Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Sin of Racial Division

 Claim: It is a sin to divide the body of Christ.

The Psalmist wrote, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! (Ps. 133:1) The Hebrew word yaḥad appears 47x in the Hebrew text. 25 of those times it is translated together. The song is a wonderful expression of unity among the elect of God. Derek Kidner comments, All Israelites, including even debtors, slaves and offenders (cf. e.g. Deut. 15:3, 12; 25:3), were brothers in God’s sight. The psalm is surely singing, as most versions have taken it to be, of living up to this ideal, giving depth and reality to the emphasized word, ‘together’.

In his high priestly prayer, Jesus himself prayed, I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (John 17:23) Jesus prayed that we might be teteleiōmenoi eis hen, perfected in one. This was not a secondary matter where our Lord is concerned. It was so important to him that he prayed specifically for the unity of his followers, such a unity that we would be one similar to the oneness we see in the Trinity. One reason for this display of public unity is so that the world would see that unity and know that God is in us. That should be enough to cause us to pause and think about our public disputes with a great deal of humility and concern.

The apostle Paul wrote to the ancient church at Ephesus, telling them that God had placed ministry gifts into the body of Christ specifically for the purpose of unity: until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:13) The very existence of the gifts of teacher, pastor, apostle, evangelist, and prophet was for the purpose of unity in the body. Of course, that unity was not unity for unity’s sake. For Paul says here, the “unity of the faith.” So, unity for unity’s sake is not the goal. The unity that the psalmist sang about, that Jesus prayed for, that Paul talked about and commanded, was a unity in God, in Christ, in the faith. And that means something very specific. We will return to that momentarily.

Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers to be of the same mind. This was a church that was struggling terribly with division. Unity was a priority for Paul. In the same sentence he says “and of the same purpose, or opinion, or judgment. (1 Cor. 1:10) That there were quarrels among the Corinthians is made plain in the next verse. And the quarrels were themselves, petty. This should not have been the case. And it should not be the case with the true church today. The true church must find a way to re-establish its identity in the culture. Right now, the church looks like a splintered faction of thousands of different versions of Christ. The state of affairs that has obtained is deplorable. Something must be done to right the ship. My prayer is that God would raise up leaders with the right kind of wisdom and insight and courage to lead the one body of Christ as that body should be led. Right now, it is clear that there are very few “leaders” who fit that bill.

My claim, then, to state it again is simple: It is a sin to divide the body of Christ. The four paragraphs above, containing a variety of biblical texts provide the ground for my claim. The argument then looks like this at this point: The Old Testament, Jesus, and Paul all instruct the church to walk in unity. Therefore, it is a sin to divide the body of Christ.

Now, the title of this post is The Sin of Racial Division. If it is a sin to divide the body of Christ, then it is a sin for the body of Christ to be divided by any criteria apart from that which unifies the body. If we are in Christ, we are one in his body. We are one in Christ. Despite this unity in Christ, there are a variety of ideologies in society that would seek to divide the body. When the #MeToo movement makes its way into the church and female Christians begin to group together on one side and to make demands of all men as a group on the other side, make no mistake about it; that is division in the body. It is sinful, and it should be avoided at all cost. It should be avoided for the sake of the glory of God and for the sake of the witness of the gospel. Unity is a critical component in the witness of the gospel. Without it, the witness of the gospel is compromised, weakened.

There are number of leaders and entities at present who are engaging in behavior that is dividing the body of Christ over the issue of race. Men like Russell Moore, Ron Burns, David Platt, Matt Chandler, J.D. Greer, Danny Akin, the ERLC, the SBC, and others have adopted a form of socialism that has eclipsed the gospel and the mission of the church in my opinion. First, these men have wrongly accepted the race war that is taking place in secular society. This was a war that seemed to be taking its last breath until Barrack Obama moved into the White House. Since then, it seems to have found its second wind. The same thinking that shapes the secular debate is now shaping the thinking of men in the church. And that is the idea that it is acceptable for us, as Christians, to continue to adopt the world’s thinking around how we classify ourselves from a racial standpoint. It is unfortunate but irrelevant that America, at one point in time in her history began to identify humans based on something as silly as the genetic variant SLC24A5. There is more to it than that. American history contains racial sin. It involved slavery. No one should try to deny that. It is a fact of history. But God is sovereign over all of human history. God ordained slavery. That there would be racial sin in American history was part of God’s divine plan from the beginning. We recognize this and while we understand that this does not excuse human behavior, it should help us adopt the right attitude about it, like say, the attitude that Joseph had: what you intended for evil, God intended for good. It was through slavery that God preserved the nation of Israel for his glory and their good.

