A Modest Overture to the 224th General Assembly (1b)

Presbytery-of Gaia

This is not as far removed from the current PCUSA situation (for example see here, here and here) that one would hope.

On Bringing our Book of Confessions into the Post-Christian PC(USA) Era — from the Presbytery of Gaia

Rationale

For the fifty years after acceptance of the Confession of 1967 the PC(USA) has dragged all of the Confessions that preceded it along like anchors.  Until 2011 this ruse may have been necessary to maintain quiescence of the denomination’s majority of orthodox-minded members.  However, with the Progressive victories on gay ordination and marriage we have successfully driven most of these orthodox-minded members either out of the denomination or into a state of fearful submission to our victorious ideology.

Glorious-Exit

This is actual PCUSA data.

Between 2011 and 2017 the PC(USA) experienced a net loss of 601,000 members and 1146 churches. Thus, over this period the denomination lost a net of almost 30% of its membership and almost 12% of its churches.  The majority of these losses were the orthodox Reformed members and churches that had held us back and that continued to value the pre-1967 Confessions.  Thus this glorious exit of irredeemable members and churches has freed the PC(USA) from the dead hand of orthodox Reformed Christianity!

Glorious-Exit2

This is actual PCUSA data.

In 2013 the PC(USA) had 1086 Ministry Candidates.  The very next year, 2014, this number fell by almost 50% to 562.  Can there be any doubt that this sudden flight to the exits was by candidates who had orthodox Christian beliefs that were supported by our outdated and destructive historic Confessions?  Thus, in a single year, we “Purposeful Progressives” (see below) gloriously emptied our denomination’s seminaries of virtually all orthodox Christians!

These results are a great victory for our self-described strategy of exclusion and submission, which we acknowledged in “When We Gather at the Table: A PC(USA) Snapshot” as the “Purposeful Progressives” (emphasis added, note that this is a true quote from an official PCUSA document, not made-up satirical quote).

They are less tolerant of conservative theologies within the denomination. Some remain hopeful that conservatives who are upset with the 221st General Assembly (2014) decisions on marriage will see that there are different ways to interpret scripture, and will choose to stay and accept the changes, over time. Others would simply be happy if the conservatives left the PC(USA), and a few offered suggestions for helping dissenting congregations to leave the denomination with grace and dignity.

Now that, through our fierce commitment to inclusiveness, we have successfully driven out most of the irredeemable theological members, churches and ministry candidates there is no longer a need to maintain the pretense that the pre-1967 Confessions (and the Brief Statement of Faith) have the slightest relevance to our wondrous post-Christian denominational future.  In order to more efficiently and effectively pursue this goal we must cast off these fraudulent documents.  Eventually the Confession of 1967 itself may need go be deleted, as its problematical tangental relationship to past Christian orthodoxy becomes an impediment achieving our ultimate goals.

As itemized in the Overture, this result has already happened in effect.  In order to grasp our glorious future as co-comrades with the gods we must have the courage to cut loose these worse than useless monument-anchors.  Then we can openly proclaim our post-Christian message without confusion or constraint.

We have demonstrated the will to power necessary to drive out or subdue the morally and spiritually inferior (i.e., those who lack our blessed gnosis) among us.  Let’s now, together, take the next and necessary step to cement our future in post-Christianity!

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A Modest Overture to the 224th General Assembly (1a)

Presbytery-of GaiaOn Bringing our Book of Confessions into the Post-Christian PC(USA) Era — from the Presbytery of Gaia

Overture

The Presbytery of Gaia respectfully overtures the 224th General Assembly (2020) to make the following statement:

