Taking Stock at the 500th Post

500posts

General Comments

So here I am writing the 500th post on this blog!  The first post is dated November 25, 2014 and titled “Opening Thoughts.”  My first paragraph is:

This blog will focus on my sense of sojourning through a foreign land as an orthodox, Reformed Christian.  This sense has been a longstanding one with regard to the popular culture here in the United States. I am by no means isolated from this country’s entertainment, political and business cultures.  In fact, I am an active participant in them all.  Though many aspects of these cultures are troubling, I am accustomed to dealing with the challenges and benefits that they provide.

Looking back 499 posts later I’m reasonably comfortable with my adherence to this framework.  That being the responses of an orthodox Reformed Christian to a wide variety of issues within the United States.

I am shocked by the speed that this “foreign land” has expanded over these mere four and a half years.  At the start my sense of alienation was clear but not central. Now I find myself fundamentally alienated from my Christian denomination, the culture and the political environment.  Therefore this blog has transformed from one  centered on exploration to one focused on identifying and exposing the myriad of insane ideas that are driving our civilization towards destruction.

Thus what began as an exploration focused on the PCUSA has expanded into areas such as environmentalism, philosophy, economic systems, politics, heresy, literature, abortion and anti-Semitism, among many others.  I have published three eBooks, all focused on topical issues addressed through Biblical exposition and meditation.  Most recently I have added satire as a means of communicating my concerns.

I have identified the prime driver of civilizational destruction to be Progressive ideology as practiced by both secular and religious institutions.  Therefore I have focused strongly on a critique of this ideology’s foundations, strategies and results.  Some of the major themes of this critique are:

I’ve also attempted to understand and then explain the philosophical underpinnings of the Progressive project (e.g., postmodernism, nihilism, Marxism, multiculturalism, intersectionality, pacifism, Gnosticism, identity, etc.).  My goal is to enhance our ability to counter their positions and to unmask the shocking evil that hides beneath that wafer-thin veneer of moral and intellectual posturing (many people who parrot the Progressive ideology have no idea what they are actually supporting).

Although I have expanded my scope far beyond the PCUSA, I still maintain a regular focus on this my denomination. The only way that I can maintain my Christian conscience is by a posture of opposition and rejection.  Yes, there remain many faithful pastors, elders, deacons and members in the denomination.  However, the theology and behavior of the dominant Progressive leadership has been so outrageously apostate and dishonorable that to remain silent is tantamount to support.  My voice is small, yet I will not choose silence.  So, as long as I’m in this denomination I will speak out as necessary.

I’m currently working on a new eBook provisionally titled A Denomination’s Debacle.  The book pulls together much of the PCUSA information and associated commentary from this blog with the addition of new material to fill-out the story.  It’s currently over 300 pages long, which is almost twice the length of my previous longest eBook.  It troubles me that through exclusive use of publicly available information such a substantial case for the PCUSA elite’s apostasy and corruption can be made.

the-truth-about-truth-a-nietzsche-feature-darwin-festival-version-3-638The “God is Dead” Christian Elite

Throughout this blog’s existence I have occasionally paused to discuss why our elite Christian leadership believes and behaves as it does.  Along these lines I have explored postmodern Christianity, the Social Gospel, Gnosticism and raw power politics, among others.  However, identification of a single unifying principle for this phenomena has to this point eluded me.

Perhaps the foundational principle is that these “Christian” elites agree with Nietzsche that belief in “God” as a reality upon which Western Civilization can base its religious/moral world view, “is dead.”  Let’s think through the consequences of this hypothesis.

Let’s say that you are a pastor or elder who has personally lost faith in the Christian God (or any god for that matter). And, you find that there are many others in the church who hold similar views.  So, you all find yourselves in an organization (i.e., the church) whose fundamental reason for existing has, in your opinion, vanished.  Yet the church has many remaining members and wields moral power in the civilization.  What then to do?

Well, you could work to dissolve the church by openly arguing that it has become obsolete and useless.  However, given that tens of millions still (foolishly in your opinion) believe in God’s existence you would likely fail and be expelled.  Therefore you would have to create a new organization to advance your philosophy.  That’s a very heavy lift with a small likelihood of success.  Far better to remain in the church but work for its transformation into an institution that does “social good.”

Of course, if “God is dead” and the Bible is thus null and void, how to find the social good to pursue?  The answer was found in the most aggressive, organized and presumptive human ideology supposedly pursuing the “social good,” that being what we now call Progressivism (which has its roots in Marxism, as contemporary Progressives are finally admitting).  Thus the elite Christian leadership of Mainline Denominations turned their churches from the Gospel of Jesus Christ to “the gospel of social change and justice” as defined by the secular Progressive political project.

chasmFor decades this stealth-coup was hidden behind multiple complex theological smoke screens that orthodox Christians had great difficulty penetrating.  However, with the advent of gay ordination and marriage the chasm between orthodoxy and heterodoxy became so vast that no amount of smoke could obscure it.  Thus we have seen the parting of ways where so many orthodox members and churches have exited.