Recently, the president of the SBC, Steve Gaines along with other leaders have decided to add diversity as a qualification for leadership appointments under their charge. The problem with this practice is that it is completely devoid of Biblical grounding. There is no warrant for this kind of thinking to be found in Scripture. Where it is located and widespread is politics and corporate America. I should point out, before you disagree with me, that I am employed in Human Resources is a very large American corporation. I speak from an informed standpoint. I am very acquainted with affirmative action and diversity in the workplace.

In the middle of this social justice, racial reconciliation thrust is this notion of identity. Those pushing a social justice agenda and racial reconciliation continue to divide Christians based on this variant SLC24A5. They divide white Christians from black Christians, pull out some statistics, toss out terms like white privilege and systemic racism and justice. In so doing, they are dividing the body of Christ. They are dividing Christians from Christians. They are doing this by insisting on identifying Christians based on this genetic variant. Once everyone is identified in the very same unscientific manner in which unenlightened society identified human beings, these brothers in Christ then trot out the American history of slavery and racism and remind black Christians of how oppressive white Christians were in the past. This does nothing to edify the body. It only serves to spark emotions of anger, hurt, and baseless guilt. The black Christian is angered about what happened to his ancestors in years gone by, and the white Christian is angered that they are charged with sins they did not participate in, perhaps sins of their ancestors or perhaps not. To add insult to injury, these irresponsible men then trot out statistics and “facts” to support their claim that white Christians, evangelicalism to be specific, is still entrenched in racism. It does not seem to matter to these brothers that it is a fact that statistics in and of themselves cannot be used by and large to prove racism. All of the studies that demonstrate this fallacious way of thinking is simply ignored by these men in preference for their own inferior way of thinking and their fallacious arguments. There are a number of factors that go into why things are the way they are in American society. Human behavior far too complex for a spreadsheet to interpret. One has to get under the hood of these statistics in order understand and interpret the data properly. To do anything less is not only irresponsible, in this case, it is reprehensible.

The end result of all this behavior is to divide the body of Christ. It does not seem to matter that the Old Testament, Jesus Christ, and Paul all mandated unity in the church for the sake of the body, for the sake of the witness of the gospel and for the glory of God. It does not seem to matter to these men that the Bible, in no way, shape or form, condones or supports choosing leaders based on some physical characteristic like melanin. It does not seem to matter to these men that the Bible condemns division in the body of Christ for any reason other than doctrine or morality. These men continue to contradict the mandate of Christ for unity. These men are sowing discord among the brothers by reminding them of sins past; by making arguments that are without exegetical warrant; and by violating sound scientific research and good methodology. Indeed, the ways in which these arguments falter and fail are too many to count in a blog post such as this. It is enough to say that these arguments should be abandoned by those who make them and sounded rejected by those who hear them.

There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers. (Prov. 6:16-19)

It is a sin to create division in the body of Christ. The social justice movement with its racial reconciliation component is creating division in the body of Christ. Therefore, the social justice movement with its racial reconciliation component is sinful.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Response to the Open Letter Nonsense

Someone informed me recently that it’s open-letter writing season. Who knew? The trouble with writing an open letter to the SBC is twofold: time and space. The number of serious problems that are on the SBC dancefloor at the moment is more than a little daunting. Another problem for me is that I am not a very good writer and I am especially not very good at being a pithy writer. I am so bad at it that even Google cannot help me. So, I ask you to please keep reading and consider it an answer to your prayer for patience.