Because

  • The Confession of 1967 was, by the admission of its primary authors, intended to directly contradict the Westminster Confession on numerous central doctrinal points and generally demotes the historic Confessions to “monuments.” See that in The Proposal to Revise the Confessional Position of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Edward A. Dowey, Jr., chairman of the committee that composed The Confession of 1967, writes: “A statement that is appropriate and powerful in its own day may fail to guide the church after some decades or centuries have gone by. It comes to resemble a monument marking the past more than a tool for present work.” (pp. 20, 21).
  • The PC(USA) has redefined the meaning of “Christian Marriage” in the Book of Order without changing the definition of marriage in any of the historic Confessions from the PC(USA)’s Book of Confessions.  As one example see the Westminster Confession, Chapter XXIV: “Of Marriage and Divorce 1. Christian marriage is an institution ordained of God, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, established and sanctified for the happiness and welfare of mankind, into which spiritual and physical union one man and one woman enter, cherishing a mutual esteem and love, bearing with each other’s infirmities and weaknesses, comforting each other in trouble, providing in honesty and industry for each other and for their household, praying for each other, and living together the length of their days as heirs of the grace of life.”  This decision officially confirms the irrelevance of all the historic Confessions for Biblical interpretation or theological guidance.
  • The Senior Pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, one of the largest and most influential churches in the PC(USA), in a 2018 interview denied the nature of God as defined in all of the historic Confessions, from the Nicene Creed to The Theological Declaration of Barmen by declaring that “God’s not a Christian . . . We are.”
  • The Ordination Vows for Officers have become impossible to uphold in clear conscience given that at least two distinct and contradictory sets of doctrine are contained in the Book of Confessions.

The 224th General Assembly (2020) therefore decrees that all Confessions in the Book of Confessions are null and void “as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do” except for the Confession of 1967 and the Confession of Belhar. An updated Book of Confessions that includes only the Confession of 1967 and the Confession of Belhar will therefore be generated and distributed.  All current and future Officers will be instructed to use only the Confession of 1967 and the Confession of Belhar until such time as a new Confession is added to this new Book of Confessions or the Confession of 1967, having served its historic purpose, is also eventually removed.

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.

A New Reformation (4)

New-Reformation-ComponentsSeven Components of a New Reformation (Part 3)

This post completes the summaries.

7. Transformed church governance

It appears that every form of church governance, from highly hierarchical (e.g., Catholic) to highly democratic (e.g., Congregational) and everything in-between has been corrupted by secular ideology.  Nor does it seem likely that any established denomination will agree to change their existing form of governance.

Obviously I’m in no position to comment on denominations beyond the PCUSA.  However, significant light can be shed by this experience to suggest some general conclusions.

The fundamental point about the demise of the PCUSA is that it was an act of “murder” as opposed to “suicide.”  By these (shocking I expect) metaphors I mean that the rank and file members resisted the apostasy of the leadership for decades.  In fact, it appears that it was only by subversion of the governance process that the leadership was able to gain the upper hand.  The “fingerprint” of this betrayal can be seen in the following figure.

Church-Membership-Loss

The 2006 Subversion

Note that from 1999 through 2006 the number of churches “dismissed” (i.e., exited the denomination) was negligible. Over this same time period we see a general increase in the number of members lost. However, in 2008 the number of dismissed churches and lost members became significantly worse than the general trend would lead one to expect.  Did anything happen in the PCUSA to cause this or was it simply random variation?  It was the former.

Here is the report of a pastor on the 2006 General Assembly that tells the tale (emphasis added).

A number of years ago our denomination’s constitution was amended to limit ordination to those who are faithful in marriage, which is between one man and one woman, or chaste in singleness. This wording was approved by a majority of the regional bodies, and re-approved twice by larger majorities each time. At the time it was added it was not a new limitation, but made explicit an understanding that had historically been practiced within the denomination (and for that matter in nearly all Christian denominations).

What made the PUP Report unconscionable was that it amends the denominational constitution by an unconstitutional process. It by-passed the regional bodies whose approval is required by the constitution itself. It is as though the U. S. Constitution were to be amended by a simple majority vote of Congress, by-passing the states. Advocates of the ordination of ineligible people, unable to change the constitution, proposed to “interpret” it by altering the meaning of the phrase “shall not” so that it from now on it means “may.” A prohibition was changed by interpretation into permission, because the advocates of change could not muster the votes to pass an amendment.

