even more concerned about the theology behind the moral difficulty. The members of the church were proud that they allowed this supposed "freedom in Christ" within the midst. It is obvious that they did not understand what "freedom in Christ" entailed.
And you are proud! (1Cor5:2 NIV Bible Gateway)
Most would agree that the moral situation in Corinth was pretty cut and dried. Not only that, but Paul was a unique apostle tasked by Jesus to grow the beginning church. But is every leader like Paul? Is today's church really in the same situation as the 1st century.
What is the difference between Paul and today's celebrity Christian leaders?
I would contend that there is a significant difference between the role of Paul and the role of today's Christian leaders. The nascent church was exceedingly vulnerable since the councils which agreed upon the doctrine were merely beginning. Yes, there were letters being passed around. However, there was no Prime Membership for Free Two Day Shipping of Paul's letters.
Paul was fighting real heresy like "sin more in order for God's grace to be revealed more." Paul was listened to very carefully. I believe that God worked in the lives of Paul and the apostles to be sure that the basics of the faith were understood an delineated.
The early church had its hands full in dealing with serious doctrinal issues that were debated at councils, etc. Getting the word out was not easy, in spite of the Pax Romana. Things got even worse as the Empire declined and the people of God scattered throughout the known world. As time went on, the core beliefs of the faith were codified in various forms such as the Nicene Creed.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Once the codification of the core beliefs was finished, the hard work of getting the New Testament and Old Testament into written form and widely disseminated began. We have the many nameless monks in cloistered communities a debt of gratitude for spending their entire lives making copies of the Scriptures. We have the Scriptures, an understanding of the core beliefs of the faith which have stood throughout the millennia, and the writings of many of the early church leaders.
The secondary doctrine wars begin
Throughout the ages church leaders and reformers sought to add their favorite doctrine du jour to the basic faith. Slowly, the belief in *Sola Christus* was eroded. Soon it became Sola Christus+belief in….the sun revolving around the earth; a 6,000 year earth, transubstantiation vs symbolic vs sacramental union in communion; election vs Arminianism, the number of sacraments, should you imbibe alcohol or not; etc.
This is where we are today. We have thousands of denominations with a variety of widely held beliefs and most of the leaders in these church believe that they are 100% correct. If the average person disagrees with them, charges of heresy arise and threats of church discipline and excommunication become commonplace.
We are very quick to excuse our ancestors who held slaves, voted for segregation, etc. However, if one dares to mention they believe in an old earth, charges of serious sin abound. Think about Todd Wilhelm. His former church, UCCD and its leaders voted to discipline him (he was put on the infamous *care* list) because he dared to disagree with their decision to sell books by CJ Mahaney and resigned from the church. This, amongst free men, is considered a right of conscience. He didn't join a new church right away and that is not allowed. UCCD believes that one's very salvation is dependent on being under the authority of pastors in a church at all times. Yet the name of their church is The United Christian Church of Dubai. It is almost laughable that they use the name "united." United? Really?
Here is the problem for all of us. The men who assume their authority over us in matters of doctrine cannot even agree amongst themselves what they believe. For example, 9 Marks' Mark Dever will not led his buddy Ligon Duncan take communion at CHBC because Duncan believes in pedobaptism.
Look at the examples that I gave of the historical authority figures of the church.They held slaves. They were against integration of the church. They jailed Galileo for believing the earth revolves around the sun. And they would have taught us to do the same.
Look at our debates on doctrine: divorce, baptism, tongues, whether women can teach men, birth control, eschatology, etc. Then we have men like John Piper who says women should not be muscular because it leads to violent sex. We have leaders who say 9/11 happened because we took prayer out of the schools. Then there are those who said Hurricane Katrina happened because of gay marriage. Tim Challies does not believe a woman should read Scripture out loud in church.
What's my bottom line? There are far too many examples of stupid doctrinal beliefs proposed by leaders for me to be comfortable that a senior pastor is somehow in authority over me in the area of doctrine. However, I plan to look at the notion of authority over church members on other issues in future posts.
I leave you with this comment written by one of our readers, Nick Bulbeck. He was responding to Somewhereintime who is an ardent believer in young earth creationism. Somewhere made some pretty strong statements and Nick responded. This exchange represents why I am wary of those who are *in authority* in areas of doctrine.
Also, do you still believe the earth to be flat?
Nancy2 was not, of course, claiming the earth to be flat. Quite the reverse: she was pointing out that a plain reading of scripture would support this belief. To be honest, I don’t think her broader point escaped you either: that each and every fragment of scripture must be interpreted before it is accepted, and everybody who reads the bible does this. Everyone makes a choice, subconscious or otherwise, about whether they will take a given fragment of scripture as being standalone and/or “literal”, or metaphorical, or something else.
Whilst I appreciate your warning:
Continue to believe in evolution. That’s your prerogative. But realize that there is a cost in misapplying/misusing scripture to suit ones own personal bias.
… I cannot help but reciprocate, because I hope you are aware of the danger you are flirting with. This statement is a ringing accusation, of a very serious nature. Misapplying or misusing scripture to suit one’s own personal bias is a contemptuous act of rebellion against God. If, then, you are guilty of the same thing, you will be judged according to the measure with which you judge.
Every single scripture-fragment of which you are aware, but which you do not obey to the strict letter in as literal a sense as you interpret Genesis, will stand as a potential testimony against you. Why didn’t you obey it literally? Could it have been to suit your own personal bias? If not, and you are to be allowed to interpret it as you see fit (or, if you prefer, as seems obvious to you), why did you not extend that same grace to your fellow-believers?
Everyone who has ever read the bible – you and me included – has made a whole lot of decisions on how to obey it. The Creation Museum does not, for instance, have a Healing Section in which any visitors who are ill are healed, thereby proving the currently-applicable truth of scripture. Despite the many clear statements in the NT about the miraculous, many creationists are also – inexplicably – cessationists.
Evidently, Somewhereintime, you are not one: I cannot believe you would dare to be so liberal with NT scripture at the same time as making the accusation I cited above. Much less would you be steered towards such a conclusion simply by observing a lack of miracles in the church – that would be to allow scientific observation to over-rule God’s word. But I equally can’t believe you are the first believer ever to come to a reading of scripture that is free of personal bias. For your own good: please, please, think very carefully before you decide we choose doctrines simply because we want to.