A Modest Overture to the 224th General Assembly (2c)

Presbytery-of Gaia

On Bringing Our Ordination Questions into the Post-Christian PC(USA) Era, from the Presbytery of Gaia

Rationale (continued)

Question c.

c. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed [Progressive] faith [tradition] as expressed in the confessions of our church [New York Times, Das Kapital, Rules for Radicals, Silent Spring, etc.] as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture [Progressivism] leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions [Progressive traditions] as you lead the people [comrades] of God [, or nothing]?

It is long past time that we ejected this ridiculous, ancient dogma called “Reformed Theology” (see the accompanying Overture, “On Bringing our Book of Confessions into the Post-Christian PC(USA) Era — from the Presbytery of Gaia”).  By our continued pretense to be under this theology we severely handicap our ability to advance towards Socialist utopia.  Thus we are constantly forced to distort our positions into a form that “Reformed Theology” “supports.”  For example, our support for the Black Panthers’ revolutionary violence should be loud and proud rather than hidden behind a thin veneer of faux Reformed Christian platitudes!

If anyone doubts that the PC(USA) is led by people who are first and foremost Progressive political activists, we recommend reading of the Rev. Shannon Kershner’s sermon after the 2016 Presidential Election.  In it she made clear that anyone who supported the election of anyone other than the sainted Hillary Clinton is a degenerate.  For example she said this.

It is about the impact, the impact that very loud hate is being expressed in some extremely vivid ways since Tuesday night.
In particular, that hate is being expressed primarily by people who look like me or who love like me or who believe like me, expressed against those who do not fit those categories. Allow me to tell you a few stories of which I have firsthand knowledge.
She goes on to list (unverified, not first but rather second or third-hand) cruel statements and actions all by (unverified) people who supposedly supported Mr. Trump for President.  Can there be any doubt that this pastor who leads the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago is a highly partisan, aggressive Progressive advocate?  There is no understanding, no forgiveness, no mercy for the deplorables who don’t want to be dominated by the elite Progressive class.  So, let’s stop the pretense and go all in with the Rev. Shannon Kershner for Progressivism as our ideology and theology!

Question d.

d. Will you fulfill your office in obedience to [your feelings about] Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture [your true self], and be continually guided by our confessions [Progressive traditions]?

Our recent Rationales generated by PC(USA) Presbyteries make it absolutely clear that these changes are both accurate and supported.  For example, whereas the actual Biblical texts about Jesus’ dealings with those at the margins of society was focused on delivering them from the death of sin to the new life of salvation, the Presbytery author’s “feelings” converted this into unconditional acceptance and affirmation of their sin.

Even mote clear was the Presbytery of Long Island, whose author’s “feelings” about Jesus made it unimaginable that he would not support same gender marriage.

It seemed to us unimaginable to think that Jesus would deny two people who seek to live their lives in union, with him and with each other, the ability to do so.

Since it is “unimaginable” to this Presbytery that someone who said this about marriage:

He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

would ever deny a same gender marriage, it is absolutely demonstrated that their “feelings” have far greater authoritative weight than anything that this dead and dust guy might have said 2,000 years ago!

Question e.

e. Will you be governed by our church’s polity [central committee], and will you abide by its discipline? Will you be a friend among your colleagues in ministry [political activism], working with them, subject to the ordering of God’s Word [Progressive ideology]?

When the plebes in the pews repeatedly failed to obey the PC(USA)’s “central committee” (General Assembly) demand to affirm gay ordination they eventually achieved their goal by use of an “authoritative interpretation.”  In particular, the General Assembly chose the path of democratic nullification in 2008.  This article lays out what occurred. The “authoritative interpretation” did not requite Presbytery approval to go into effect.  Thus, “consent of the governed” had been in effect nullified. 

Why should the PC(USA) maintain the pretense of democratic governance given that the General Assembly is acting in effect as a central committee?  So many deplorables have been driven out by our denomination that there is virtually zero chance for any Progressive policy to be defeated.  Let’s therefore accept the efficiency of dictatorship by the General Assembly so that all of our energy can be focused on the “fundamental transformation” of the United States into a Socialist paradise!

Question f.

f. Will you in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ [your authentic self], love your neighbors [unless they are orthodox Christians or otherwise deplorable], and work for the reconciliation [dictatorship] of the world [proletariat and/or favored identity groups]?

It is by our “authentic selves” that our “feelings” become authoritative.  For example:

… it was only fitting that a select group of racial ethnic clergywomen in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – nominated by their presbytery and synod executives – gathered here in the heart of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains to be inspired …

Hunter told the gathering. “Your gift to the church may be that at a certain point you figure out authentically who you are and you share your authentic self. My hope for all of you is that you get to a place where it’s your leadership and not the leadership that you think someone else wants from you.”