Yet some orthodox members and churches have so far decided to remain.  If they do so with the clear understanding that they are missionaries to a now pagan, post-Christian denomination then perhaps they can successfully maintain their orthodox Christian identity.

However, if they pretend that they remain part of a “Christian” denomination then they will almost certainly be eventually converted and then absorbed.  This will occur because they grant legitimacy to the denomination’s dominant post-Christian ideology and thus will increasingly fall prey to its influence.  If that be their end then they have no excuse, for they have been warned and their consciences will testify against them at the time of accounting.

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Erasing the Old Testament (3)

wolf-among-sheep

The flock isn’t protected by pretending they aren’t there.

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.

The PCUSA Elite Today (7)

multicultural-jesus

The Progressive Jesus Created Out of Whole Cloth by Our PCUSA Leadership

How to Respond?

I have been researching the beliefs and actions of our PCUSA leadership for over three years now.  I have also had direct experience based on my three year term as a Presbytery Commissioner.  That’s a total of almost seven years, spanning 2011 through 2018.  What has occurred over that time and how should we respond?

Since 2011 the PCUSA lost well over one-million members (1,070,777) and gained far less than a half-million (469,739).  That amounts to a net loss of over 600,000 Christians.  Over the same time period over 1,200 churches have exited the denomination or ceased to exist.  These cold statistics point to the devastation of human relationships and to the destruction of a once vibrant community of Christian faith.  These are people and churches who have given up on the PCUSA as a Christian home.  Their tragic testimony is utterly ignored, but the consequences exist regardless.

And what of those of us that choose to remain in the PCUSA who worship our Savior Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures and interpreted by our historic Confessions?  We are a shrinking minority who are expected to either bow down to the false progressive god or to silently suffer humiliation as supposed racists, homophobes, you name it or to get out already.

But there is another choice.  We need not bow to their false god or slink around in humiliating silence or get out.  No, regardless of our declining numbers or receding power we can yet trust that “if God is for us then who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b).  The elite leaders of the PCUSA have not one-tenthousandth the power of the ancient Roman Empire or the current People’s Republic of China.  It thus should not require super-human faith or courage to stand up to them.  And yet we fail to do so.

PCUSA-I-Don't-Know-This-ManIts time to start confronting these self-presumed theological, intellectual and moral betters.  We should demand that they answer for their reign of denominational destruction.  Why do they ordain atheists and reward heretics?  How do they justify denying the Christian God?  How do they explain the virtually perfect correspondence between their Christian “social justice” positions and those of the secular Progressive political movement?  How do they explain the direct contradiction between Christ’s definition of marriage and their policy on Christian marriage?  Why do they continue to feign allegiance to our historic Confessions while utterly ignoring them?  Why do they exclude Scripture’s testimony? Why do they have a boutique ideologically-tainted “theology” for every identity group and progressive political position? How do they know that Jesus Christ would support each and every position of a godless secular political organization? Why do they reject Biblical truth but demand that we submit to their admitted arbitrary human “truths”? Why do they make a mockery of their ordination vows and teach others to do the same? Why do they deny Biblical sin but embrace the concept of secular ideological sin?  By what right do they pretend to a moral superiority that their actions show to be utterly unwarranted?

To sum up all of the above apostasy, dishonesty and destruction, why do they pretend to be pious, orthodox Christian leaders?  If this seems extreme then you are living in a state of denial.  For, if a PCUSA member can get through the above material (which only scratches the surface) and still trust that our leadership has the slightest loyalty to orthodox Reformed Christianity then the only option is denial.

The fact that the Rev. Kershner so openly rejected the Christian God suggests that she believes the denomination to now be comprised only of supporters or deniers.  Thus she brazenly made her statement in the sure knowledge that no one in Fourth Presbyterian, the Presbyrery, Synod or General Assembly would rise to object.  And, that silence would allow her to go on pretending to be a pious, orthodox Christian pastor doing her level best to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I single her out not because her’s is an extreme case, but rather because she is a contemporary and unmistakable representative of our denominational leadership.

Well, I object, and will not silently accept any of this.  I don’t care if no one or thousands join me.  My responsibility lies in being true to what Jesus Christ has done.

I understand that each of us has only so much time, energy, knowledge and skills.  I contribute in what I believe to be the best use of the gifts that God has given me.  Others will choose to contribute in their own ways.  But the point is that we are called to testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as God has given us the specific gifts to so do.  If we, each in our own way and time, choose to stand on that holy ground then we can remain in the PCUSA without shame or fear.  And, by God’s providential power we will make a difference even if we don’t see it in our lifetimes.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 11:39 – 12:3 (NIV)

 

The PCUSA Elite Today (3)

99%-Black

This is technically a shade of grey

The Rev. Shannon Kershner Interview (2)

The interview under discussion was wide ranging in scope.  Therefore, there are numerous topics with which I must disagree with corresponding levels of concern.  I will here cover one of those topics that rise to the level of great concern.

