Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My 2 Cents on our Denomination

Our denomination is a mess. There is a faction that is fed up with the watering down of the gospel and is seeking to be released to join with another denomination. If you don't know already, it is the PC(USA) of which I speak.

Something our denomination doesn't have, which it seems most others do, is essential tenets - a hard copy of those things which are essential to our core beliefs. Now it is my understanding and belief that having few essentials is best, so there are few doors to pass through to be a part of our community. But along with that, one must have SOME essentials, to distinguish oneself, to stand for something. But in our denomination, a standard is looked upon with disdain.

Our presbytery, had a meeting a month ago and a few churches presented a list of essential tenets that they would like adopted by our presbytery, a way a distinguish ourselves and proclaim what we stand for. These tenets are very basic: who is God, who is Jesus, what is the Bible, what is the church. At this meeting, after the essentials were presented there was discussion in regard to adopting or dismissing them. One of our elders was in a group discussion that, to say the least, was disturbing. One pastor said these essentials were offensive because they were narrow-minded and arrogant. Who are we to say that Jesus is the only way to God? Modern biblical criticism, it seems, has shown some folks that the bible isn't as trustworthy or tenable as they'd like, so those passages which "offend" (because it's what a human author intended and not our Creator) are without authority. So the Bible is taken apart and only certain passages (who decides which ones?) are accepted to be of God. A vote was later taken by the presbytery and these essential tenets were not accepted.

Now, if I wanted to become a Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim or Jew I would turn to their holy scriptures and study. I would look to the history and sit under their respective lamas, gurus, imams or rabbis. I would look to see what makes them distinct from other faiths. I would try to let go of my presupposition and adhere to their distinctives.

But in Christianity it seems there's a move (but probably this has been happening since 100 B.C. I'm just not a history student and don't have the time to research), to bring to Christianity those things which we like, appreciate about Buddhism, Islam, etc. and create what God "really" intended for His children with an amalgamation of faiths. Because scholars, pastors, and "thinkers" have this world-view that "God is love and that means He, or She, wouldn't want to deny me my happiness by not being who I am, who I created myself to be" and that conflicts with Scripture, well, let's just say then that those scriptures were written by human hands and not what Jesus intended to say while He was on earth. The belief is the Old Testament is history and myth, the synoptic gospels are what Jesus really said and the epistles (especially Paul) are man's opinion.

In high school I wanted to join a club called the Bengals. My older sister was a Bengal and my friends were all signing up. Problem for me, you needed really good grades and I wasn't a really good student. Of course, I was denied. Those were the rules and I didn't fit so, good-bye Bengals. I didn't try to change the rules. I knew them going in. That's the nature of clubs. Now, I know becoming a believer in Jesus isn't joining a club, but in a way it is.

What makes a Christian and Christian or a church a church is belief in the Creator, His Son, who became incarnate, lived among us...well let the Apostle's Creed to the talking:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.

Amen

So churches are seeking to leave because their tenets are intolerant, bigoted, and narrow-minded, or so say the "progressives" in our denomination. Problem is, these "Bigots" didn't change (actually they did, they seek repentance and recognize humanity must change, repent, when in the presence of a Holy and Awesome God) the "club rules". The "progressives" have re-interpreted, enlightened themselves with a new understanding of what those rules are, so broad they can include anyone, regardless of their desire to repent.

Our women's study this week looked at Herodias and her grudge against John. What was it John preached...repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent - it means to turn 180 degrees from what you were doing to something totally new. It's essential. Turn from that which kills you, others, and which a Holy God can not abide. He is Holy and Good and doesn't want us left in our ways which lead to death and separation from one another and Him. He is good. He changes us when we repent (even giving us the desire to repent when we can't find it in ourselves). But we are not born repentant. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, You must be born again. So, when we are in Christ we are a new creation...we can't abide in what we were. A change takes place. Yes, Jesus loves us as we are but he doesn't keep us there, He makes us better, if we allow Him. What I hear from "progressives" is you don't need that change, God loves you as you are. Period. Full-stop. No change necessary.

The church has been battling itself for centuries. Councils have come together to discuss their difference, they study the Scripture and come up with confessions, creeds but always returning to the truth of God, the essentials. I know this battle will pass away and, unless Christ returns soon, it will be written up as a blip on the church's historical time-line. God is sovereign and in His Holiness He calls to be like Him. Amen!

8 comments:

Heidi said...

My tendency is to want everything nice and neat and tied up with a bow. :)

Our interim pastor preached a sermon about the 'messiness' of the early church. Reading The Silver Chalice recently really brought that home to me. If the early church (so close to the time of Jesus) was so diverse, argumentative, and messy, it is hard to expect complete agreement in this day and age.

But you have to define your beliefs in some way. And have some level of agreement. Cohesiveness is essential for a group (or club) to be effective.

Thanks for the thoughts this morning.

I Was Just Thinking.... said...

Thanks Heidi, the Silver Chalice is on my daughter's to-be-read list and I think I'll be adding to mine!

Heartsong said...

Has your church discussed joining the Evangelical Presbyterians? I am not Presbyterian, but I understand they are gaining congregations swiftly because of their solid, conservative "essentials."

I Was Just Thinking.... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christina Dawn said...

We were members of a church one time and something happened to show the brokeness of the organization. We had a young person come to us and pronounce that they were going to seek the fellowship of a new community. We encouraged him to stay, because every community is broken in it's own way. Yes, we PC(USA) type have a big crack in our cup right now, some of us will escape through that crack and others of us will stay and live with the brokeness. I do not envy the decision that your husband and the elders have in front of them.

Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

wellllllll.....in my particular denomination (actually the one we just left) there isn't alot of theology being thrown about, but instead lots of "other issues" such as homeschooling, alcohol, and various other things you either can do, can't do, or need to hide if you choose to do!

You're spot on when it comes to th whole amalgamation issue. Smart girl you are!!!

Viola said...

Barb,
Thanks for this. You are doing a lot of thinking and I enjoy reading your faithful thoughts.

Bayou Christian said...

I'm a friend of Viola popping through. Good assessment of the situation.

Heidi,
Funny thing about the early church - every one was barely one generation away from politheism so even the elders were relatively new Christians. Of course it was messy.

Every one points back to the first century church as the "good ol' days". It actually makes little sense to expect that; if you pause and think about it - which I just did thanks to you! It would be a utter mess.

Its the first century leaders that we want! And they were hearding cats.

Today I think we are more dealing in a world that is barely a generation away from being Christian and we are trying to win them back?

Maybe - I was just thinking!

thanks gang I appreciate the fresh thoughts.