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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Deleting Distinctives

Dr. Mohler writes about concerns for the demand of some for a "Third Way" that would include affirming homosexual behavior in the Southern Baptist Church. I talked about the concept yesterday. The Southern Baptist pastor hasn't decided that Scripture demands embracing homosexual behavior as good; he suggests that his circumstances and experience make it necessary. So the pastor has decided to affirm that which the Bible condemns and calls it "Southern Baptist" just the same.

This is what strikes me as odd. And it's not just this case. It is a common perspective, it seems. The Baptists, for instance, have distinctives. There are things about the Baptists that set them apart from, say, the Episcopalians or the Lutherans or the Methodists. What makes a Baptist a Baptist? Well, the name is one clue. They hold to believer's baptism which includes immersion and, well, faith. They don't baptize babies. After that it gets a little ... hazy. You see, usually the distinctives aren't singular. Usually it's a group of things stuck together, a particular doctrinal set that, as a whole, causes one group to differ from another. So what makes Baptist different than others? Baptists share a common theology, common ecclesiology (church government), and a shared emphasis on missions. Their common theology includes the Lordship of Christ, the authority, sufficiency, and inerrancy of Scripture, the ability of each human to relate to God without a priest (called "soul competency"), salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the priesthood of each believer, the symbolism (vs efficacy) of baptism and Communion, and others. So now we come to this Southern Baptist church in La Mirada whose pastor has decided that, in the matter of homosexual behavior, the Bible and all of Church history is wrong and he's right. What does he do? Does he step down? "Look, I get that this flies in the face of Southern Baptist beliefs, so I'll get out of the way." No! His call is to delete the distinctive authority, sufficiency, and inerrancy of Scripture and call for a "Third Way".

That's the Southern Baptist example, but it's not the only one. The most common arena is the whole of Christianity. What makes Christianity different than every other religion on the world market? I mean, why do we send missionaries to bring people to Christ if Islam or Mormonism or Hinduism or the like are all suitable substitutes? What's the difference? The primary difference between Christianity and every other religion is, of course, Christ. (That's an "of course" because He's in the name.) Every other religion operates on the basis of "Be good enough" (defining that in various ways) and you'll get to heaven. Christianity begins with "You'll never be good enough" and offers, instead, Christ. We have the Atonement of Christ while everyone else is working it off. We have the call to exclusivity by Christ (John 14:6). "No one comes to the Father except through Me." Every other religion is a religion, but Christianity is a religion built on a relationship with God through Christ. And, of course, we have the unique death and resurrection of Christ. Totally unique. And no other religion has a true Trinity -- a three-in-one God. And all of this is attested to by the highly unusual book, breathed by God through human authors, that we call the Bible. These together, along with other items and corollaries, make Christianity unique.

So, what do we get? We get people that argue that Christ is not the only way. We get people -- Christians in name, mind you -- who suggest that Christ's death was not a substitionary atonement. I know of pastors of Christian churches that deny the deity of Christ and even the existence of Christ. People inside churches ask us to stop this exclusivity thing. Some suggest we are saved by works "as everyone knows" while others suggest that obedience to Christ is pointless. And a loud contingent are quite certain that we need to drop this whole stance on the reliability, authority, and sufficiency of God's Word.

These people are attempting to delete those things that make Christianity distinct from other religions. They don't say, "Well, you go ahead and keep that and we'll go with our differences elsewhere." No, it is their aim to dismantle that which makes Christianity different and still call it "Christianity". It's the same problem Paul addressed in the church in Galatia with "another gospel" which was not another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9) where they suggested we were saved by works or in the church in Corinth where they suggested that morality wasn't an issue (1 Cor 5:1-13; 6:9-10, etc.). It has been the case throughout Church history that some who wished to change Church doctrine have sought to dismantle the things that make the Church the Church and Christianity Christianity. For some reason, they don't simply move on to their own brand of religion and leave Christianity alone. They seem to want to have both -- delete what makes it Christianity and call it "Christianity".

It doesn't work. You can't change what defines a thing and call it the same thing. You can't redefine "black" to mean "red" and still call it "black". You can't redefine "murder" to not include a particular group of humans and not call it "murder". You can't delete the sufficiency of Scripture, the resurrection of Christ, the Deity of Christ, or the other distinctives that make Christianity what it is and call it "Christianity". I don't mind people who wish to leave these distinctives and start their own. Just don't call it "Christian."


Neil said...

Exactly! God graciously gave us clear distinctives so we would know what is and isn't Christianity. It is through biblical illiteracy of the congregations and some word-parsing of the wolves that people don't see the obvious: So many leaders (and followers) are simply non-Christians.

Stan said...

It's actually a little frightening, when we admit that so many leaders of churches are not disciples of Christ, to think of Jesus's dire warning, "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones" (Luke 17:2).

David said...

There is a chain of churches that I refuse to go to on the principle of something I heard ONE of their lead pastors say. If one pastor in a chain of churches can destroy the credibility of that chain, how much more can thousands of false teachers destroy the credibility of Christianity?

Jim Jordan said...

I think the scariest thing is that most churchgoers and perhaps most pastors don't understand the concept of sin itself. Minimizing sin is the Stage 4 cancer of the sin of unbelief. And it's everywhere in America.