|picture by Stephen Larson|
In 2007 Paul Thomas Anderson produced the movie There Will be Blood. Loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil, the movie begins with a man who is not blatantly evil but who in his quest for wealth and power becomes, to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, that ‘monster’ who darkens our nightmares. There is no question—his obsession led to blood. I thought of the movie as I listened to teaching elder Aric Clark give the installation sermon for John Shuck at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton Oregon.
My thoughts were caused by the laughter when Clark spoke of John’s blogging about how the resurrection of Jesus Christ was not true. As Clark put it, “And of course he denied the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.” There was interspersed in the service more denial, more laughter.
Now I suppose that there was something funny people were looking at as Clark preached. Someone referred to watching fades of pastors as Clark spoke. But for a Christian there is nothing funny about a pastor denying the resurrection. But perhaps the most troubling part of the sermon and the laughter is that generally a committee from the presbytery is formed to help with the installation. And generally that includes someone from the committee on ministry and the executive presbyter. Were there other people from other PC (U.S.A.) churches, teaching elders and ruling elders, who were there participating in the laughter?
And this is the main point of my posting—this is the probable future of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The future of a denomination which allows the careless disregard of Christian teaching and leaves in leadership those who think it is all very funny is staggering with great speed into evil. If one loves to make fun of the faithful, as this sermon does, and lifts up a non-believer as the epitome of faithfulness where can those who bear the righteousness of Jesus turn? Where can sinners (all of us) turn?
Clark uses the book of Job as a way of lifting up Shuck as someone who rightly scrutinizes faith. But no, Job questions God about why, since he has followed and obeyed the laws of God, he is suffering. He demands a hearing with God. None of this is disbelief. The book of Job carries some of the most fervent statements of faith in the whole sacred canon. And they aren’t just at the beginning or the end of the text, they are mixed in with the despair and questions.
Take for instance Shuck’s denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Here are Job’s words:
As for Me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take his stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God, whom my eyes will see and not another. (Job 19: 25-27)
Even in Job’s greatest despair, writing of death, in chapter 14, he asks and gives an answer:
If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change comes. You will call, and I will answer you; you will long for the work of your hands. (14: 14-15)
Job’s great statement of faith, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him,” has not been spoken by Shuck.
Is a whole presbytery complicit in making fun of the faith and will other presbyteries take this path because they now feel that it doesn’t matter what one believes? Striving for wealth and power (and the main character in There Will be Blood even attempts to use Christianity in his quest) leads to shattered broken lives and finally murder. Jesus speaks of the person (or a generation) who has had a demon cast out but is empty. He states that the demon will return bringing seven more demons more wicked then himself. Jesus states. “… and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” He goes on to say “That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
More doors keep opening to darkness and the Church must not laugh but weep, and pray and speak of the glories of Jesus Christ which are the redemptive purposes of God.