If you think that this description is a partisan distortion, note that it was confirmed by a national news source.

Like other mainline Protestant groups, Presbyterians have been debating for decades how they should interpret Scripture on salvation, truth, sexuality and other issues.

But tensions erupted after a June 2006 meeting, when delegates granted new leeway in some cases for congregations and regional presbyteries to sidestep a church requirement that clergy and lay officers limit sex to man-woman marriage.

Note that this subversion of church governance occurred after the “wording [on sexual requirements for leadership] was approved by a majority of the regional bodies, and re-approved twice by larger majorities each time.”  The conclusion is unavoidable, that being the elite leadership chose to use corrupt means to get their way in direct contradiction of the denomination’s clear and legitimate will.

Illegitimate Victory

The loss of membership that followed the 2006 coup eventually allowed the Progressives to gain the upper hand.  Here’s how I have previously described this process.

But because they had jettisoned the Bible and Confessions, other means of achieving their ends had to be found.  Those means were abuse of the PCUSA’s rules, turning their democratic assumptions into cudgels by which to beat any opposition into submission.  This was accomplished by making life miserable for any majority that opposed their radical ends, and eventually, to drive them out of the church.

The result has been a PCUSA transformed from a Christian denomination to something completely foreign.

The elite Progressive strategic goal was always to deceive, discredit, demoralize and ultimately destroy any and all opposition from orthodox-minded Christians.

In this cruel goal they have succeeded.  Now they undisputedly control the PCUSA.  To accomplish this end they have made it into a theological laughing stock and a pathetic little appendage to the secular Progressive political machine.  And, having illegitimately achieved this position they now demand that those of us in opposition shut up or leave.

Lessons Learned

What lessons in church governance can we take from the appalling experience?  I suggest the following as a starting point for reform, once again with a focus on the PCUSA.

  1. A semi-permeant denominational bureaucracy, centered in our Presbyteries and General Assembly, was allowed to grow too powerful over the past fifty years or so.  They became the core, unstoppable force that sustained unwanted movements over the decades of theological/political warfare necessary to grind down opposition.  This class of nomenklatura has virtually no allegiance to Christianity as a lived faith and total allegiance to the diktats  of secular Progressive ideology.  Therefore, any reformed form of denominational governance must dissolve this power base and prevent its regrowth.
  2. As much as I love our historic (i.e., pre-1968) Confessions it must be admitted that they have proved ineffective as defensible boundaries for orthodox theology.  One obvious issue is their age, thus rendering their language almost incomprehensible to contemporary minds.  But a second major issue is their scope, comprehensiveness and number.  That is, they are so all-encompassing and complex, so many in number, that the core doctrines of Christianity become difficult to discern.  Thus, though they must not be lost, we need a simpler, clearer definition of orthodox Christian doctrine upon which to build a reformed church.
  3. Financial accountability must be reestablished between our governing and educational institutions and the laity.  Therefore, financial support must move from the current “Per-Capita” involuntary tax to a voluntary system of local church support.  By this means our institutions would have to “earn their keep” by demonstrating their effectiveness and efficiency.

Clearly the above ideas are short on implementation detail.  However, unless we identify the top-level goals of reformed governance the whole process can be easily derailed.

A New Reformation (1)

New-Reformation-GlassWhy We Need One

The Original Reformation

Before I address a new Reformation, a summary of the religious and social context for the original Reformation is necessary.  Here is the Encyclopedia Britannica’s.

The world of the late medieval Roman Catholic Church from which the 16th-century reformers emerged was a complex one. Over the centuries the church, particularly in the office of the papacy, had become deeply involved in the political life of western Europe. The resulting intrigues and political manipulations, combined with the church’s increasing power and wealth, contributed to the bankrupting of the church as a spiritual force. Abuses such as the sale of indulgences (or spiritual privileges) by the clergy and other charges of corruption undermined the church’s spiritual authority.