Biblical Authority

At around 15:50 into the interview the Rev. Kershner makes the following statement regarding the authority of Scripture in the PCUSA.

… because there’s a lot of grey in our denomination and you can have differing understanding of Scripture’s authority and still be a good Presbyterian.

On its face this statement isn’t alarming.  I would wager that in any Christian group outside of a cult there are differing understandings of Scripture’s authority.

However, if you happen to know the actual range of acceptable understanding for Scripture’s authority in the PCUSA this seemingly bland statement becomes disturbing.  It is so because you are forced to choose between two unpleasant conclusions.  One is that the Rev. Kershner is utterly ignorant about the true range of acceptable Scriptural authority understandings in the PCUSA.  The other is that, although she knows this actual range, she nevertheless obscures the truth by use of language that will be misinterpreted by the vast majority of listeners.

You may have noticed that in both previous posts I have referenced the PCUSA’s ordination of an atheist and approval of an ordained heretic.  My intent was to focus the reader’s mind on the true nature of our denomination’s position on Scriptural authority.  That being, there are no limits on the acceptable differences in this area.  If you yet doubt me, here are the publicly available statements of our PCUSA atheist ordained pastor, John Shuck, on Scriptural authority.

  • Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend …
  • The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being

Or, consider what the article published by the official PCUSA News Service had to say about proposals to delete Books from Scripture and add Gnostic books (emphasis added).

Until the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and the rest were codified as the New Testament’s canon some 300 years after His resurrection, people heard the story of Jesus told through additional eyes and voices. These Gnostic Gospels are attributed to, among others, Mary Magdalene, Thomas (he of “Doubting Thomas” fame) and even Judas.

The discovery of the Gnostic Gospels in Egypt rekindled debate among theologians and religious scholars about what a “proper” New Testament should contain. One think tank that emerged was the 150-member Jesus Seminar founded by Robert Funk. During his lifetime, Funk advocated for a volume along the lines of what was produced by Taussig’s council; Funk also lobbied strongly for the extraction of some books in the New Testament, among them the Gospel of John. …

… Along this line, Reyes-Chow was quick to point out that, with the Gnostic Gospels and other “new texts” heavily favoring the strong role women played in the early church, he didn’t pick up any sense of the New Orleans council attempting to be “politically correct” or compensating for the “male-dominated” approach of the current canon.

Note that here a past Moderator of the PCUSA General Assembly, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, is advocating for the incorporation of Gnostic Gospels into the Canon of Scripture.  And, the PCUSA article clearly is supportive of this proposal.

I am extremely doubtful that the Rev. Kershner is ignorant of this situation.  Therefore, the following figure provides a summary of what is the most likely intention of her comment.

Scripture-Grey-Space

Using tortured misapplication of logic and rhetoric it’s possible that a case for 1% (or 0.1%, or 0.01% …) orthodoxy in the views of an avowed atheist and Gnostic heretic could be made.  Thus the Rev. Kershner might argue that she is technically telling the truth in the abstract sense that if even an infinitesimal  part is white in an otherwise black color the result is “grey.”  However, it strains credulity that the the Revs. Shuck’s or Reyes-Chow’s (apparently both “good Presbyterians”) views of Scripture’s authority fall within any reasonable interpretation of the ordination questions relating to this issue, to which they apparently answered in the affirmative.

W-4.0404: Constitutional Questions

a. Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

b. Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to you?

c. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?

d. Will you fulfill your ministry in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions?

In addition, here are the standards from the current PCUSA Book of Order that must be met for a person to be ordained as a minister (emphasis added).

 G-2.0503 Categories of Membership

A minister of the Word and Sacrament is a member of a presbytery and shall be engaged in a ministry validated by that presbytery, a member-at-large as determined by the presbytery, or honorably retired.

a.  Engaged in a Validated Ministry

A validated ministry shall: (1) demonstrate conformity with the mission of God’s people in the world as set forth in Holy Scripture,  The Book of Confessions, and the  Book of Order of this church; (2) serve and aid others, and enable the ministry of others; (3) give evidence of theologically informed fidelity to God’s Word; …

In what possible sense have the Revs. Shuck or Reyes-Chow demonstrated conformity or fidelity to God’s Word?  I contend not in any meaningful way within a denomination that calls itself Christian.

Why would our elite leaders want to obscure the truth about the PCUSA in this area?  Well, because were the truth generally known their moral credibility as Christian leaders would profoundly suffer.

