Thursday, May 17, 2012

Speaking of heresy and the Redwoods Presbytery's defiance

“The practical implication is that Redwoods may help set a precedent for defiance of the GAPJC when other ministers are hassled for doing ministry.”(Comment by John Shuck at Redwoods Presbytery Refuses to Rebuke Rev. Jane Spahr.

 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

Ten years ago I was part of a large group of people involved in giving workshops on new religious movements. Although workshop leaders and plenary speakers came from various denominations, the conference was at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville Kentucky. One of the ladies I shared lunch and conversation with was someone who taught at a Christian college in Canada. I still remember her talking about the dire circumstances of the mainline Canadian denominations and what that meant for many small rural churches.

She stated that the churches, mainly made up of older devout members, were being sent pastors who believed in nothing; the older saints having served Christ faithfully for many years, had to endure the ministry of disbelief. I am reminded of this when I read of the Presbytery of the Redwoodsdefiance of the GAPJC’s order to rebuke Janie Spahr.  I am reminded of this as I spend time contemplating the future in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 

Rereading some words by Eugene Peterson from his book Traveling Light a thought, perhaps a conviction, came to me. Peterson, in the book, is writing about the freedom that Jesus gives. It is about the book of Galatians and Paul’s admonishment to not allow others to curb your freedom in Christ. It is about not being afraid of the surrounding culture, either in society or the Church.

I must confess I have been afraid to speak up—about the vigorous and influential pursuit of disbelief, the insults hurled at the orthodox, the fact that a man who disregards all that is biblical and faithful, even the belief in a personal God, will be helping to shape the outcome of the next General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Yes, there will be others at the Assembly that undoubtedly embrace the same non-biblical ideologies as John Shuck. [1] But I know of no one else who so mockingly pushes anti-Christian teachings while at the same time persecuting the saints with his words.

Hans Cornelder, the General Editor, of ChurchandWorld has linked to several of Shucks postings, including, North Carolina... sigh,  The easy solution to the PCUSA's dilemmas and. Will the real Jesus please rise? .* Why do I note this constant diatribe by Shuck? Because when heresy is allowed full rein, Churches die piece by piece. And when a church, or in this case, a denomination dies thousands of lives are hurt, some destroyed. This is Christ’s great plea to some of the churches of Asia Minor that they repent and that there be no need to remove their lampstand from its place. (Rev. 2,3.)

Our denomination is in extreme trouble; as far as apostasy goes, the PCUSA’s record on abortion, sexual perversion and greed link us with apostate movements of the past including Israel’s unfaithfulness in the Old Testament.[2] Following close on the heels of that record are the many teaching and ruling elders who disparage the redemptive death of Jesus Christ on the cross while often failing to affirm biblical Christology.

And it is chilling to see how leadership allows, even encourages such leaders as Shuck and Spahr. There needs to be a time when leaders we all know by name say, “No, I don’t agree with John Shuck—he is heretical and hurting the denomination.” We need a few Martin Luthers to stand.

And in truth it isn’t Shuck or even Spahr who are ruining the denomination; it is partly the leaders in the denomination who fail to discipline. Further it is also leadership which fails to uphold the clear teaching of Scripture. And surely it is the orthodox, myself included, who too often fail to confess straight forwardly our Lord.  

Four times in the book of Judges the text states that there was no king in Israel. Two of those times it states that “everyone” or “every man” did what was right in his own eyes. All of these references have to do with gross sin. Sometimes it is the setting up of an idol and an apostate priest. Another time it is the story of the horrible rape and death of a priest’s concubine and his awful indifference. And yet in 1 Samuel when the people ask for a king both God and Samuel respond with anger. That is because God was to be the king of Israel. God was rejected in Judges. He was rejected in 1 Samuel:

The Lord said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (8:7)

The Church has a King. But still Jesus’ people reject his kingship. And still sin endangers the people of God; too many of us do what is right in our own eyes. The sin and rebellion that is enjoyed this week and touted on too many blogs, web sites and tweets, will be the sin that evolves and darkens the lives of so many needy people.

It is possible that soon those who disbelieve will be sent to those who cannot afford to call a pastor. There is a possibility that those who despise the blood of Christ, who look upon his second coming with distain, who speak only of social justice but never of redemption and transformation, who make fun of the orthodox while promoting their own heresy  will be those who teach most of the the PCUSA’s youth.  

But the Lord of the Church is keeping watch. The little ones, which include the old, are in his care. The Lord of the Church has plans that we cannot see nor even fathom.  There is always a King, a kingdom and grace and mercy because the cross is a reality and the resurrection a fact. And there is freedom—which includes the freedom of the Church to stand against the culture yet stand for the people who need Jesus Christ and his redemptive and transforming power.

*ChurchandWorld covers Presbyterian & Methodist news in particular, as well as news about the global church with opinions about issues that church leaders are interested in, from left to right. It is a subscription site with very reasonable prices.

[1] I have been afraid and hesitant to write about anything that Shuck has written since filing a complaint against him for allowing and using sexually loaded comments on his blog which were aimed at me. I lost the complaint but Shuck for a while cleaned up his blog postings. While he has not allowed anyone to use my name nor has he referred to me, except in a tweet to the Vice Moderator, I have been afraid that the sexual insults would start again.  But now I see that trying to avoid that possibility allows, without debate, for the furtherance of false teaching.

[2]The greedy part of this accusation is just now surfacing as some presbyteries through all kinds of underhanded methods attempt to take property away from those who are leaving.


Jake said...

If Jesus doesn't judge the PCUSA He is going to have to apologize to Israel.

Chas Jay said...

Excellent column, Viola. One sentence caused tears to flow from my eyes. "And surely it is the orthodox, myself included, who too often fail to confess straight forwardly our Lord."
How beautiful. I admire you much like I admire the apostle Paul. You, like Paul, confessed your brokeness that I do not see. It is that very confession of brokeness that His perfection is shown. Such confession that you have made is the defining difference between you and Shuck, Spahr, and whole host of ministers, elders and deacons in the current PCUSA. They speak boldly about their goodness not knowing that Jesus said "None are good but God." They either do not know or conveniently forgotten that our righteousness is like filthy rags.
The mystery of Him is that it is in our weaknesses He is made strong. It is in our confession of our brokeness that His perfection is shown.
Once again, His perfection has been lifted up by you, Viola. You are so faithful to His word and truly bear His fruit. Thank you!!!

Linda lee, mukilteo said...

Thank you for being so faithful in speaking truth to us.
I am reminded that in Judges God raised up individuals like
Deborah and Gideon to fight the battles. This was in the midst of everyone going their own way. I think God is
Doing something like he did for Gideon by taking away
The many soldiers and getting to the "valiant three hundred" to do the work of God. It looks unbelievable that "theee hundred", figurratively speaking, could do the job. But God made it happen.
So, Keep strong in faith that God can raise up spokes person, leaders, and people
who remain faithful, remain in relationship and will be effectiive to do God's work God's way.
You are in my prayers.

Viola Larson said...

Jake, Chas and Linda Lee, Thank you. Chas, you had better stick with Paul, he has a better track record tham me: )
Linda Lee thanks for the enouragement.