The Current Church Crisis

When I survey the political-spiritual situation in the Western Church today similarities with the 16th century Reformation are obvious.  Although the current Church has nowhere near the practical political power as did the medieval Roman Catholic, its subservience to secular political power is undeniable.  Anyone who has been following this blog will have been exposed to many examples within context of the PCUSA.  However, were I a member of the Episodical, Congregational, Methodist, or Evangelical Lutheran Church (among other Mainline denominations) the evidence for secular politics’ dominance would be of similar weight.

In the age of Trump we see the more conservative Evangelical churches embracing a man who just a decade ago would almost certainly have been rejected.  While I make no defense of President Trump’s morals, it takes a mountain of chutzpah for progressive Christians to criticize the politicization of Christianity by Evangelical leaders.  Some progressive Christians, upon seeing their strategy turned back on themselves, are beginning to recognize the danger of a Christianity captured by human ideology.  However, their voices are drowned out in the maelstrom of SJW Tweets and mob action.

This crisis is certainly not limited to the Protestant churches.  The positions of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on health care, poverty programs, human conflict, environmental policy and immigration are almost as inseparable from secular progressive cant as are those of the Mainline denominations.  However, they remain at odds with progressivism on abortion and religious freedom.  Thus the political situation is less certain.

However, it is in the area of sexual morality that the Catholic Church is experiencing an existential crisis.  As state Attorney Generals have become more aggressive in pursuing sexually deviant Catholic clergy it has become undeniable that there has been a longstanding, wide and deep coverup of pederasty.  This scandal directly involves Catholic leaders at the top of the hierarchy.  Potentially even Pope Francis has been credibly implicated in the protection of criminal clergy to advance the coverup.  Unless the Catholic Church fundamentally reforms we could be heading for a crisis on the order of the Protestant Reformation.

At the core of all these developments is a loss of spiritual authority that can be traced back to a substitution of human ideology for religious faith.  It appears that at some time in the last century many in the Christian clergy and laity concluded that, in effect, “God is indeed dead.”  However, they also realized that the institutional church yet wielded great moral power that could be put to “good” use.  When they looked around for a new moral compass they settled on secular progressive ideology.  This development is well summarized in An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America by Joseph Bottum.

Formed in the victory of civil rights activism, a new version of the social gospel movement became the default theology of church bureaucrats in the Mainline.  The churches “increasingly turned their attention to the drafting of social statements on a variety of contemporary problems,” as the religious historian Peter J. Thuesen has noted, and their statements “revealed a shared opinion among Mainline executives that the churches’ primary public role was social advocacy.”

As has been noted the Catholic Church is far down this path as well.  One can only guess as to where the more conservative Protestant churches are heading, though the polar opposite of the progressive denominations seems to be most likely.

As I recently wrote:

However, regardless of if we find ourselves in the Mainline Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox or Nondenominational branches we must seriously consider if our Christian testimony has been so corrupted by the poison of secular cults that it has been fundamentally compromised. My thought is that something akin to a new Reformation will be required for the Church to rise to this challenge. But, not my will be done, rather His.

I believe that only something on the order of a New Reformation has the power to extract the Western Christian Church from its current crisis.  Too many denominations and leaders have been corrupted by secular political power for anything less to do.

This isn’t a new idea.  But if my prayer can add to those of others seeking God’s intervention then let me not remain silent.

Making Sense of Progressive Nonsense (1)

PCUSA-Pastor

The Rev. Susan Rothenberg: “We welcome everybody here!” … “You don’t belong here!”  Wait, what?

A Logical Contradiction, or Not?

In a recent post I discussed the behavior and statements of the Rev. Susan Rothenberg within context of reality exceeding satire.  However, there is a far more serious, consequential aspect of this situation.  For, while it’s easy to point out the ridiculousness of her ranting “We welcome everybody here!” and “You don’t belong here!”, the fact that neither she nor her Presbytery saw anything wrong with these apparently contradictory statements should cause great concern.

In particular, the Rev. Rothenberg explicitly refused to apologize for her statements.

While I don’t regret what I said, I do regret the pain that it’s caused. … It has spiraled, and it’s incredibly sad that that has happened. I love my church, and I love my denomination, and I have deep regret for any harm they may be experiencing.”

The Pittsburg Presbytery also refused to in any way criticize her behavior or words, but rather sought to cloak her in the snow-white garb of official victimhood.  Speaking as the top official in the Presbytery the Rev. Sheldon W. Sorge said:

“The pent-up anger this has revealed is astonishing. Susan’s protest has had the effect of a breach in a dam, and the torrent of hate-filled speech it has unleashed is vast and truly alarming,” the letter said.

So, to recap, neither the Rev. Rothenberg nor the Rev. Sorge acknowledged that a PCUSA minister publicly (and hatefully) screaming an apparent logical contradiction (among other questionable ideas) reflects poorly on the denomination’s intellectual or moral standing.

How to account for this result?  A charitable theory is that they are so embarrassed that they pretend to not notice, hoping that it will just disappear down the memory hole.  There was a time years ago when I would have gladly grasped at this straw.

pcusa-dividedUnfortunately, the purposeful, sustained over decades, policy of the PCUSA elite has been the implementation of just this apparent logical contradiction.  That is, while claiming to be loving and inclusive, the PCUSA elite has hatefully pursued a policy of exclusion for members who oppose (or even don’t sufficiently support) their goals.  Compelling evidence for this theory is easily found.  For example, contempt of and hatred for non-Progressive PCUSA members did not prevent (and may well have assisted) election of our 2016 General Assembly Co-Moderators.  General hatred for non-Progressive citizens was hurled from the pulpit of one of the PCUSA’s largest and most influential churches.  A partial summary of recent behavior, actions and policies of PCUSA leadership reveals an environment that ranges from disrespect to open intolerance of orthodox Christianity.  Finally note that this group has brazenly and officially self-identified as those who demand exclusion of all who refuse submission  to their ideology.

And in response over 1,200 churches and one-million members have exited the denomination in less than a decade.  That’s right folks, the supposedly most “inclusive” ever Christian leadership has in reality excluded and then driven out a huge segment of its membership.  It would take a heart of stone to resist pointing out the ludicrous irony of this situation.

While the previous text describes the contradiction between “We welcome everybody here!” and “You don’t belong here!”, it doesn’t explain how PCUSA Progressives can logically justify this position.  It turns out that the Reverends Sorge and Rothenberg provide key insight.  While defending the Rev. Rothenberg:

Rev. Sorge said he does not expect any efforts within the church to oust his colleague and note that Presbyterians have a long history of supporting political activism.

When asked to explain her behavior, she responded:.

“We have to give voice to pain and suffering. And sometimes pain and suffering is not attractive and doesn’t look like we have it all together. And I think that’s what it looked like”

Thus, the fact that the Rev. Rothenberg was practicing “political activism” supporting victims of “pain and suffering” justifies her behavior.  And, by extension, the PCUSA’s Progressive elite can and does justify almost anything by this same logic.

Therefore, to expand the Rev. Rothenberg’s formulation, the PCUSA’s policy is:

  1. We welcome everybody [who claims to either (a) be a victim of oppression or (b) speak out for victims of oppression] here!
  2. You [victimizers who adhere to the orthodox Biblical doctrines of sin and redemption] don’t belong here!

obfuscationThis is how the PCUSA Progressive elite can pursue a policy that on the surface appears to be a logical contradiction.  They say (or in this case scream) the above bolded words aloud.  In their heads they add (something along the lines of) the bracketed words.  Perhaps we should start to take far more seriously the hidden sense in what appears to be Progressive nonsense.

Stinging Satire from the Babylon Bee (3)

Keeping Satire Ahead of Reality is Hard

As you have probably noticed by now I sometimes enjoy the Babylon Bee.  However, I’m concerned that it’s fighting a losing battle with reality.  Consider their dilemma. They must somehow stay ahead of the ever accelerating lunacy that is occurring in reality in order to deliver satire.  That’s hard and getting harder.

Screen Shot 2018-11-11 at 4.29.29 AMTake the PCUSA as a test case.  Back in 2017 the Bee published a satirical piece about the PCUSA’s position on inclusiveness.

“As a denomination, we just want to reiterate our sincere desire to extend a warm embrace to people of all backgrounds, as long as they don’t disagree with us on any single issue,” Rev. Craig Barnes said on behalf of the group, speaking to church leaders gathered at Princeton Theological Seminary. “We are totally committed to being accepting, loving, and never condemning—unless you’re a filthy, toxic traditionalist. Then all bets are off.”

The above excerpt’s quotes are, of course, made up and extreme for effect.  That’s simply a key aspect of satire.

PCUSA-Pastor

The Rev. Susan Rothenberg

However, a PCUSA minister recently created a public spectacle that in reality surpassed anything that the Bee could have imagined. Specifically, the Babylon Bee made up the quote by a made up PCUSA leader that “We are totally committed to being accepting, loving, and never condemning—unless you’re a filthy, toxic traditionalist. Then all bets are off” while an actual PCUSA pastor screamed in public that “We welcome everybody here!” and “You don’t belong here!” to the President of the United States and by obvious extension to those who support (or even don’t aggressively resist) him.

pittsburgh-presbytery

The Rev. Sheldon W. Sorge of the Pittsburgh Presbytery

As if to perfectly demonstrate in reality the entire satirical Bee imagined quote, the Pittsburgh Presbytery chose to only condemn those who objected to this behavior and tried to make the aggressor into a victim.

In an open letter titled “A Season of Travail” and published online Thursday, the Rev. Sheldon W. Sorge, the Presbytery’s general minister, expressed dismay at what he termed a “rush of anger unleashed on Facebook” at Rev. Rothenberg.

In an interview Thursday, Rev. Sorge said he was concerned by the level of animosity that has permeated emails, Facebook posts and phone messages that have flooded not only the Pittsburgh Presbytery but the church’s national office and presbytery offices elsewhere in the U.S.

The following paragraph in the same article is essential to drawing an informed conclusion about the Rev. Sorge’s response (emphasis added).

Calls have come in for Rev. Rothenberg, who currently works at a church consulting agency, to be dismissed or defrocked. And while Rev. Sorge said he is unaware of any threats of violence made, he said callers have resorted to denouncing Rev. Rothenberg in spiritual terms, telling her she can go to hell.

Yes, we can agree that a few responders saying “go to hell” is not an acceptable position.  However, if that’s the worst extreme in commentary by thousands of upset people then we can be confident that the vast majority of critical responses varied from thoughtful to angry, but were generally civil (see the end of this post for selected comments included in another article).

So, the Rev. Sorge backed his fellow cleric 100% and condemned all who voiced displeasure with her.  Is this stance any different than the Bee’s pretend statement that As a denomination, we just want to reiterate our sincere desire to extend a warm embrace to people of all backgrounds, as long as they don’t disagree with us?

Of course it’s not just the PCUSA who are making satire challenging.  So much so that the Instapundit site has created a tagline for those all too regular examples of reality challenging satirical imagination.

CNN UNVEILS NEW SLOGAN: ‘ORANGE MAN BAD.’

It’s the Babylon Bee, so it’s satire – or is it?

 

IT’S SATIRE, BUT IS IT REALLY? On Gender, Left Steps Up Effort Against Notorious Hate Group: Reality.

My theory is that this is a devious, brilliant conspiracy by the Progressive Left to destroy the Bee by making it impossible for satire to stay ahead of reality.