Recently, Paige Patterson, the president of SWBTS stepped on a landmine in pagan American culture. Patterson dared to suggest that we never advise divorce in the Christian community. Patterson’s advice remains true, he believes, even in situations of physical abuse. As a result of his remarks, a number of SBC and evangelical leaders have expressed disagreement and even outrage. Now, the real purpose of this article is to help you, the reader, better evaluate what is going on in the church, how to think biblically about it, and as a result, how to respond to it, and how to help your family and your church think about and respond as well. I am not a pastor or a professor. I have a secular job. Someone may say that this means I am not a stakeholder. That would be patently false. We, as believers, are all stakeholders in the Christian community. We are such by our calling and election and it is our greatest duty and privilege to be defenders of the Christian faith and the deposit of divine revelation upon which it is based. We have no other option, ethically, but to get involved in this ugly war that is taking place today. Christianity has always been a religion of inconvenience. That remains true today even in the most privileged country in the history of human existence, America.

The purpose of this blog post is not to provide marital counseling. If you are reading this and you are in a situation where physical abuse is taking place, you need to run to your elders and pastors immediately for counsel. That is the only advice I can offer. Go to your leaders and go now. That said, how should the Christian think about divorce and the fact that so many Christian leaders and an innumerable number of “Christian” women are objecting to Patter’s remarks? First, what is the ground for the objection? If the Bible is our only guide and the Bible clearly provides permission for divorce under two and only two circumstances, then what are we to think about the suggestion that abuse is a new ground for biblical divorce? The Bible teaches that divorce is only allowed in cases of unrepentant adultery, or in the case of unbeliever abandonment/divorce. The Bible never encourages, recommends, guides, advises, or suggests that a Christian ought to seek a divorce. That is never the counsel of Scripture. So, when Patterson says he never counsels that women should divorce their husbands in cases of physical abuse, he is in fact counseling exactly the way Scripture instructs.

Now, modern women, and especially modern American women, and especially, modern pagan American women have a problem with this advice. Nothing could be more wicked than abuse as far as these women are concerned. And I agree that abuse is wicked. In fact, I have a younger sister and when she married, I had the traditional big-brother conversation with my new brother-in-law and he knew I meant every word of it. That aside, we have to ask what is driving the current outrage over Patterson’s remarks? Has Patterson said something that is so obviously contradictory to Scripture that we should be offended as believers? No, he has not. That is not the source of the outrage. The source of the outrage is a philosophy that has become deeply embedded in American society, even in American Christians, even in American Christian leaders. That philosophy is clearly at odds with the teachings of Scripture. The philosophy tells us that women deserve to be happy in their relationship with their spouse. It is a right. They are entitled to the kind of marriage that meets their standard. But that is not actually true if one holds to biblical Christianity. Biblical Christianity commands the husband and the wife to be content in their marriage covenant and to love one another.

Recently, Russell Moore has come out to say that physical abuse constitutes abandonment and therefore is grounds for divorce. The abandonment mentioned in 1 Cor. 7 is literal physical abandonment. Moreover, that abandonment itself, in that culture, was divorce. The ancient culture knew nothing of this idea of legal separation and divorce. Hence, when Paul said that if the unbeliever departs, let them depart, that departure itself was the exiting of the marriage covenant. Moore is wrong to suggest that physical abuse constitutes grounds for divorce and that to counsel a woman that way is, for a Christian pastor, reckless and irresponsible.

To add insult to injury, Beth Moore has joined the #MeToo fray and is using the current situation to bolster her own status within evangelicalism. Recently, Beth penned an open letter to her brothers in Christ in which she listed what can only be described as a list of behaviors that she interpreted as micro-aggressions of male abuse. She made much to do of a theologian who supposedly looked her up and down and told her she was prettier than another female speaker. Who knows what this “looked me up and down” actually looked like? In addition, Beth listed a number of other interactions she had with men that she felt were abusive or sexist. And there have been many Christian leaders who have positively responded to Beth: Russ Moore, Matt Chandler, J.D. Greer, and Thabiti Anyabwile just to mention a few. What are we to think about this situation?

