Yes, “Ignorance or Worse”
In the last post in this series I pointed out that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was primarily preached from the Old Testament for at least the first century of Christianity’s existence. I characterized failure to understand this by “New Testament Christians” as “ignorance or worse.” Perhaps some readers were discomforted by this language. But, since the New Testament testifies so unmistakability to this point it can be only by utter ignorance of the New Testament that “New Testament Christians” can hold their position. The “and worse” refers to the Christian heresy of Marcionism, which is summarized as follows (emphasis added).
… a Gnostic sect that flourished in the 2nd century AD. The name derives from Marcion of Asia Minor who, sometime after his arrival in Rome, fell under the influence of Cerdo, a Gnostic Christian, whose stormy relations with the Church of Rome were the consequence of his belief that the God of the Old Testament could be distinguished from the God of the New Testament—the one embodying justice, the other goodness. For accepting, developing, and propagating such ideas, Marcion was expelled from the church in 144 as a heretic, but the movement he headed became both widespread and powerful.
Marcion applied these ideas by constructing a “canon of Scripture” that consisted of Luke and Paul’s Epistles edited to remove all references to the Old Testament. In summary:
He rejected the Old Testament as the document of an alien religion; and he taught that Jesus had come to save humankind from the control of the evil Creator to whom the Old Testament witnesses.
Thus the “New Testament Christians” attitude towards the Old Testament sometimes comes uncomfortably close the Marcion heresy, and occasionally clearly crosses the line. Should people in the Church who seek to diminish or erase the Old Testament be meekly accommodated or vigorously opposed?
Perhaps pointing out that I write within context of my experience as a member in the PCUSA will help to explain my position. What I have witnessed in this denomination is orthodox Reformed members and pastors giving, over decades, every benefit of the doubt to those expressing apostate and even heretical views. Thus, rather than confronting what was actually happening they too often pretended that this was just another legitimate theological debate. Yes, the orthodox Christians imagined that they would surely prevail against such obvious error. They didn’t.
If anyone reading this doubts that the PCUSA has become a comfortable home for open, aggressive heresy, apostasy and atheism then please click on the “Heresy” and “Gnosticism” Categories of this blog. There you will find posts on a past Moderator of the General Assembly openly embracing Gnosticism and a current pastor of one of our most influential churches denying the Christian God. You will also find an ordained and installed PCUSA pastor who is an aggressive atheist. What you will not find is the slightest evidence of effective resistance to these supposed Christian leaders. What you will find is denominational affirmation. The information in these posts shows how utterly ineffective has been the strategy of accommodation by our orthodox-minded members.
Does my position mean that anyone who voices what could be characterized as a non-orthodox view be labeled a heretic, apostate or atheist? Of course not! But, I am saying that we must clearly identify and then confront those ideas among us that lead to great theological error. In the vast majority of cases these ideas are being expressed out of ignorance. But, as the above set of posts on “Heresy” and “Gnosticism” clearly show, there are wolves in the PCUSA running freely throughout Christ’s flock who must be confronted.
Charles Péguy (1873-1914) has said it well.
“He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers.” Charles Péguy
Obviously the application of this belief must be guided by prudence and proportion. No one should “bellow the truth” over trivial issues or minor infractions. But here in the PCUSA we have lost not just the influence of our historic Confessions but also the very authority of Scripture. It is not just by the craftiness and persistence of post-Christians in our midst that this debacle has occurred. No, it also has occurred because we orthodox Christians have failed to engage in debate with sufficient clarity of purpose and honesty about the stakes.
For the remainder of this series I will focus on addressing the “ignorance” issue. However, make no mistake, this ignorance is sourced, encouraged and supported by the theological wolves at loose in our denomination.