 

The PCUSA Elite Today (2)

4th_Presbyterian_Chicago_2004-11_img_2602

Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago IL

The Rev. Shannon Kershner Interview (1)

In the previous post I presented information on actions or lack thereof by our elite leadership that allows the drawing of credible inferences regarding their beliefs.  For example, when the Presbytery of the Cascades ordained an open atheist to PCUSA ministry and the denomination rewarded them with the honor of hosting the 222nd General Assembly, we can confidently infer that all Biblical and Confessional standards for Christianity have been erased from our elite leadership’s minds.

Although evidence based inference is a valid and necessary tool, it’s best to find instances in which our elite leadership explicitly states their beliefs.  The previous post included the explicit example of our leadership publishing an article affirming the heresy of Gnosticism.

The most recent opportunity (of which I’m aware) for explicit information on our elite leadership’s thinking is the March 7, 2018 Sun Times interview of “The Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner, pastor of historic Fourth Presbyterian Church on Chicago’s Mag Mile,” headlined: Prominent Presbyterian pastor: ‘God’s not a Christian . . . We are’.  Although the headline statement is by far the most shocking and disturbing, there are numerous other statements that provide important insight.

The Sun Times article includes audio of an almost 44 minute “Face to Faith” interview with the Rev. Kershner. Therefore I have carefully listened to the interview in order to gain understanding of the scope and context for her remarks.

It is difficult to overstate the place of Fourth Presbyterian and thus its senior pastor in the PCUSA elite.  Fourth Presbyterian is the second largest church (~5,500 members) in the denomination and has been an acknowledged leader of the PCUSA’s (dominant) progressive theological  wing.  Thus, when this church’s senior pastor speaks we are provided with a unique opportunity to observe what our elite is thinking and how they communicate those beliefs.

The Rev. Kershner is an articulate, welcoming, humorous, modest, talented and highly motivated individual.  Many of her comments are within what most PCUSA members would find to be reasonable.  She resisted making political statements on hot-button issues like abortion and gun control.  I’m convinced that she is a thoughtful, nice and kindly person with whom I could have an invigorating conversation.

However, the issues sundering the PCUSA are not about “niceness.”  In fact, so completely have we succumbed to superficial sentiments that we have ignored central Christian theological issues rather than risk appearing to be disagreeable.  And, when our elites stride well beyond the bounds of anything approaching Christian orthodoxy while yet claiming the moral authority of Christian leaders we must risk seeming to be disagreeable by clearly and openly disagreeing.  To do otherwise is to admit that we value others thinking that we are “nice” over the truth about what our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has done for us.

The PCUSA Elite Today (1)

PCUSA-deny-80%I’m going to circle back to a comment that I made in an earlier post regarding PCUSA Rationales in support of same gender marriage.  My analysis showed that across all 30 Rationales the name “Jesus” and/or “Christ” was used in barely over half (53%).

Think about that.  In 14 of the 30 Rationales supporting the fundamental redefinition of Christian marriage the authors (pastors and elders all) didn’t even bother to mention “Jesus” and/or “Christ.”  Thus my above cited closing comment:

The implications of these results are staggering. What we have in the PCUSA are whole Presbyteries, composed of dozens if not hundreds of ordained pastors and elders, for whom the most central concepts in orthodox Christian thought simply don’t come to mind when discussing the fundamental redefinition of Christian marriage.

That post went up on December 18, 2014.  Over the ensuing three and a half years I have reported on many shocking aspects of our denominational leadership’s beliefs and actions.  In some cases the assumption could be reasonably made that we were observing an aberration as opposed to a normal situation.  For example, the Presbytery of the Cascades allowing an open, aggressive atheist to be a pastor for one of its churches.

Yet, there are other cases in which our denominational leadership has normalized open heresy.  For example, there is the bizarre case of the embrace of Gnosticism by an ex-moderador of the PCUSA General Assembly (the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow).  One might reasonably assume that this development would lead to severe criticism if not outright condemnation by the PCUSA leadership.  In point of fact, it earned the Rev. Reyes-Chow a fawning article by the official PCUSA news service.

Thus the question of just where our denominational leadership stands today on the concepts of orthodox Christian thought is highly relevant.  It turns out that new information is available that illuminates this question.

A Brief Excursion into PCUSA Heresy

heresy1At a recent Bible Study I said that the PCUSA is being torn asunder by a “christianity” that believes in “god” as simply a human construct that can be used to manipulate others.  I made this comment as an inference based on my observation of our denominational elite’s behavior.  For example, that in the over 24,000 words written in support of gay marriage at the recent General Assembly, Jesus Christ Himself was not quoted even once.  Rather, the entire argument was based on what the proponents believed about Jesus Christ.
The very next day I was stunned to discover that there is a PCUSA pastor (the Rev. John Shuck) in apparently good standing who states openly that which I had inferred.  If you follow the links, you will go from the original source article to The Friendly Atheist, where you will find the Rev. Shuck’s summary of his beliefs:

For example, I believe that:

  • Religion is a human construct
  • The symbols of faith are products of human cultural evolution
  • Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
  • God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
  • The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
  • Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife
From “The Friendly Atheist” site we can continue follow links to Pastor Shuck’s blog site to Southminster Presbyterian Church (Beaverton, OR) to their Staff page.  There you will find that the Rev. Shuck has been their pastor since January 1, 2015.  You will also be told in Rev. Shuck’s staff bio that:

John has been involved in the work of the Westar Institute (the Jesus Seminar).   Westar promotes the advancement of religious literacy.   John is proud that Southminster engages spirituality and critical thinking.   John is a signatory of the Clergy Letter Project that advocates scientific literacy including teaching Evolutionary Theory.   John’s favorite Sunday is Evolution Sunday on the Sunday closest to Charles Darwin’s birthday.

Note that I have already investigated PCUSA ties to the Westar Institute and Jesus Seminar (focus on the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, see from here to here).
I would like to believe that Pastors Shuck and Reyes-Chow are isolated cranks who have no real connection to or influence in the denomination.  Unfortunately, I have to note that the Rev. Reyes-Chow was the 2008 Moderator of the PCUSA and the Rev. Shuck appears to be happily prospering in the denomination.
As I have expressed this concern the responses have varied from support and affirmation to disagreement and diminishment.  In particular on the latter response, some have attempted to diminish by pointing out that these individuals are both few in number and rendered ineffective by the “silliness” of their position.

I can’t shake the sense that the PCUSA leadership (particularly now that so many pastors/members/churches have given up and exited) see “following Christ” from a similar perspective.  Yes, I understand that these denominational leaders talk all the time about “following Christ.”  Yet, when they had the opportunity to make the supposedly compelling case for same-gender marriage, Christ as testified to in the Bible was completely excluded.  That failure destroyed the last shred of their credibility on my part.

My concern has been best put into words by Dr. Van Til in an essay on the Confession of 1967 (emphasis added).

Though we concede that the new creed and its new theology speak highly of both Christ and the Bible, we nevertheless contend that new meanings have been attached to old, familiar words. The whole question, accordingly, is one of reinterpretation. One may take a milk bottle and fill it with a poisonous white liquid and call it milk, but this does not guarantee that the poisonous liquid is milk. It may well be some thing that is highly dangerous to man. …

Though the twentieth-century church has been informed by the new theology that it can have no objective or conceptual knowledge of God and of Christ, this same theology still continues to speak about God and Christ in eloquent terms. But, as we have already noted, these terms have new definitions. The God and the Christ of this contemporary theology have very little in common with the God and the Christ of historic Christianity.  There is good reason to believe that the new theology has virtually manufactured a new Christ, a person who is essentially different from the Savior of the Scriptures.

I’m not attempting here to reopen debate on the Confession of 1967, but the theology described above is what I too often see in our denominational and presbytery leadership today.

Although there is a clear aspect of “silly” in what Pastors Shuck and Reyes-Chow are doing, there is another side far less humorous.  I see people such as them as the avant-garde who demonstrate that there are no theological bounds left within the PCUSA.  Yes, few do or even want to follow them.  But for those who are determined to obliterate Christ as testified to in the Bible and replace Him with an avatar carrying their own beliefs, they show that the denomination cannot rouse itself even to oppose in-your-face heresy.

Thus, I’m concerned that these two apostate pastors are only the tip of an awful iceberg.  That is, while they openly argue for heresy, many others quietly work incessantly to manipulate trusting Christian souls into great error.
My personal response is to pray that faithful PCUSA congregations continues to be a bright beacon of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these dark, dangerous times.  We should support and encourage our pastors to continue preaching and teaching Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the Bible as God’s Word.  We should speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) with courage and conviction.  And finally, we should, by trusting in God’s good providence, never despair and never cease praising His saving grace in our lives and in this broken world.

How Can We Know Who Jesus Christ is? (Part 5)

WHOHowJCThe Confession of 1967 (1 of 2)

The following is the first paragraph from the Book of Confessions introduction to the Confession of 1967.

In approving the Confession of 1967, the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America adopted its first new confession of faith in three centuries. The turbulent decade of the 1960s challenged churches everywhere to restate their faith. While the Second Vatican Council was reformulating Roman Catholic thought and practice, Presbyterians were developing the Confession of 1967.

I have read this Confession numerous times over the years.  However, this is the first time that I have done so since beginning the journey documented in this blog.  Given the theological debacle that has occurred in the case of same gender marriage (among other issues), I can’t help but be wary of the “first new confession of faith in three centuries.”

That is, this Confession was written well after the The Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy which occurred in the 1920s and ’30s (the Theological Declaration of Barman was written in the mid-1930’s, but addressed the specific issues associated with National Socialism’s attempt in Germany to conform Christianity to its totalitarian ideology).  While a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this post, suffice it to say that by the mid-1930’s the Mainline Presbyterian denomination (from which the PCUSA emerged) was securely in the modernist, liberal camp (the move from “modernist” to “post-modernist” theology has been one of bad to worse).

Therefore, the Confession of 1967 was written and approved by a denomination dominated by liberal Christians.  Surely then we should carefully scrutinize it for theological discrepancies between this and the other Confessions that were written centuries prior to the ascendency of liberal Christianity.

Significant discrepancies were identified as the Confession of 1967 progressed towards passage.  However, it appears that the “people in the pews” were satisfied at the time that this divergence from previous Confessions was evolutionary and of limited consequence to the overall doctrinal position of the denomination.  However, events of the past 50 years have shown that these discrepancies were revolutionary and momentous.  The full rancid fruit of these doctrinal deviations has been on display (see here, here, here and here) in the same-gender marriage debate.

If there’s only one thing that I’ve learned in this recent work, it’s this:

Don’t take what is said by the PCUSA elite at face value.  Rather, look for the inconsistencies and omissions that can, over time, be leveraged to smuggle false, foreign ideas into Christianity.

This statement will likely cause discomfort in some readers.  However, given the PCUSA’s recent record, how can we possibly avoid such a conclusion?

The only real alternative is to go on pretending that all of the theological, social and spiritual destruction that has occurred in the PCUSA over the past 50 years mysteriously occurred in spite of a solid, true doctrinal foundation.  I simply can’t say this because my conscience would rightly accuse me of telling a purposeful lie were I to do so.

It is indeed a humbling experience as I conduct the research associated with this blog.  In particular, I regularly uncover analysis from generations past by people who clearly saw the approaching storm and had the courage to describe it clearly.  What they foresaw I have only recently stumbled and bumbled into, after wasted years of inattention and cowardice.  The most recent occurrence is a booklet on The Confession of 1967 by Dr. Van Til.  What he wrote in 1967 better identifies and explains postmodern Christianity and its consequences than could I ever, even with my advantage of hindsight.

Though we concede that the new creed and its new theology speak highly of both Christ and the Bible, we nevertheless contend that new meanings have been attached to old, familiar words. The whole question, accordingly, is one of reinterpretation. One may take a milk bottle and fill it with a poisonous white liquid and call it milk, but this does not guarantee that the poisonous liquid is milk. It may well be some thing that is highly dangerous to man.

Such is the case, we believe, with the new theology: It is an essentially humanistic theology which disguises itself as an up-to-date Christian theology. Of course, we are told that the new Confession is contemporary in its view of truth. We are also told that the Westminster Standards are outdated, being written in an age of absolutism. By contrast, today’s theological thinkers know that truth is relative to man and the human situation. Has not Immanuel Kant taught us that man can know nothing of God and of Christ in so far as Christ is said to be God as well as man? From Kant recent philosophers and theologians have learned that man’s conceptual knowledge is limited to the impersonal world of science and does not apply to the religious dimension.

Though the twentieth-century church has been informed by the new theology that it can have no objective or conceptual knowledge of God and of Christ, this same theology still continues to speak about God and Christ in eloquent terms. But, as we have already noted, these terms have new definitions. The God and the Christ of this contemporary theology have very little in common with the God and the Christ of historic Christianity.  There is good reason to believe that the new theology has virtually manufactured a new Christ, a person who is essentially different from the Savior of the Scriptures.

Is this not “postmodern Christianity” foreseen?  Should we not seriously consider past analysis that accurately predicted the theological and spiritual chaos that The Confession of 1967 precipitated?  If you honestly believe that all is well in the PCUSA since 1967, then feel free to ignore all that follows (though I beg you to reconsider your belief).  If you are concerned that something has gone terribly wrong, then perhaps there is reason to continue.

Finally, I’m well aware  that for some Presbyterians this severe criticism of The Confession of 1967 is shocking.  After all, it was approved by the denomination almost 50 years ago, and, it is now a settled part of our Book of Confessions.  My responses are:

  1. I am only following to where the evidence appears to lead
  2. We are not bound to continue adherence to any human sourced statement if it is shown to be counter to Holy Scripture.  As stated in the Scots Confession: “So if the interpretation or opinion of any theologian, Kirk, or council, is contrary to the plain Word of God written in any other passage of the Scripture, it is most certain that this is not the true understanding and meaning of the Holy Ghost, although councils, realms, and nations have approved and received it. We dare not receive or admit any interpretation which is contrary to any principal point of our faith, or to any other plain text of Scripture, or to the rule of love.”

In Part 2 I will address the Confession of 1967 as it relates to the Bible and interpretation thereof.

Gnosticism Reimagined? (Part 7)

SecretKnowledgeA Working Hypothesis

Over the course of this blog’s existence I have attempted to understand the reasons that our PCUSA elites feel free to ignore and distort the clear teaching of Scripture on numerous issues, Christian marriage being the most recent and prominent.  However, given these deliberations on post-modernism, the Jesus Seminar and Gnosticism, I believe that there is a credible hypothesis that covers the known facts.  This hypothesis, stated from the point of view of the PCUSA post-modern elite, is as follows.

  1. There is no such thing as “objective truth” since post-modern philosophy has disproved this as a possibility.
  2. The Bible cannot be considered to be a reliable source of objective information about God and His relationship to humankind.  In fact, most of the Bible, including the Gospels, contains inauthentic information.
  3. Because Christianity has erroneously used the Bible as THE reliable source of objective information about God and His relationship to humankind, it has failed to successfully evolve as human knowledge and experience has increased over time.
  4. Given this failure, Christianity is currently experiencing a crisis that can only be resolved if it is massively reimagined and updated.
  5. The vast majority of practicing Christians lack the knowledge, creativity and will to reimagine and update the faith.
  6. However, we are  the elite group of Christians who are capable of this feat.  We have  aligned ourselves with the forces in Western Civilization that are working within the enlightened secular context of radical progressivism.  The economic and social pillars of this enlightened secular force are socialism and multiculturalism.
  7. Our implicit religious justification for this authority is reimagined Gnosticism.
  8. Our challenging project is to align Christianity with the enlightened secular world, thus creating a comprehensive, cohesive society in which all aspects of human activity are pursuing the same end goals.
  9. In order to accomplish this goal, we must undermine and then dissolve historic orthodox Christianity so that it can be replaced by the new, enlightened version.
  10. While the Bible can’t yet be openly disregarded, it must be undermined, distorted and selectively used so as to, over time, wean the ignorant masses from its grip.
  11. Due to our  obvious superiority, we, the secret knowledge elite, have the right to destroy Christianity and remake it in our own image.*
  12. Anyone who opposes this project is, by definition, not part of this secret knowledge elite, and therefore must be defeated at any and all costs.

*Thus, this group exhibits a form of narcissism, defined as “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.”


The following figure provides a visual representation of this working hypothesis.  Note that I am not claiming that a significant proportion of PCUSA elites consciously consider themselves to be Gnostic.  However, I am claiming that many of them, in order to justify their goals and actions,  appear to have have  integrated Gnostic-like ideas into their worldview.

PCUSA-Model

Time and experience will tell if this hypothesis is on the whole correct.

With this post the Gnosticism Reimagined series is completed.  I will explore the issue of multiculturalism in the next series — Loving All Our Neighbors.

Gnosticism Reimagined? (Part 6b)

SecretKnowledgeGnosticism, Post-Modern Christianity and Theological Collapse (continued)

It likely takes an updated form of Gnosticism to complete the post-modern Christian world view.  For, post-modern Christianity by itself offers only the negation of religious truth as divine revelation conveyed by the objective truth of human language.  That is, post-modern Christianity has the power to destroy Scriptural revelation, but is powerless to replace it with an alternative.  That’s where Gnosticism, with its subjective truth carried by a “secret knowledge” elite comes into play.

As I’ve previously stated, the number of actual Gnostics is likely relatively small.  However, as with post-modernism, many people can be strongly influenced by its ideas without realizing the source, or, even knowing of its existence.

Two Examples:

The best way to explain the last point is by example.  Please note that I am not accusing either of these ministers of being Gnostic.  Rather, I am pointing out that their stated positions may well be best explained by the influence of Gnostic ideas.  From the point of view of results it makes little difference if the motivation of Gnostic or not.  Of course, from the point of view of theological integrity it does make a difference.

Emergence of the “Secret Knowledge” Elite?

In order to delve deeper into this mindset, review the PCUSA web article titled “What’s next? NEXT Church gathering explores what PC(USA) is becoming.” Here, the Rev. Jessica Tate speaks to the NEXT Church national gathering about both the church’s current struggles and the process to determine “what’s next.”

The Rev. Tate uses the Biblical account of the Annunciation as the starting point for hew sermon on “what’s next.”  In her  telling, “The story was made possible because someone — Mary — said yes.”

From an orthodox Reformed theological point of view this is a profoundly erroneous statement. The sovereign LORD God, the Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is not dependent on human assent for His will to be done. I will not here delve into the perplexing issue of human free will versus God’s acts of providence. Rather, I will simply point out that the orthodox Reformed understanding of this dichotomy does not allow for the necessity of human cooperation for God’s will to be done (see paragraph 6.012 from the Westminster Confession in “Counting Equality with God a Thing to be Grasped”).

Thus, when the Rev. Tate elevates Mary’s position to that of a necessary enabler of God’s will, she also elevates human will as a means by which God becomes Incarnate. Mary’s key contribution is described as inhabiting the “space of radical availability to God.”

Why would the Rev. Tate invest so heavily in Mary’s presumed power as an enabler of the Incarnation? The answer is found at the end of the talk, starting around minute nineteen (total length is 19:36).

To you this day a savior is born Christ the Lord. Did you hear that? It’s so familiar I don’t know if we hear it. Don’t be afraid. Because when you enter that uncertain creative space that allows God’s unexpectedness to happen, salvation is born. That’s the promise, that’s the true hope. To you, today, a savior is born. Not 2000 years ago, not far far away in Bethlehem, but to you today a savior is born. God is with us; prepare to be surprised. Amen

What is the stated prerequisite for salvation to be born? It is that human beings “enter that uncertain creative space that allows God’s unexpectedness to happen.” And, in particular, the human beings at this NEXT Church gathering: “Not 2000 years ago, not far far away in Bethlehem, but to you today a savior is born. God is with us; prepare to be surprised.”

Obviously, the Rev. Tate is not referring to an actual physical incarnation when she speaks of a new salvation being born at this gathering. However, isn’t it likely that she envisions that the “creative space” of this gathering will create an “adaptive change” in how we understand Jesus Christ that will enable what’s next?

There are numerous benign explanations for the Rev. Tate’s elitist rhetoric.  However, there’s something arrogant, unseemly and ultimately narcissistic  about comparing the experience and purpose of a conference to that of Mary.  An analogue would be, as I write these words, to imagine myself comparable to the Apostle Paul – which would be an absolutely fantastic and absurd conception.  Were we to seek a justification for this level of elitism, the influence of Gnosticism would be a good fit.

Echo of the Demiurge?

The Rev. Shawna Bowman is a prominent, influential member of the Presbytery of Chicago. She is the pastor at Friendship Presbyterian Church and an artist. The Rev. Bowman has preached at a Presbytery Assembly, represented the Presbytery at the “What is Marriage, Why does it matter?” event at the April 2014 Assembly meeting and presented at the 2014 Next Church National Gathering (the PCUSA article excerpted above was about the 2013 Next Church National Gathering). I am not acquainted with her, but she appears to be a creative, caring, prolific and intelligent individual. The Rev. Bowman is also deeply engaged in Scriptural study and interpretation.

Therefore, when the Rev. Bowman openly discusses her understanding of God, we should pay close attention. She does just that in a sermon titled “Unbinding,” posted on her web site on September 16, 2013. The sermon topic was that terrible, fraught Biblical incident in which God instructs Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

As the Rev. Bowman struggles to understand and communicate the meaning of this event to her congregation, she uses a statement by one of her friends. This statement is not in the slightest questioned or corrected. Rather, it is presented as a particularly wise, perceptive thought. The paragraph in question is excerpted below (bolded text, not in the original).

These prophets show how complex our story of God is, but they also give us permission to not only see the way in which the people of God change but how God might be changed by the people… a friend of mine suggests that it is God that learns something in this story, “God learns that God’s capable of wounding God’s loved ones, even though God was sure it was the right thing to challenge and grow Abraham’s faith in this dramatic way.” He says, “Maybe God finally learned how fragile people are, and how little God knows about them, maybe it’s events like these that makes God finally determine to, ultimately, simply become one of us.”

Note that the ellipsis (…) at the beginning of this section is not there to indicate that I have removed text. Rather, it is in the original as a connecting mechanism from the Rev. Bowman’s observation about “permission” to the suggestion of her friend.

And so to what does this presumed “permission” to contemplate “how God might be changed by the people” lead? Here it clearly leads to a very low conception of God. First, note that it is God who is the learner in this story. The first thing that God “learns” is that He is capable of wounding His loved ones. Apparently the Flood in Genesis 6-8 had not sufficiently registered upon God’s mind. He is also found to be mistaken by testing Abraham in this manner. Though His intentions had been good, He erred terribly in turning these intentions into actions.

No wonder then the air of exasperation with this dimwitted God, who “finally” learns that people are fragile. I’m confident that these individuals are not young earth creationists. However, even if we make this assumption (to be the most charitable), this phrase is saying that God had not learned in thousands of years what most human beings are capable of learning in well less than a lifetime!

And so, what can happen if we assert a “permission” to teach God, to find in Scripture “something deeper, something more true,” even if that something contradicts the very words of Scripture? Here, we find that it leads to a conception of God so low that it is an act of human generosity to deign equality between ourselves and Him.

Once again, there are numerous benign explanations for this conception of God.  However, isn’t it also true that the Gnostic concept of the Demiurge is an excellent fit?  The main difference is that the old concept of an evil god has been updated to make this god a pathetic victim who is in need of our help to save him from his idiotic errors.