Did Beth Moore do what a Christian should have done in these situations? Did she do what a Christian woman should have done in writing an open letter to all of us? I think she should have followed the instructions of Jesus in Matt. 18 and of Paul in Gal. 6:1. When the theologian behaved inappropriately toward her, she should have reminded him of Jesus’ words regarding the sin of adultery and dealing with lust in the heart, that is, if she really was convinced he was lusting. Perhaps it would have been better to have simply addressed the inappropriateness of his comments politely and let it go at that. In act situation, given that the behavior was out of bounds (and I am not saying it was or was not), Beth Moore had a responsibility to her brothers to love them by speaking with them at the time. She didn’t. That is regrettable. And it was wrong. It was a failure on her part to love her brothers just as much as it was a failure on the part of those brothers to love her and treat her with respect to the degree she should be respected. She is a false teacher and in rebellion against God in a number of areas. But I am placing that aside for the purpose of dealing with the issues. There are women who experience these things who are NOT false teachers. They ought to know how to deal with these issues biblically when they encounter them. Beth Moore’s behavior is not in accord with biblical principles. If I had access to Beth as a friend, I would tell her exactly this. That means that those leaders who do have access to Beth ought to be doing just that right now and we should see some sort of retraction and correction from Beth. But instead, we see these men propping up what amounts to behavior that ignores, clearly ignores the mandates of Scripture.

Adding insult to injury, a group of women has signed a letter (HERE) calling on the SWBTS Board of Trustees to take action. The method is one of mob intimidation. We see this in the SJW tribe, and now we are seeing it in the female tribe of American pagan culture that has taken root in and permeated the Christian church. What is driving this behavior? Sin would be the final answer. That said, it’s probably a good idea when we see behavior like this to understand how we are sinning so that we can better equip ourselves going forward to avoid the sin.

In one sense, there is a narcissistic attitude that is prevalent in the culture that has infected the church in two ways: first, there are a ton of false converts in our churches. They don’t know Christ and they don’t want to know him. What they want is the feeling of being a good person that supposedly comes with knowing him. But those who know Christ truly don’t have this sense of being a good person. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The better acquainted we are with our Lord, the better we understand that we are not a good person. The second reason narcissism exists in the church is the neglect of sound teaching methods and training. Thirty-minute SS lessons that are barely interactive and mostly superficial and predominantly geared to my happiness and self-esteem do nothing but contribute to the biblical incompetence that provides fertile soil for this kind of fallacious thinking and unbiblical behavior. People are no self-aware, not reflective enough, not introspective enough to honestly look at themselves and then look at Scripture so that they might be transformed into the image of Christ. And it seems to me that almost all modern Churches in the SBC and evangelicalism have no interest in the purity of the body of Christ. There is no stomach for or toleration of discipline. After all, a shrinking Christianity is a politically powerless Christianity. And now we are getting to the problem.

If you believe that Christianity has a duty to shape the culture, policies, laws, etc., then there are certain conditions that absolutely are vital to such an undertaking. And make no mistake about it, SJW do think that the church has as its mission, the duty to shape the culture in this way. In America, you change the culture through the political process, through protests, civil disobedience, unrest, punishing business whose principles you disagree with, getting people fired etc. These behaviors are all done under the guise of helping the helpless.

Now, in order for the church to have the muscle it needs to carry out this vision, it cannot be weak in number or lacking in credibility. What is needed is a church that is both large in number and sufficiently credible in the eyes of the culture so that it can use those numbers to influence the culture at large. This means that the church needs leaders who have their fingers on the pulse of the culture. You see, if we start excommunicating false-converts before you know, we are too small to matter politically. The only reason Washington pays any attention to evangelicals is that of our size. If we were actually the size of our true converts, we wouldn’t matter. No one would take any interest in us.

Second, we cannot be perceived to hold views that are instantly stigmatized by the world. Consequently, doctrines that society finds outrageous and offensive have to go. Denial of evolution theory is so incredible that we modify our views to get to an old earth, or theistic evolution. Adam and Eve are myths, not literal. The virgin birth can be rejected without consequence. But more importantly, the Christian ethic has to be refreshed so that it does not offend the ethics of society. For example, slavery was not condemned in the Bible. Slavery is racism. Racism is intolerable. Therefore, the Bible is intolerable. This puts these leaders in the unenviable position of having to do gyrations around the Bible’s teaching. The Bible has to be completely reinterpreted so that it doesn’t offend society’s ethics for the sake of the credibility of Christianity. This means these leaders not only come up with all sorts of creative ways to deny that the Bible does not condemn slavery, they must also come up with ways to make the Bible condemn what many modern people consider to be social injustices that amount to racism. This is the price you must pay if Christianity is to have an honored seat at the table.