 



 

TheBlaze published an article on Rev. Rothenberg’s public outburst that includes a selection of comments found on Facebook.  While most are critical, not one crosses the line of civility.

The clip of Rothenberg yelling at Trump attracted over 29,000 comments on WTAE’s Facebook page since Tuesday evening. Most seemed decidedly against her yelling at the president:

  • “I guess she missed the entire point of the last few days. Hate is not welcomed or supported in Pittsburgh. She is fueling the very hate she says she’s against!”
  • “Wow are you kidding me? Leave your differences aside and stop being a disrespectful child in a time of mourning.”
  • This is not the Pittsburgh I grew up in, nor is it the Presbyterian Church I grew up in. The man wasn’t here to be with political people, but came with his family to honor the deceased and first responders, and visit those who were wounded. He did not affect you or the families of the deceased. Spewing hatred is the problem. I’m ashamed for these actions.”
  • “This lady just wanted attention. Notice her smile and cover her face than say sorry when she saw she was being recorded and getting the attention she wanted. She doesn’t care that her neighbors are trying to grieve for loved ones if she truly did she wouldn’t add to the chaos.”

But not every comment was negative:

  • “I feel her frustration. My heart aches for the family and love ones of those who were taken by hatred.”

Wow, pretty mild stuff.  But how dare the unwashed multitude criticize in any way the public behavior of a PCUSA minister!

Stinging Satire from the Babylon Bee (1)

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 5.35.30 AMThese Guys are Pretty Funny!

One of the more subversive Christian sites currently on the Internet is the Babylon Bee.  I was introduced to it via a few secular sites that focus on Conservative / Libertarian politics.  If you are a Progressive of any stripe you’ll likely not appreciate their perspective.  However, you may have to admit that they are pretty creative when it comes to critiquing politics and current events.

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 5.50.57 AMTheir primary modus operandi is to take an opponent’s position at face value and then  create overtly “fake news” articles that poke fun at their expense.  As readers of this blog would expect, one of my recent favorites is Progressive Group Launches ‘Center for Advanced Ad Hominems’.  Whereas my method is to seriously demonstrate the existence and destructiveness of this behavior the Bee assumes Progressive ownership of this tactic and then takes it to the logical (but credible?) extreme.  The text is funny, but it’s the accompanying photo that seals the laughter deal.

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 6.40.42 AMOne major theme is opposition to Postmodern/Progressive Christianity.  As an orthodox Reformed Christian (i.e., when I vowed as an Elder to be guided by the historic Confessions I knew what they teach and meant it) living in the PCUSA I can’t avoid being regularly smacked upside the head with this theological perspective.  So, when the Bee goes after the ensuing doctrinal and organizational insanity I fully admit to taking (guilty?) pleasure in the results.

An alleged draft of the creed, which was leaked to the press Thursday morning, reads as follows:

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in our feels, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from our feels: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by the Scriptures, church history, or theologians.”

“Thus, things that make us feel bad, those are wrong. The things that give us all the happy feels, those are true, right, and good.”

“At least, that’s how we feel at the moment, I feel,” she noted.

Satire Gold!

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 9.44.42 AMAnd, lest you assume that these Bees live in a ideological bubble-hive, I give you this “article” about then candidate Donald Trump.

“‘Has-Been Bible’ says I’m not a Christian, but that is a lie, folks. I am a tremendous Christian—the very best,” Trump assured the nation. “These numerous verses from the Bible—which, by the way, doesn’t even have the courage to address me by name—but these verses that try to paint me as somehow un-Christian, they’re ridiculous and false, and it’s pathetic, really. It’s sad!”

Pressed for comment, the Holy Bible released a one-sentence statement: “You will know them by their fruits.”

But wait!  There’s more…it turns out that the Babylon Bee has waded into the doctrinal debate on salvation.  Can that possibly be funny?  Stay tuned.

TheChristian Church in Revolutionary Times (3)

basis-for-giving

The Biblical Foundation

Although revolutionary times share common attributes, each instance is driven by its own set of issues.  As was discussed in the previous post this potential revolution is driven by the segregation of our population into waring identity groups.

Given this situation, what are the most relevant Bible verses upon which to base the Christian Church’s response?  My initial thought is a verse that may seem to cut in the opposite direction, given that it calls Christians to identify completely with Christ.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:6 NIV)

We cannot credibly respond to the world as Christians if we in practice reject Christ.  Much of this blog’s content has been dealing with just that issue within context of the PCUSA’s leadership.  One of my key points has been that our leadership has so completely conformed to Progressive ideology that all credibility as a Christian voice has been lost.

I am not saying that Christians should segregate themselves from the world or presume some sort of automatic moral authority.  Rather, my point is that unless we demonstrate that we are addressing events from a sincere, consistent and distinctive Christian perspective we will be written off as just another interest group.

With this said, there are two Scriptural passages that I believe most directly and effectively address the foundations of identity politics.  The first is Romans 3:9-20 (NIV).

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”
 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
     ruin and misery mark their ways,
 and the way of peace they do not know.”
     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

This passages reminds us that we all share in the fallenness of sin, be we Conservative, Progressive, Independent, Libertarian, Liberal, Moderate or anything else.  We all are tainted morally, and we all are capable of corruption, hypocrisy, deceit, greed and lust.  This is not to say that therefore all political positions are equally moral from a Christian perspective.  It does say that to presume one group of humans to be inherently morally superior to another violates a central truth of Christianity.  That being our universal fallenness and universal need for a Savior.  Were our society to hear this message consistently and compellingly from the Christian Church some of the divisiveness at free play might just be attenuated.

While the Romans passage stresses our human unity under sin, the following verse from Galatians proclaims our common identity in Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NIV)

When the Apostle Paul wrote these words (under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration) in the first century A.D. within the Roman Empire they covered the three most divisive identity issues of that time and place.  Thus, this was a radical and controversial position.  Were the Christian Church to put this teaching into today’s context it would go far toward closing the rift that currently exists between identity groups.

Glimpses into the Progressive Psyche (2)

Pres-Chicago-CAREA Quiet Conversation over Lunch

Background

While I served as a Commissioner to the Presbytery of Chicago I had began to voice opposition to their theology and actions.  One of my first significant statements in this area, “Thoughts About the PCUSA: Investigating Boundaries of Division,” was publicly released in May of 2012.  I have republished this paper under the title “Honoring Christ in our Relationships” on this blog site.  The paper explores the theological foundations for the Presbytery’s behavior concerning continuing controversy over the PCUSA’s decision to ordain practicing homosexuals.

In it I propose the theory that it is postmodernism intersecting with Christian theology that accounts for their behavior.  If you examine my early posts you will see that I describe those with whom I am contending as “Postmodern Christians.”  However, due to this discussion  I am now certain that it is something else with which I am contending.  A description of the encounter that set me straight on this issue follows.

The Encounter

A senior leader in the Presbytery sat down next to me at a luncheon.  I don’t recall most of the conversation, but near the end he paused and said something to the effect of “You realize that this is a Progressive Presbytery.”  The entire conversation was pleasant and friendly.  I think he was trying to point out that I was kidding myself if I thought that my views were going to make a difference in the Presbytery’s direction.  And, he was certainly right about that.

But the real impact of this comment was to correct a misconception on my part in another area.  Up to that point I had been thinking about the Presbytery’s behavior in strictly theological terms.  I thus was considering the impact of postmodernism on Christian theology, resulting in the concept of postmodern Christians.

His comment made me realize that the true center of the Presbytery’s identity is political Progressivism.  Yes, postmodernism played a significant role, but it was not at the center. This insight caused me to move to the concept of Progressive Christianity.

Of course, the realization that the Presbytery was driven by a secular and often godless human ideology increased my sense of alienation.  I have explored this sad situation in many posts.