Note the emphasis on ethnic, gender and racial identity.  We are well along the path to total embrace of identity politics and intersectionality ideology by which human beings are valued according to their race, gender, ethnicity and orientation.  Drive forward faster and drive out the lowly evil people of the wrong race, gender, ethnicity and orientation!

Question g.

g. Do you promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church [Progressivism]?

See all of the above.

Question h.

h. Will you seek to serve the people [proletariat and/or favored identity groups] with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love [while driving out orthodox Christians or the otherwise deplorable]?

Our recent PC(USA) Co-Moderators (both Blazingly Woke Prophets) have made it abundantly clear that we hate orthodox Christians (in a public blog post and official PC(USA) Overture, respectively). The Rev. Shannon Kershner (in a sermon from the pulpit of Fourth Presbyterian) has made it abundantly clear that we hate the deplorables who oppose our Progressive hegemony (see text on Question c.).

We have by self-definition affirmed the driving out of any otrhodox or otherwise deplorable members.  Here’s an excerpt from “When We Gather at the Table: A PC(USA) Snapshot” that describes our attitudes towards more conservative PCUSA members.

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.

There are two options described in the thinking of these “Purposeful Progressives,” (1) conform and stay and (2) get out!  So let’s finish the job Progressive Christians!



Can anyone doubt we have conclusively shown that:

  1. recent events and statements by PC(USA) governing bodies and elite leaders have demonstrated how utterly obsolete our current ordination questions have become and,
  2. they no longer accurately convey the spiritual, ideological or theological characteristics required for effective leadership in the PC(USA)?

Therefore, the Presbytery of Gaia calls on the PC(USA) to undo the confusion caused by the current ordination questions and replace them with questions that enable focused, aggressive attainment of our true beliefs and purpose!

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A Modest Overture to the 224th General Assembly (2b)

Presbytery-of Gaia

On Bringing Our Ordination Questions into the Post-Christian PC(USA) Era, from the Presbytery of Gaia

Rationale to the Overture

The Presbyterian Church (USA), having driven out most of its orthodox Reformed or otherwise deplorable members, is now entering a new and exciting phase of spiritual transformation!  One potential impediment to achieving our deepest self-spiritual goals is the continued existence of our current Ordination Questions for Officers.

Recent events and statements by PC(USA) governing bodies and elite leaders have demonstrated how utterly obsolete these questions have become.  In particular, they no longer accurately convey the spiritual, ideological or theological characteristics required for effective leadership in the PC(USA).

The issue is that, although the current Ordination Questions are generally unthinkingly recited and then utterly ignored by the majority of our Officers (particularly so now that so many orthodox or otherwise deplorable members have been driven out, praise be to our true selves!), a few remain who foolishly think that they have the purpose and meaning associated with the words that comprise them.

These unenlightened few are thus empowered to claim that our Officers who follow their feelings into true spiritual enlightenment are acting in opposition to their stated vows.  Although these few will have no real impact on the PC(USA)’s direction, they can cause unnecessary negative feelings (so unnecessary, recall our Most Woke Prophet’s definition of sin: “Being out of alignment with my values.”) in our Officers as they conform to the universe’s spiritual meta-force and history’s march to utopia.

The following sections will provide justification for the changes proposed to each individual Ordination Questing based on recent events and statements by PC(USA) governing bodies and elite leaders.

Question a.

a. Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him [them] Lord [your imaginary best friend] of all and Head of the Church [“amen” shouter to your feelings], and through him believe in one [some] God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [or no God]?

Although the PC(USA) mustn’t totally abandon references to “Jesus Christ,” (after all, we want the credulous to think we’re still “Christian”) it’s absolutely clear from the set of same-gender marriage Rationales generated by our Presbyteries that this is just a perfunctory gesture.  What else can we conclude given that in over 24,000 words of Overture Rationale argumentation in support of same-gender marriage the PC(USA) Presbytery proponents did not once quote Jesus Christ?  The answer is obviously that he is not our “lord and savior” but rather an ancient guy who started a really cool movement.  But now we’re in charge, so we can use this dead and dust man to justify any and all of our Progressive ideas.

With regard to removal of the obsolete Trinitarian God idea, we are justified by that Very Woke Prophet from the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, the Rev. Shannon Kershner.  We quote from the March 7, 2018 Sun Times interview titled Prominent Presbyterian pastor: ‘God’s not a Christian . . . We are’.

Interviewer: Is Christianity the only way to get to heaven, if heaven exists?

Rev. Kershner: No!  God’s not a Christian, I mean we are.

So if “God’s not a Christian” then Jesus Christ can’t be the Second Person of the Christian Trinitarian God.  And if Jesus Christ is removed then the Trinity is dissolved and in its place can be any god that anyone wants to imagine!