Now, look at the Patterson issue and the Beth Moore open letter through that lens and think about what you see. Patterson has taken a stand on an issue that Scripture speaks to pretty clearly. However, the ethics revealed in Scripture is contrary to the one espoused by American society. To say that physical abuse is not grounds for divorce or worse, to say that a woman should not ipso facto seek a divorce because her husband has been physically abusive is about as outrageous as being an open racist. In other words, the view itself discredits the one holding it in the eyes of the culture. Your ability to influence evaporates immediately. And if that happens, you cannot even begin to shape the culture in any direction, let alone in the direction you think it should go. To add insult to injury, when Christians adopt these unpopular positions, they are marginalized and suffer extreme stigmatization at the hands of the culture. So, if your opinion of me matters too much to me, then that can serve to influence my own thinking, beliefs, and practices. This is why American society has such influence over the church and her leaders.

We are all susceptible to this kind of thinking. We want to be liked. And when we are not liked we are either hurt or in some cases, angry. I want to be liked. And when I have to say things that I know are going to cost me in that arena, I get angry. We have to be more concerned with God’s mandate to us, with God’s opinion of us than we are of society’s opinion of us. I have to put to death my desire to be liked by others. When that desire is unrestrained, I become less useful to my brothers. My brothers need me to love the truth more than them. And I need my brothers to love the truth more than me. If that state of affairs obtains, then my brothers and I will only love one another more than we would have if we loved the truth less than we love each other. The only way to love your brother more is to love the truth more than you love your brothers. Any time you love your brothers more than you love the truth, then you are not loving your brothers as much as you could or as much as you should.

It seems to me that modern evangelicals and the SBC, as well as some in the reformed community, have become or have been for some time, far too concerned with how society views them. American society has come to believe that Christianity is both intellectually and ethically untenable. Enlightenment philosophies have introduced entirely different criteria for what is intelligent belief and what is ethical behavior. Since these philosophies are antithetical to divine revelation from the start, it is not surprising that they affirm basic presuppositions that are hostile to and contradictory to Christian doctrine. Intellectually, it is simply backward thinking to affirm male headship in the home, at work, or in the church. Once you make such an affirmation, you are summarily dismissed as not credible. There are a number of basic Christian doctrines that fit this category. Miracles, or as add it seems, certain kinds of miracles are also believed to be intellectually untenable. The virgin birth is an example. Andy Stanley is on record as claiming that you do not have to believe in this miracle and many others in order to be a Christian. In other words, if it offends your intellect, you can reject it. God understands. This is true as well for views on relationship and especially divorce. The overwhelming majority of churches stopped excommunicating people for unbiblical divorce years and years ago. It simply isn’t taken seriously which means marriage isn’t taken seriously. This thinking contributed to the pagan notion that same-sex marriage makes sense.

So, when a preacher says abuse isn’t grounds for divorce between Christians, predictably, society finds such doctrine intellectually untenable and even unethical. You see, these women are not going to allow men like Russell Moore and the church at large to restrict abuse to physical abuse. The reason for that is that most women, the majority of women have never suffered physical abuse. I don’t say that to downplay the problem of abuse. It is a problem even if the numbers are low. That is not the subject of this post. Read me that way and you have misread me completely. Many women have suffered emotional and mental abuse, economic abuse, and a number of other abuses, so-called. Who gets to decide? The woman, who else? If it is true that physical abuse is grounds for divorce, then why not any other type of abuse? The door swings open wide now, doesn’t it. And why? Because the Bible swings it open wide? Nope! Leaders who are more concerned with the idea that society finds Christianity, and specifically, the SBC and evangelicalism both intellectually and ethically tenable. Only if that is true can we grow our numbers and grab the political capital we need to shape the culture. It is vital that Christian doctrine is held in high esteem by society. If we prove to be intellectually bankrupt or ethically repugnant, we have lost all hope that we can shape the path forward, or so the current leaders seem to think. They couldn't be more wrong.

I will close with the follow words from Paul: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

The Sin of Racial Division

  Claim: It is a sin to divide the body of Christ. The Psalmist wrote, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwel...