Cool Academia has a Place – but not always

I have been thinking a lot lately about how we are often pressured, especially in the world of theology and writing and blogging, to maintain a cool professionalism that never gets torqued.  A polite respectability if you will that leaves room for honest debate on an issue without attacking the other person personally (ad hominem as they say – “against the man”).  And certainly this is proper and right in many situations.

For example, if we are debating whether the Son has eternally been subordinate to the Father (not in being, but in role), or whether this subordination began only when the Son became incarnate, then all respect is due one party to the other.  What is the precise nature of the Lord’s Supper?  Is biblical eschatology pre-, post-, or a- millennial? Those sorts of things.

But there are other debates in which I reject the charge of being “too emotional” about. In fact, I maintain that anyone debating these kinds of issues had good and well better be emotional. Angry if you will. And even that we have the right and duty to charge the opponent with, well, sin.

Abuse is an arena that needs to be emotionally charged.  This is something that we need to be angry about.  Oh, not angry all the time and in every discussion – some people just need to hear the facts about abuse and how victims are being dealt great injustice in our churches.  But I am talking about people who actively, stubbornly, and often arrogantly push injustice and oppression onto victims through their Pharisaical and “lording it over” attitude.

Yes, I have an example.  The “permanence view” of marriage.

When I read a book or hear a church leader or someone like that teaching and writing and insisting that the Bible teaches that marriage cannot be broken for any reason, that even if a spouse leaves and marries another, the wronged party cannot remarry as long as that spouse is still alive, and that if they do file the divorce papers, for example, for ANY reason, or if they remarry while the ex-spouse is still alive (even thought that ex is the one who departed the marriage), then they are subject to church discipline – I get angry. And if I ever get into a debate with one of these types and they are hard-headed and arrogant, then I am going to right out tell them that what they are teaching is wicked and that it is oppressing the weak and they are lording it over Jesus’ people.  This is no mere cool, objective, academic debate issue.

Think about it.  Church leaders who embrace this permanence business exalt themselves above many, many other godly men and women in the history of the church and in the present church who reject that position.  Yet the permanence guys insist they are right.  In fact, they are so confident that they are right that they are willing to label any member of their church who divorces or remarries as an unrepentant sinner who must be ex-communicated from their church. If that is not lording it over the flock, then I don’t know what is.  Think it through carefully. What must go on in a church leader’s mind for him to be willing to enforce this on people? And to teach it from their pulpit as being the only true interpretation of the difficult issue of marriage, divorce, and remarriage?  I conclude that it takes tremendous arrogance mixed with at least a sprinkling of the spirit of Diotrephes (3 John).

“Oh, but that is too harsh, Jeff. You need to be more like Christ here and not be so emotional or angry. That’s not very scholarly.”  Really? I simply give this as my answer:

Matthew 23:1-7  Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, (2) “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, (3) so practice and observe whatever they tell you — but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. (4) They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (5) They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, (6) and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues (7) and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (24) You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Cool? Non-emotional? Respectful of the opponent? No way. What, are we going to say? That Christ wasn’t very Christian here?

Now, you might be thinking – “boy, but are these fellows who teach the permanence view of marriage really to be labeled by us as being of the same ilk as those Pharisees Jesus blasted? Are we saying that they preach, but do not practice? That they tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people all the while refusing to carry that burden themselves? Are we claiming that they love to be….first?”

Well, just think it through again. What kind of person does it take to preach and teach that the Bible forbids divorce for ANY reason, and that re-marriage is adultery (if an ex-spouse is still living), and THEN to make those teachings binding, upon pain of ex-communication? What kind of person does it take to elevate oneself to that kind of position? Think about it long enough and you will have your answer. And you will be ticked off.

A Thought for Today from Jeremiah 5

 

I am just going to quote a Scripture here.  This passage pretty well nails the scenario in our churches today that most all of us have experienced and which we are trying to expose.  I like the Lord’s promise of His justice upon such evil and thought these verses might be an encouragement to all of you as well:

Jeremiah 5:26-31 For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. (27) Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; (28) they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. (29) Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the LORD, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?” (30) An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: (31) the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?

Why Aren’t They Hearing the Good Shepherd?

 

They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.  (John 4:5-6)

Many professing Christians seem to have little or no ability to discern truth from error, or as we might also phrase it, evil from good. And yet the Bible is quite plain that all real Christians are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ who is also known as the Spirit of truth. The Spirit enables the Christian to hear the Shepherd’s voice, to listen to and recognize God’s Word, and to reject all counterfeits.

When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”  (John 10:4-5)

Abusers are of the evil one. For all of their amazing deceptions and disguises, ultimately they cannot deceive Christ’s people because the Spirit in us reveals to us who they really are. And yet we are seeing many who profess to know Christ stumble at all this. Evil is exposed. False teachers who abuse others and work to bring them into bondage are rebuked. Scriptures that speak to these very things are taught and preached regularly. Yet, we see many simply fail to “get it.” Why?

Most abuse victims and survivors will tell you that it took a long, long time for the lights to come on so that they finally realized over time just what this thing was that was happening to them. They started to see the real person that their abuser was. They will tell you how the Lord opened their eyes to see it. But they saw it. Eventually, they saw it. They knew.

Why then, we ask once more, are so many people who claim to be Christians not only remaining blind to the evil of abuse right in their own pews, but actively opposing its exposure? Why are they refusing to believe victims, and why are they enabling and protecting the wicked?

Could it just perhaps be that they do not have the capacity to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice? Could it be that they are still of the world, and march to the world’s drum rather than Christ’s?

Nothing exposes the real nature of a church and its members than how they respond to the cries of the downtrodden.