With regard to the “or no God” phrase, the fact that the the Presbytery of the Cascades ordained an open atheist as a minister and the PC(USA) rewarded them with the honor of hosting the 222nd General Assembly, we can confidently infer that all need for a “god” in the PC(USA) has been erased!  Praise be to our true selves!

Question b.

b. Do you accept the [selected] Scriptures [and Gnostic Gospels] of the Old and New [New] Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit [ancient human myth-making], the unique [optional] and authoritative [occasionally useful] witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal [my inner self], and God’s [or nothing’s] Word [Gnosis] to you?

When the PC(USA) endorsed the “New New Testament” on their official denominational web site the clear signal was sent that the “Bible” is fair game to be ripped apart and reconstituted.  The “New New Testament” is a project by The Jesus Seminar to add ten Gnostic texts to the current New Testament!

The “star” of the Gnosticism-celebrating Presbyterian News Service article is the Exceedingly Woke Prophet Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow.  Here’s his bio from the “A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts” web site.

Bruce Reyes-Chow is a Presbyterian minister, blogger, and social media consultant based in San Francisco, California. Bruce was the founding pastor of the young adult faith community Mission Bay Community Church; he was elected as the youngest-ever Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2008 and recently published the e-book The Definitive-ish Guide for Using Social Media in the Church.

Note that in 2008 commissioners to the PC(USA) General Assembly elected the Rev. Reyes-Chow to be their Moderator.  A mere five years later this elite  PC(USA) leader enthusiastically participated in a group bent on creating a Gnostic “New New Testament,” that had significant overlap with members of the Jesus Seminar.  The Rev. Reyes-Chow remains as an honored Officer in the PC(USA), so we are completely justified in proposing expansion of the New Testament to include ten Gnostic books.

With regard to ejecting the Old Testament, isn’t the justification obvious?

To propose getting rid of the Old Testament as Christian Scripture seems extreme. But when I attended the Berlin conference, I came to see that Slenczka’s perspective is not as far-fetched or eccentric as I had imagined. In fairness, his proposal was raised, by his own admission, in a spirit of provocation. In that he succeeded. In the process, he exposed an unsettling reality. Some of the basic assumptions of modern biblical scholarship dovetail only too snugly with the basic assumption of modern systematic theology. Together, they make Slenczka’s rejection of the Old Testament as Christian Scripture frighteningly plausible. We’re culpably irresponsible if we don’t confront those assumptions.

We post-Christian PC(USA) leaders happily “confront these assumptions” and reject the Old Testament God as the Demiurge.

Our Rationale will be continued in the next post.

A Modest Overture to the 224th General Assembly (2a)

Presbytery-of Gaia

On Bringing Our Ordination Questions 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 changes to the Ordination Questions:

a. Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him [them] Lord [your imaginary best friend] of all and Head of the Church [“amen” shouter to your feelings], and through him believe in one [some] God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [or no God]?

b. Do you accept the [selected] Scriptures [and Gnostic Gospels] of the Old and New [New] Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit [ancient human myth-making], the unique [optional] and authoritative [occasionally useful] witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal [my inner self], and God’s [or nothing’s] Word [Gnosis] to you?

c. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed [Progressive] faith [tradition] as expressed in the confessions of our church [New York Times, Das Kapital, Rules for Radicals, Silent Spring, etc.] as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture [Progressivism] leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions [Progressive traditions] as you lead the people [comrades] of God [, or nothing]?

d. Will you fulfill your office in obedience to [your feelings about] Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture [your true self], and be continually guided by our confessions [Progressive traditions]?

e. Will you be governed by our church’s polity [central committee], and will you abide by its discipline? Will you be a friend among your colleagues in ministry [political activism], working with them, subject to the ordering of God’s Word [Progressive ideology]?

f. Will you in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ [your authentic self], love your neighbors [unless they are orthodox Christians or otherwise deplorable], and work for the reconciliation [dictatorship] of the world [proletariat and/or favored identity groups]?

g. Do you promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church [Progressivism]?

h. Will you seek to serve the people [proletariat and/or favored identity groups] with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love [while driving out orthodox Christians or the otherwise deplorable]?

A new Book of Order that includes these updated Ordination Questions will be generated and distributed.  All current Officers will be required to renounce the previous Ordination Questions and affirm these updated questions.  Refusal to do so will be addressed first by use of a struggle session to correct the false thinking of the subject.  If the Officer continues refusal after the struggle session they will be declared to be an “orthodox Christian or otherwise deplorable” and driven out of the church.  All future Officers will be required to affirm these updated Ordination Questions.

In our following Rationale we will explain how recent events and statements by PC(USA) governing bodies and elite leaders have demonstrated how utterly obsolete these current questions have become.  In particular, we will show that they no longer accurately convey the spiritual, ideological or theological characteristics required for effective leadership in the PC(USA).

