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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The State of Theology--the Church

Lifeway in conjunction with Ligonier Ministries did a survey of 3,000 Americans to find out The State of Theology in America. As you might guess, it doesn't look good. (If you're surprised, I'd be surprised.)

There were many questions and it is worth your review, but one of note was this one.
My local church has the authority to declare that I am not a Christian.
In this question an entire 9% agreed strongly or somewhat. Another 10% were not sure. That left 81% who disagreed somewhat (13%) to strongly (68%) with the statement. By far across all demographics Americans are convinced that churches have no authority in drawing conclusions about your status as a believer.

This, of course, is largely a backlash against Roman Catholicism which retains the right to excommunicate you if you violate their standards and whose excommunication includes a sentence of eternal damnation. Oddly, there didn't seem to be a strong response from Roman Catholics that affirmed this Roman Catholic doctrine, so there is more going on here. Another aspect is surely the fact of American independence. We are individuals. We are free. We get to decide, not you. Religion is a personal thing and no one gets to tell me if I'm right or not on this issue.

Ultimately, of course, the problem is a question of worldviews. When Paul turned the young man living in sin with his father's wife over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (1 Cor 5:1-5), was that correct or not? If you take a biblical perspective, it was. If you take a cultural perspective, it wasn't. When Jesus commanded, "If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector" (Matt 18:15-19), was He correct or not? A biblical perspective would assure us He was, but modern sensibilities would deny it. When Paul urged the church at Thessalonica "If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him" (2 Thess 3:14), was he right in saying so or not? A biblical worldview would require he was, and a secular worldview would deny it. Today, the culture stands in opposition (at least in word) to judging, while the Bible affirms the necessity of doing so as well as the role of the Church in it. Which worldview will you assume?

In Roman Catholicism, the Church gets to say whether or not you are going to Hell. If they say you are, you are. I think that the Bible would deny such a position. But, having denied that the Church gets to declare your eternal destiny, I don't think we can take the opposite side and argue that it can say nothing about it. Too many commands from Scripture say that it is the job of the Body of Christ to take care of one another and, when necessary, declare when a "so-called brother" (1 Cor 5:11) has left off living a Christian life. This is an important function of the church (Matt 18:17). And the fact that the church is so often unwilling to do so is leaving its own path of destruction in its wake.


Danny Wright said...

I don't consider Naum a Christian. So, is it right that I think that? Would it be appropriate for me to say, Naum is not a Christian, don't pay any attention to him? I think there is plenty of confusion here. For one, I'm not a church. There was no process of church discipline. I don't know whether or not Naum has sinned, (Mat 18) only that his beliefs are not orthodox. Your thoughts?

Stan said...

Since the New Testament is full of "tests" and warnings about those who are not "of us" and "another gospel" and such, I don't think there's a problem recognizing false teaching. And since the point of the commands on the subject is to bring about repentance, ignoring it in order to be "nice" isn't nice, is it?

Naum said...

Wow @Danny Wright, in asserting that I'm not a Christian, you are playing God in casting judgment! (see Matthew 13:47-50)

And for the record:

I believe in one God, The Father almighty
And in his only begotten son Jesus Christ, our Lord,
And in the Holy Spirit,
Giver of new life,
And in the resurrection of the flesh,
And in one only, apostolic, holy church everywhere,
Which is his church.

Stan said...

@Naum, then it would be your contention that no believer should concern himself or herself with the eternal welfare of his or her fellow humans as long as they contend that they are a Christian? (And, I suppose, it would also follow that you agree with the 81% who argue the church has no right or responsibility to do the same.)

By the way, if Danny's "I don't think Naum is a Christian" is "I think he should be cast into Hell ... immediately", then perhaps the Matthew 13 reference would be appropriate. I'm not at all sure that was his intention, nor, I think, are you.

Danny Wright said...

Would that be special pleading? Naum likes to appeal to scripture, when it suits him, but rejects it when it doesn't. Yet his appeal doesn't even support his argument. But, I guess when one can insert whatever meaning one wants into the words of scripture, in the end it doesn't really matter which scripture is appealed to.

Still, of interest to me, and a thing I find curious, is that I could care less if Naum, not only did not consider me a Christian, but condemned me for not being one. I'm not going to go to his blog, or impugn him for his beliefs. Then why do such things bother him, and his ilk, so, but don't bother me in the least? I honestly have no idea. Perhaps it is because he so desperately wants his false Christianity to be real. But I doubt that. Or maybe it is a tactic of attack wherein someone creates a false religion under the same name as the one they want to rid the world of, then dare anyone say that they are not a part of the religion they are attacking. They could make up new interpretations of scripture and then accuse the true adherents of claiming that their interpretations are the only right ones. It's certainly plausible.

But whatever the reason, as for me, the bottom line as to why I don't care if Naum thinks I'm a Christian or not is because I readily admit that, regardless of the name someone hangs on the door of it, we are not adherents to the same religion. And I have no problem with that, nor, in my opinion, should he. But he does. And those like him do also.

Josh said...

Correction is meant to be done in specific context. That context being an established relationship, and at least first, in private. Above all, this should all be motivated by love. Danny I will not try to assume anything about your intentions of declaring your opinion of Naum's faith, but I am struggling to find any inkling of love there. Like I said, I may be totally wrong, and sometimes typed language comes off harsher than spoken words, but it is something as Christians we must always be mindful of.

You say that you don't care what people say about your faith, so now it seems you are free to say whatever you want about other people's faith. It seems clear that Jesus cares how we interact with each other, and love is always at the heart of it.

When it boils down to it; Are we supposed to correct sin as a Church? Yes, but matter and manner both matter. Love is always the force behind the words, not my "rightness."

One last question Danny. Who are the "true adherents"?

Stan said...

"I am struggling to find any inkling of love there."

I hear you. "I don't feel the love, man!" Um, well, maybe. However, I don't understand. Danny's question was "I don't consider Naum a Christian. Is that wrong to think that way?" At the core, "Is it wrong to recognize and engage people with anti-orthodox beliefs, or can I recognize that I'm not dealing with a believer?" The question is not about Naum, but uses him (her?) as a recent example. So ... what part does love play in that question? Note, also, that correcting in private requires first that the offense was in private. A public offense (such as presenting heretical positions for open discussion on the Internet) requires a public response.

Danny Wright said...

You prove my point, Josh, in your final question. But your question is misdirected. I, a mere man, am simply pointing to scripture and confirming that there are wolves in sheeps clothing, false prophets, false teachers, false shepherds, hirelings, and workers of iniquity who are either purposely teaching falsehoods because they hate God and his law, or they are themselves deceived and think they are in Christ but are not. I am told to beware of such, and I am, and I would be lying if I said that I don't think Nuam is one.

But, you have touched on the most important question that any of us will ever ask, which is not who are the true "adherents", but rather, am I a true believer? If you are satisfied with your answer to that very important question, why would you care what I think about who are the true "adherents"... unless, as I pointed out in my previous post, that such questions are simply a tactic? The question could as easily be turned around. Who are the false teachers the scriptures are so emphatic that we be warned against?