Monday, July 27, 2015

Moving the sheep to barren pastures: John Shuck's "new" bible

While recovering from my heart surgery I found a relatively easy and fun read, Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson, a Catholic priest. The book is fiction, eschatological and written in 1907. The Lord of the world is the anti-Christ who gathers around him all those who believe that humanity is evolving toward a greater future and are the consciousness for the whole universe. A new evolutionary religion is blooming but evil is at its core. I was reminded of the book while reading a sermon on John Shuck’s sermon blog, Sermon and Jive.

Shuck, a Presbyterian teaching elder, is promoting the need for a new “bible.” One that will better fit with contemporary humanity.  He, like the anti-Christ in the book, sees all religious narratives as part of the evolutionary unfolding of creation. As Shuck puts it:

“The Bible gave us a cosmology and a history.  For it I am grateful.  It provided inspiration for the search.   Now we have to create a new Bible.   It won’t be one book as such, but we are in the process of creating a unifying story of origins, identity, and future hope.   We need our artists, musicians, and storytellers, to help in this great work.    This new Bible, so to speak, will contain all of the other Bibles, all mythology, all religion, all philosophy, and psychology, in short, all human cultural evolution.”  

There are errors in Shuck’s sermon, the first trivial perhaps. Contrary to Shuck’s words the Hindu and the Buddhist do have sacred texts, the Hindu Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita, (which Shuck has used before) and the sutras which belong to Buddhism as well as the Pali Tripitaka.

And Karl Barth, he did not, as Shuck states, retreat when he embraced theology. He in fact returned much of modern theology back to the Trinity since so many of Europe’s enlightenment theologians were Arians, denying the deity of Jesus. In fact it is Barth in his small book Dogmatics in Outline who pointed out that when someone hears a complaint against the Christology of the Nicene Creed they should think of a wolf’s snarl. He wrote:

“There have been many complaints and murmurings over this formula and probably, sooner or later in your studies, you will come up against men of letters and even teachers, who also do the same thing and think it dreadful that this matter should be reduced to this formula. I should be happy to think that, when you meet such complainers, this hour at college may come back to your memory and release a tiny check in you. This inveighing against so-called ‘orthodoxy’ is just a ‘wolf’s snarl’, which an educated man should have nothing to do with.”

And to suggest that the person of Jesus as well as Old Testament characters are “more likely to be composite characters in fictionalized accounts of old myths and legends reframed and retold,” is utter nonsense. Few scholars today deny the historical reality of Jesus.

Shuck’s greatest error is his ideology, because he uses evolution as transcendent truth, he elevates humanity to an untenable place:

“Human beings are not insignificant worms in this story.  We are the self-consciousness of this universe.   It is possible that there is intelligent life somewhere else.   But whether there is or not, we human beings are the self-consciousness of Earth and the Solar System for sure.   We are here and able to tell this incredible story.    Before human beings there were no stories of the universe.  There were no stories of gods, stories of love, stories of sacrifice, stories of sadness.   Self-consciousness emerged from evolution and all of our aspirations and hopes have emerged from our interactions, from our storytelling, from our small Bibles to a larger ever-emerging Bible that is our ongoing life story.”    

It is important to notice here that Shuck’s words, despite his disbelief in a personal God, hold to a certain kind of faith—one that is centered in materialism—but nonetheless a faith. I say this because there is no empirical evidence, no scientific explanation, for how self-consciousness could emerge from evolution. Shuck simply believes that evolution produced self-consciousness.

Shuck also believes that good, without an absolute good creator God, emerges from evolution.  The good is centered in humanity and is named by humanity. This is a path towards disaster. Without the absolutes that belong to the personal creator God of the Bible, which include mercy, compassion, redemption and judgement, humanity either falls into anarchy or develops totalitarianisms. It is like the iron mixed with clay in the biblical book of Daniel. The crumbles are constant, but still the iron overpowers.

Shuck often writes of being a “good” ancestor, but tell that to a dying person. In the book, Lord of the World, the heroine, who along with her husband believes in the same sort of evolutionary ideas Shuck believes, experiences a group of people dying because of a volor [Air-machine] crash. Her conversation with her husband is telling:

“Oliver, what do you say to people when they are dying?”

“Say! Why nothing! What can I say? But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone die.”

“Nor have I till to-day.” Said the girl, and shivered a little. “The euthanasia people were soon at work.”

Oliver took her hand gently.

“My darling, it must have been frightful. Why, you’re trembling still.”

“No; but listen… You know, if I had anything to say I could have said it too. They were all just in front of me: I wondered, then I knew I hadn’t. I couldn’t possibly have talked about Humanity.”

Who will proclaim to Shuck’s congregation the good news of God’s great mercy in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All they will be able to speak of will be the self-consciousness of humanity. The whole focus in this sermon is on gathering the world’s ideas for a new, so called bible. That they are not hearing the good news is Shuck’s great sin, but it is also the sin of his presbytery and synod. The sin belongs to all of us when we have not proclaimed winsomely, without fear, the good news of Jesus, when we have not proclaimed the authority of Scripture, when we have not held out to broken people the gracious promises of God.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Planned Parenthood selling aborted baby parts, may God have mercy ...

How does one set eating food and drinking wine while explaining how you sell aborted baby parts? Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services of Planned Parenthood Federation, talks calmly, over her food about how aborted baby parts are harvested and sold by Planned Parenthood affiliates. What lies ahead is unfathomable horror.

We have reached the level of Nazism which was and is paganism. God’s judgement on this nation will surely be great if we do not repent and turn from our horrific sin. If we belong to Jesus Christ we must stand against this.

“The Church confesses that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force, the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people, oppression, hatred and murder, and that she has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims and has not found ways to hasten to their aid. She is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers [and sisters] of Christ. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Ethics)

Yes, many in the church are standing strong against killing unborn babies, but in my denomination, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), such killing is encouraged. This knowledge of the selling of body parts simply adds to the feelings of guilt, shame and sorrow many of us experience. May our Lord have mercy.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Schism, heresy and control

So what is schism? How does it fit with heresy? Part of my thoughts are at the moment centered on a little church in Northern California, Burney Presbyterian Church. The Sacramento Presbytery held a special meeting to vote on a motion to place an administrative commission over the Burney church. This is the motion:

With the determination of the Administrative Commission appointed to the Burney Presbyterian Church on February 28, 2015, determining that there is a schism pursuant to the Book of Order (G-4.0207), that the presbytery take immediate action and take original jurisdiction of the Burney church, and continue the relationship with the PC(USA) in all means of its ministries.

The first AC appointed to the church simply determined that they were in schism but were not allowed to act on their assumption. At the meeting, to the Presbytery’s credit, members of the church were allowed to speak. But commissioners were not offered the first AC’s report and so the only reason given to commissioners for stating the church was in schism was that several people, including two session members, did not wish to leave the PC (U.S.A) while the other four session members did. Most Burney church members want to leave and spoke out at the meeting.

The above means that in the Sacramento Presbytery if a church wants to leave the PC (U.S.A.) but a few members do not, the church could easily have an administrative commission placed over them.

During the debate about an amendment to the motion, I noticed that the parliamentarian kept pointing to a paper and stating that it was already there. It turns out this was to be the instructions for the new AC, but none of us had seen it. After a bit of protest the moderator read the instructions. I had trouble hearing her and later voted with those who wanted the instructions added to the motion. After reading them at home today I am sorry I voted yes, but the amendment failed anyway. Here are the instructions:

The Administrative Commission shall:

1.       Confer with the members of the Burney Presbyterian Church to explain fully the process of resolving the discord within the congregation. Special attention is to be given to those members who have stopped attending yet wish to be faithful to the PCUSA.

2.      Dissolve the Session of Burney Presbyterian Church.

3.      Become the governing body of the Burney Presbyterian Church.

4.      Assure the conduct of worship and the preaching of the Word on a weekly basis and assure that pastoral ministry and meeting financial obligations continue.

5.      Identify accurately the members of the congregation who wish to be part of the PCUSA and those who do not want to be a part of the PCUSA.

6.      Identify members of the congregation who are willing to accept necessary leadership roles and responsibilities for the ministry of the church; and, furthermore, give direction and supervision to these leaders.

7.      Assess the viability of the Burney Presbyterian Church as a continuing congregation made up of those members desiring to remain in the PCUSA.

8.     Explore ways of providing assistance, financial or otherwise, to facilitate the viability of the congregation should that be the course of action taken. Such exploration can include, but not be limited to, financial aid from the Presbytery, developing a mission strategy, exploring a “yoked” relationship with another PCUSA church, exploring a federated church arrangement with a church in correspondence with the PCUSA.  

9.      Facilitate the individual transfer of members who do not wish to be part of the PCUSA to a congregation of their choice and with whom the PCUSA has a corresponding relationship allowing transfer of members.

10.  Carry out any other necessary actions to bring this matter to a final resolution.


And yes the motion to place an AC over the church passed.

So what does Calvin have to say about schism and heresy? Well for one, they are not the same. And for another, unity only exists within a body that holds to the essentials of the faith or “sound doctrine” as Calvin puts it. The PC (U.S.A.) has cast aside the authority of Scripture; even half of the denomination’s constitution is now in conflict with both scripture and our confessions. I have quoted Calvin on this just recently. I will do so again:

“The name of heretics and schismatics is applied to those who by dissenting from the Church destroy its communion. This communion is held together by two chains—viz. consent in sound doctrine and brotherly charity. Hence the distinction which Augustine makes between heretics and schismatics is, that the former corrupt the purity of the faith by false dogmas, whereas the latter sometimes, even while holding the same faith, break the bond of union (August, Lib. Quaest. In Evang. Matth.). But the thing to be observed is that this union of charity so depends on unity of faith, as to have in it its beginning, its end, in fine, its only rule.”

It is the PC (U.S.A.) that is causing schism because every church, elder and official that denies or twists scripture, denies the faith and breaks unity with the church universal. A great many, not all, in the denomination, have moved on and are now celebrating the vile sensuality of our fallen culture. Even the stated clerk. Schism has come slithering into the door of our churches by way of deceit, worldly pride and political correctness.

Peter speaks of those who speak arrogant words of vanity. He says they entice by “fleshly desires, by sensuality”—they live in error. Jude speaks of those who have, “crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” John speaks of those who fail to bring their sin to the Savior and his shed blood. (1John 1:5-9)
Yes, the denomination is experiencing schism but not by those departing to other reformed denominations but by those who have so torn apart the truths of scripture that they have left the faithful without a true home.