 

Clarity about What Divides Us: Biblical Authority

sola-scriptura

The Authority of Scripture

Every once in a while I come across a book or article that provides substantial clarification regarding those things that divide us.  One of these is an article published in Theology Matters by Robert P. Mills titled “The Priority of Authority: Holy Scripture and Human Sexuality.”  Rev. Mills openes his article by paraphrasing a common claim made by Progressive Christians that:

“We all agree on the authority of Scripture. We just disagree about interpretation.”

Rev. Mills’ contention is that this claim is false.  My own paraphrase of his position is that “Because we fundamentally disagree on the authority of Scripture we therefore also fundamentally disagree on its interpretation.”

Rev. Mills develops his argument in three areas, those being:

Part 1, Authority and Humanity, will discuss the nature of authority, contexts in which authority is exercised, the human need for authority both individually and collectively, and the decline of authority in Western culture.

Part 2, Authority and Scripture, will start with the doctrine of revelation then look at what the Bible says about authority. It will then consider the nature of Scripture’s authority, giving special attention to the loss of authority that has come with liberalism’s denial of God as the Author of Scripture, and to the loss of Christian community that has resulted from this denial.

Part 3, Authority and Interpretation, will explain why and how evangelical Christians can and must uphold the historic Christian understanding of the nature and function of authority in general and the authority of Scripture in particular. It will conclude with a constructive proposal for reuniting the authority of Scripture with the interpretation of Scripture, with specific reference to current conversations in mainline Protestant denominations concerning human sexuality.

It should go without saying that “you should read the whole thing.”  However, if this isn’t possible here are the key clarifying passages.

With regard to “Part 1: Authority and Humanity,” this quote well summarizes our contemporary situation.

The prevailing understanding of many in the mainline seems to be that the individual is the ultimate authority in any and all matters of faith and practice, whether the issue is the interpretation of Scripture or the ordination of church leaders. This is the flight Jeffrey Stout describes as being from authority to autonomy.

Yes, this is precisely the claim of ultimate personal autonomy that underlies Progressive Christian arguments.

With regard to “Part 2: Authority and Scripture,”  the following excerpt is of critical importance.

Anyone who has been even tangentially involved in discussions of Scripture with liberals recognizes that there are those in our congregations and denominations who refuse to recognize the authority of Scripture precisely because they refuse to recognize God as its author. There are those in positions of leadership in our congregations, governing bodies, denominations, and seminaries who quite casually declare that the Bible is entirely of human origin; that the Bible is a record of human efforts to reach out and touch “the divine” and that the Bible may not, indeed must not, be considered God’s revelation of himself to his human creation.

Calvin reminds us that Scripture is our authority for Christian faith and life because God is the ultimate author of Scripture. Scripture derives its authority from its author—God.

This is to where the Confession of 1967 pointed.  And we have arrived at the intended destination where each individual human is the authoritative interpreter of Scripture:

Deconstructionists dogmatically declare that any written work—whether a student essay, the U.S. Constitution, or the Bible—means only what the reader, never what the writer, thinks it means. As a result, any written work may have as many meanings as it has readers, even if the meanings are contradictory. Similarly, a single reader may assign a different meaning to a text every time he reads it.

With regard to “Part 3: Authority and Interpretation,” the Rev. Mills connects the crisis of Scriptural interpretation to the Progressive demand for ultimate personal autonomy.

By rigidly separating interpretation from revelation, liberalism attempts to relocate authority from God as the author of Scripture to each individual who reads Scripture. Uncritically accepting the deconstructionist dogma that there is no such thing as “authorial intent,” that it is impossible to convey an intended meaning to a reader, liberalism insists that there is no authority higher than the individual, which is, of course, the definition of autonomy.

Near the article’s end the Rev. Mills states the ultimate point of conflict that divides the Progressive (liberal) and orthodox camps.

Liberals cannot accept the authority of Scripture because it would supersede their authority to impose their views … To put it bluntly, if God is the ultimate authority, liberals are not. And for liberals openly to acknowledge that reality would be to acknowledge that the beliefs and practices they propose constitute a counterfeit Christianity.

The authority of Scripture and the interpretation of those passages of Scripture that deal with human sexuality cannot be separated. That is because the rejection of the authority of Scripture and the embrace of sexual behaviors that Scripture calls sin share the same root causes: the desire of individuals for ultimate autonomy; the consequent rejection of God’s authority as a constructive good; the willful yielding to the serpent’s temptation, “You will be like God.”

Can there be any greater proof of interpretation of Scripture from the position of ultimate human autonomy than the recent PCUSA debate on the definition of Christian Marriage?  In the 24,000+ words written in Rationales supporting same-gender marriage I find only three direct references to Scripture (i.e., text with chapter and verse) and Jesus Christ is not quoted even once. If actual Scripture is so utterly ignored then what is the nature of Rationale text in which Scripture is discussed? It is the authors telling us what they believe Scripture teaches, often in the most general and/or selective terms, without the slightest attempt at demonstration.  So completely have they internalized the idea of interpretation from human autonomy that they don’t even pretend that Scripture has authority over their opinions or beliefs.

The issue that now confronts us is fundamental to our identity as Christians saved and beloved by a sovereign Triune God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  To reject this God as Scripture’s Author and thus to remove Scripture’s authority from this God will lead only to despair and destruction.  If we fail to stand on this ground there will be no end to the apostasy we will be demanded to embrace, and to which we will eventually succumb.

iBooks Publish Announcement: A Denomination’s Debacle

I have published my fourth eBook on iBooks.  If you have an iOS device then you can use this link to access.  If you do not use an iOS device, a PDF version can be found on my blog using this link.

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A Denomination’s Debacle

This book is an indictment of the leadership elite who have driven the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), or PCUSA, into an utter debacle.

The most visible aspect of this debacle is the unprecedented loss of membership and churches that occurred between 2011 and 2017. Over that time span the PCUSA experienced a net loss of 601,000 members and 1146 churches, which is almost 30% of its membership and almost 12% of its churches. But these numbers don’t capture the human cost in broken trust, lost faith and shattered relationships that has occurred behind the scenes.

What remains is a denomination dominated by a post-Christian elite who use their power to advance a social gospel that is virtually indistinguishable from the secular Progressive political project. To some readers this charge against the PCUSA leadership will seem to be not just extraordinary, but also unbelievable. This book contains the extraordinary evidence that justifies the charge.

Preface Excerpt

The reader may well ask why I feel compelled to tell this story. I do so for three reasons.

First, the elite denominational leadership has obtained this end under the cloak of purposeful deception. This deception is not found in their policy and theological positions. No, they have aggressively advanced their cause with general honesty. The deception is that they claim to have been doing so as a legitimate expression of orthodox Reformed Christianity. By so doing they have preyed with premeditation and malice upon the trust of the denomination’s parishioners. We will never recover from this spell unless the truth is exposed.

Second, there are still many faithful members and churches in the PCUSA. However, unless they fully understand the forces arrayed against them they will likely eventually succumb. Only if they understand that their presence in the denomination is as a light shining in the darkness can they be protected from the apostasy and heresy that surrounds them. That understanding is what sustained the Apostles and early Christians as they proclaimed the Gospel as isolated individuals and churches in the pagan Roman Empire. The challenge we face is far less extreme. Yet, if we prioritize the comfort and peace of our lives over our responsibilities as followers of Christ even the small courage required will elude us.

Finally, the forces that have corrupted the PCUSA act upon our general culture and thus are not unique to this denomination. Therefore, we can expect that other churches and denominations are struggling under the same theological onslaught as has laid the PCUSA low. Thus this book attempts to explain these forces and how a corrupt leadership can by deception and seduction smuggle false theology into an otherwise orthodox Christian fellowship.

Table of Contents

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Human Free Will Within God’s Providential Control

Konstantin_Flavitsky_001

Joseph’s brothers sell him into captivity (1855, Konstantin Flavitsky)

Note: The following post is an excerpt from my third eBook — God’s Acts of Providence.  If you have an iOS device (i.e. an Apple device) then you can use this link to access.  If you do not use an iOS device, a PDF version can be found using this link.

Background

If God allows our wills freedom to operate then what happens when our corrupt wills collide with God’s eternal decrees?  It appears that God weaves His eternal purposes into the fabric of our willful acts.  That is, though we do indeed make decisions and take actions that are based upon our free wills, God is able to ensure that the accumulated result accomplishes His purposes.

The most notable Biblical story that reveals this dynamic is Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37-50).  Recall that Issac became the child of the fulfilled promise to Abraham and Sarah.  In turn Issac had twin sons, Esau and Jacob.  Although the younger, it was through Jacob’s line that God chose for the keeping of His promise.  Jacob had twelve sons, the second youngest of whom was Joseph.

Joseph’s Story

To call Jacob’s family dysfunctional may be an understatement.  Jacob showed extreme favoritism towards Joseph, who responded by becoming conceited and boastful.  Not surprisingly this situation created great resentfulness in his ten older brothers.  They eventually became so furious that they decided to sell Joseph into slavery and tell their father that he had been killed by a beast.

Joseph ended up in the Egyptian empire.  There he experienced great danger and suffering.  However, due to God’s gift of prophecy, Joseph miraculously ended up being the second most powerful man in Egypt, with only the Pharaoh above him.

Although the story centers on Joseph in Egypt for a long period of time, we are told that his brothers’ scheme crushed their father’s spirit.  One need no special gift of imagination to infer that their father’s grief coupled with the keeping of a shameful lie must have created gaping wounds in the family’s life.

None of the people in this story were originally attempting to cooperate with God’s providential purposes.  Quite the contrary, they were driven by pride, envy, greed, hatred and selfishness, among many other moral failings.  One would be hard pressed to create a family situation less supportive of God’s purposes.  In fact, their wills appear to have been aligned directly against God by tending to destroy the very family through which God sought to fulfill His promise!

And yet, in the end, it is God’s will that is done.  Not only does Jacob’s family survive, but it does so because of the sequence of sinful events willed by the human participants.  That is, because Joseph becomes powerful in Egypt he can offer his family salvation from a devastating famine.

Bourgeois_Joseph_recognized_by_his_brothers

Joseph recognized by his brothers (1863, Leon Pierre Bourgeois).  Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him until long after they had been introduced to the second most powerful man in Egypt.

Far beyond mere physical survival, the experiences of Joseph and his brothers create in them softened hearts, humility and mercy that enable the family to reconcile.  This process only reaches completion upon the death of Jacob.  For, in spite of Joseph’s apparent kindness, his brothers yet fear that he is only waiting until Jacob’s death to take revenge.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”  So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died:  ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.  His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”  But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:15-21

In Joseph’s astounding statement we find wondrous insight into God’s working of His providential purposes within context of human free will.  There is unambiguous clarity that Joseph’s brothers were willfully intending evil when they sold him into slavery.  However, there is also no doubt that God’s intentions were the exact opposite, and, were operating throughout.  How can these apparently contradictory statements be reconciled?

Meditation

Put another way, where in creation does God have the opportunity to inject His will so as to ensure a chosen outcome within context of human free will?  Here we enter the realm of conjecture.  However, it is conjecture illuminated by the entire Biblical story concerning God’s dealing with mankind.

One obvious place to look is the dimension of time.  We can easily recall numerous historical events when the difference of hours, or even minutes, had a controlling impact on the outcome.  For example, had the caravan to which Joseph was sold arrived hours later his brothers might have decided to kill him (Genesis 37:25-28).  Is it beyond God’s power to influence the sequence of events in time so as to cause a desired result?

Or consider the dimension of human character.  We all should be able to agree that each human being has a unique, multifaceted character that powerfully influences how they respond to ideas and events.  Is it beyond the power of God to imprint upon us character traits that will lead to our freely choosing one path over another?  Does not Scripture explicitly teach that this is indeed so?

For Scripture says of Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. Romans 9:17,18 (NIV)

Who are we to say just where and how this hardening of Pharaoh occurred?  Is it beyond God’s power to create particular character traits that will cause one person to freely respond in one way to a set of circumstances and another differently?  Can this not be an aspect of God’s action when we are being fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)?

These two possibilities are not intended to definitively explain how God’s acts of providence operate.  Rather, they are intended to expand the scope of our investigation to allow room for God’s acting within the simultaneous application of our free wills.

Perhaps a generalized statement of the above specific examples would be:

God, through various and sundry means that are independent of human will is able to ensure that the accumulated result of events will lead to the outcome that He has foreordained from eternity.

Of course, as we have seen in this work and throughout the Bible, none of this precludes God from directly intervening in creation as He deems fit.  However even on these occasions the dynamic is not that of a puppet master pulling strings, but rather of the infinite, eternal God engaging in relationship with frail flesh and blood.  That is, even within these direct invasions of the divine room is made for the operation of our wills.

Thus, the only issue excluded from influence of our wills is that of our salvation.  However, as we have seen, were God to here leave us to our own devices no one would be saved.  Thus our merciful God only overpowers our wills in the one place that they are utterly helpless.

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.

The Problem of Righteousness (8)

Eph+2+8-9The Reformed Christian Solution

This blog series has attempted to explore the proper place of righteousness in our Christian lives and the secular culture.  Central to this discussion is how our motives impact the outward manifestation of righteousness. Is our intent to place ourselves above someone else? Or, do we seek to advance healing and wholeness in this fallen world? Do we usurp God’s role as the only true judge, or, do we testify to His redeeming love through the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

We touched on other important issues including the purpose and use of Biblical standards of righteousness, calibration of our responses to the people and situations that call for judgement and the unavoidable conflicts that will occur as we live out our faith.

Not surprisingly my mind turns to the central theological doctrine of justification through faith alone as the lens through which to understand Christian righteousness. I’ve become convinced that this doctrine’s diminution is central to much that vexes the modern church. This is particularly relevant to the misunderstanding of righteousness that can lead to a judgmental Christianity. Following are some brief thoughts as to why.

To begin, just what is this doctrine? Though there are many statements from which to choose, I’ll go with John Calvin’s (emphasis added).

Scripture, when it treats of justification by faith, leads us in a very different direction. Turning away our view from our own works, it bids us look only to the mercy of God and the perfection of Christ. … when, by the intercession of Christ, he [the fallen human] obtains the pardon of his sins, and is justified; and, though renewed by the Spirit of God, considers that, instead of leaning on his own works, he must look solely to the righteousness which is treasured up for him in Christ.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (3.11.16)

The most powerful contemporary doctrine of justification in the modern Western church is often called “Semi-Pelagianism” (another related term is “Arminianism”). R.C. Sproul explains this doctrine as follows in “The Pelagian Captivity of the Church” (yes, this is a repeat, but it’s essential to this discussion, emphasis added).

sproul

R. C. Sproul

Semi-Pelagianism said this: … While we are so fallen that we can’t be saved without grace, we are not so fallen that we don’t have the ability to accept or reject the grace when it’s offered to us. … There remains in the core of our being an island of righteousness that remains untouched by the fall. It’s out of that little island of righteousness, that little parcel of goodness that is still intact in the soul or in the will that is the determinative difference between heaven and hell. It’s that little island that must be exercised when God does his thousand steps of reaching out to us, but in the final analysis it’s that one step that we take that determines whether we go to heaven or hell — whether we exercise that little righteousness that is in the core of our being or whether we don’t.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I joyfully accept justification by faith alone and reject Semi-Pelagianism / Arminianism. There’s so much that could be said, but I’ll focus on some implications for self-righteous Christianity.

If we believe that our salvation depends on having, or not, that sufficient “island of righteousness” on which all depends, then it becomes a matter of the utmost importance to find it within ourselves. The tragic truth is that we most often seek to prove its existence by comparison with others. This makes sense, since the island’s presence should manifest itself in our visible actions, and, the larger is this island the more likely that it can be found to be sufficient for our salvation. So, off we go, quietly or openly comparing ourselves to others. If we can find someone “worse” than ourselves then we feel a bit more confident. However, if we find someone else “better” we begin to wonder if our island is indeed sufficient. We also often begin to examine this “better” person with great interest, looking for faults and failings that might “bring them down a notch.”

This dynamic leads to destructive competition between Christians, a sense of superiority over non-Christians and a narcissistic focus on ourselves. It also leads to habitual acts of petty, self-serving judgement, as we seek prove righteousness in ourselves and its lack in others.

However, justification by grace alone frees us from all this. Our focus shifts from morbid scrutiny of ourselves and others to the wondrous love of God. By trusting fully in God’s grace, we find in ourselves the desire to obey and serve Him. We also can live in confidence that God’s sovereign grace to us cannot be thwarted or removed.

luther-grace-alone

Martin Luther

It’s a terrible blow to our pride to confess that no “island of righteousness” exists in ourself. However, in my experience, justification by faith alone is both joyful and freeing. I am no longer bound to others through competition, but rather can hope for God’s grace to all. When I fail and falter, I need not fear for my eternal fate, but can trust that God will complete His good work in me.

Finally, I’m well aware that the above comments may cause discomfort to my brothers and sisters in Christ who hold Semi-Pelagian / Arminian views. My expectation is not that you must agree with my point of view. Rather, I simply ask that you read, consider, pray and contemplate. You must judge for yourself if this is an accurate statement of Scripture’s teaching. If you disagree, then let’s continue the discussion in good will and trust.

For, I stand squarely with Charles Spurgeon:

I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.

This is the understanding of righteousness that, if reclaimed by the Church and compellingly communicated to our society, can free us from self-righteousness that is driving our nation towards dissolution.

Amen.

The Problem of Righteousness (4)

calvin-righteousness

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

1 Corinthians 1:30

The Reformed Christian Understanding

In the previous post I argued that “righteousness” is not what the majority of Christians understand it to be.  I easily admit that if any Christian reader’s confidence in their salvation rests on that imaginary “small island of righteousness” then a single blog post quoting a theologian is unlikely to change their mind.

When Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples as testified by the Gospel of John, He made our complete dependence upon Him absolutely clear:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  John 15:5-8 (NIV)

luther-righteousnessThe Reformers used this Christ stated doctrine of being “in Him” and the utter dependence to which it points to interpret the many other Biblical passages with a similar message.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.  For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.  Romans 10:1-4

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  Isaiah 61:10 (ESV)

Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.”  Isaiah 45:24-25 (ESV)

Who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted.  Psalm 89:16 (ESV)

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.  1 John 2:29 (ESV)

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  Titus 3:5 (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

spurgeon-righteousnessAnd yet in spite of all this the vast majority of Christians yet imagine that they have exercised their own righteousness to obtain their salvation.  What can explain this ability to overlook overwhelming Biblical evidence for our total dependence upon Christ for our salvation and righteousness?

One answer may be that they interpret the Bible verses that explicitly teach this dependence within context of those other verses that speak of a believer’s righteousness.  By so doing they can conclude that their righteousness belongs to them rather being utterly dependent on Christ’s imputed righteousness to them.

Imputed righteousness is a concept in Christian theology proposing that the “righteousness of Christ … is imputed to [believers] — that is, treated as if it were theirs through faith.” … Thus, this doctrine is practically synonymous with justification by faith.

This concept is well-explained by Thomas R. Schreiner.

We can see, then, why imputation is so important in Calvin’s theology, for our assurance rests upon the truth that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers. Believers don’t locate righteousness in themselves but are righteous because Christ’s righteousness is reckoned to them. Calvin puts it this way: “Therefore, we explain justification simply as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as righteous men. And we say that it consists in the remission of sin and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.” A person “is not righteous in himself but because the righteousness of Christ is communicated to him by imputation.” In Calvin’s interpretation of Romans 5:19, which speaks of believers being made righteous on account of Christ’s obedience, he says, “what else is this but to lodge our righteousness in Christ’s obedience, because the obedience of Christ is reckoned to us as if it were our own.”

the-law-is-for-the-selfrighteous-to-humble-their-pride-the-gospelIf you as a Christian believe that “when God does his thousand steps of reaching out to us, but in the final analysis it’s that one step that we take that determines whether we go to heaven or hell” then by this falsehood the unavoidable consequence is self-righteousness.  For, the only thing that separates you from the unsaved is that you “chose well” while they “chose poorly” at that one final step that made all of the difference.  This falsehood of manufactured, imaginary self-righteousness leads inexorably to despair.  This will be the focus of my next post.

The Problem of Righteousness (3)

righteousness-new-testamentThe Lost Christian Understanding: New Testament

The misunderstanding of “righteousness” from a New Testament perspective and subsequent consequences are far greater than those associated with the Old Testament.  This is the case because whereas we generally engage with the Old Testament as something foreign and therefore obscure, we imagine that the New Testament is familiar and clear.  Therefore we tend to draw provisional lessons from the Old but imagine the New to deliver straightforward, easily accessible guidance.  We are thus too suspicious of the Old Testament and too naive about the New Testament.

This New Testament misunderstanding is most destructive within context of the Christian doctrine of salvation.  For a very large majority of Christians there exists an ill-defined but fundamental relationship between their “righteousness” and their “salvation.”  This assumed relationship is best defined by R. C. Sproul in his article titled “The Pelagian Captivity of the Church” (Modern Reformation, Vol 10, Number 3, 2001, emphasis added).

island-of-righteousnessWhile we are so fallen that we can’t be saved without grace, we are not so fallen that we don’t have the ability to accept or reject the grace when it’s offered to us. The will is weakened but is not enslaved. There remains in the core of our being an island of righteousness that remains untouched by the fall. It’s out of that little island of righteousness, that little parcel of goodness that is still intact in the soul or in the will that is the determinative difference between heaven and hell. It’s that little island that must be exercised when God does his thousand steps of reaching out to us, but in the final analysis it’s that one step that we take that determines whether we go to heaven or hell — whether we exercise that little righteousness that is in the core of our being or whether we don’t.

In a later article (2004) this same author develops in more detail the consequences of this false hope and expectation in the Christian experience.

The Psalmist asked the question: “If the Lord marks iniquity, who should stand?” This query is obviously rhetorical. The only answer, indeed the obvious answer is no one.

The question is stated in a conditional form. It merely considers the dire consequences that follow if the Lord marks iniquity. We breathe a sigh of relief saying, “Thank heavens the Lord does not mark iniquity!”

Such is a false hope. We have been led to believe by an endless series of lies that we have nothing to fear from God’s scorecard. We can be confident that if He is capable of judgment at all, His judgment will be gentle. If we all fail His test — no fear — He will grade on a curve. After all, it is axiomatic that to err is human and to forgive is divine. This axiom is so set in concrete that we assume that forgiveness is not merely a divine option, but a veritable prerequisite for divinity itself. We think that not only may God be forgiving, but He must be forgiving or He wouldn’t be a good God. How quick we are to forget the divine prerogative: “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” (Rom. 9:15 NKJV)

In our day we have witnessed the eclipse of the Gospel. That dark shadow that obscures the light of the Gospel is not limited to Rome or liberal Protestantism; it looms heavily within the Evangelical community. The very phrase “preaching the Gospel” has come to describe every form of preaching but the preaching of the Gospel. The “New” Gospel is one that worries not about sin. It feels no great need for justification. It readily dismisses the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as an essential need for salvation. We have substituted the “unconditional love” of God for the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If God loves us all unconditionally, who needs the righteousness of Christ?

So, if Dr. Sproul is correct (and I believe that he is), then what is the true meaning of “righteousness” within the Christian faith?  It is to that question I will turn in the next post.