Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Sin of Submission

I've been sitting on this post for quite a while, debating whether or not to post it.
Two things prompted me to finish it up and then post it. First is my ongoing study of Galatians for my ACG; and second, a growing concern over the abuse of spiritual authority in the church (no, not at ECC).

It would be easy to write a post about the abuse of spiritual authority by pastors and churches. There's plenty of examples to choose from, the Scripture's which condemn such abuse are easy to find (c.f. Mark 10:42; 1 Peter 5:3), and the stories are often heartbreaking. Certainly those who use authority in an abusive way are guilty of grievous sin. But, Scripture leads me to believe that those who submit to spiritual abuse are also guilty of sinning. I know, that sounds off, and maybe it is, so stick with me and test what I'm saying.

Obviously submission is commanded many times in Scripture. We're all commanded to submit to God and his law (James 4:7, negatively expressed in Ps. 81:11, Rom. 8:7, Rom 10:3), to the human authorities God has put in place (Rom. 13, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13). Children are to submit to parents ('obey', Eph. 6:1, 1 Tim. 3:4), slaves are commanded to be submissive to masters ('obey', Eph. 6:5, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 2:18), wives to husbands (Eph 5:22-24, 1 Cor. 14:34-35, Col. 3:18, 1 Tim 2:11, 1 Peter 3:1-5). Peter also commands the younger (beleivers?) to be in submission to those who are elder (1 Peter 5:5). Indeed, we're all to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21) The church at Corinth was commended for the submission to Paul's appeal to gather money to care for the poor in Jerusalem. Later in the same letter Paul commands the Christians there to be subject to the saints committed to serving the church (1 Cor. 16:16). Hebrews 13:7 commands us to submit to those charge with providing spiritual leadership and 'guarding our souls'.

Now that's just a sampling, but it may lead you to ask, 'Can you really be overly submissive?' The answer is a resounding 'yes!'. In fact, you may be sinfully overly submissive. Consider Galatians 5:1, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Also Galatians 2:4-6,

"Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you."

Or Colossians 2:16-23,

"Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels...20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh."

Pastors are called to speak the whole counsel of God. Preach the law, Yes! Preach repentance. Preach against sin. But pastors and churches don't have authority to go beyond Scripture in binding the conscience of the people. This is a major implication of the Reformed doctrine of Sola Scriptura. I love this statement from Calvin, "Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God. . . Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to and to obey the divine majesty of this word. Let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ. Let them devastate Satan’s reign. Let them pasture the sheep, kill the wolves, instruct and exhort the rebellious. Let them bind and loose thunder and lightning, if necessary, but let them do all according to the word of God.” (John Calvin, Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians).

Pastors should not go beyond Scripture, and parishioners should not let them! For a pastor to do so is a sinful abuse of his power and position. For a parishioner to submit to it is sinful too. But aren't those who suffer under spiritual abuse victims? Yes. But they are victims that are allowing themselves to be victimized supposing that doing so will make them holy or more acceptable to God.

God commands that we ought to submit to authority. Failure to do so is sin. God also commands us that we ought not submit to slavery - to a unbiblical binding of our consciences, even if that slavery comes in the from a pastor or in the name of 'holiness'. To do so is to break God's commands and is thus sinful.

What does this mean practically? It means that if a pastor commands you not to drink a beer, you should have two to spite him (thanks Luther for that). If you're commanded not to date that girl (unless she's an unbeliever), plant a wet one on her lips and take a pic and send it to the pastor. If he commands you not to read a certain book, you invite the author to a book signing in your living room. Ok, maybe none of those are good responses, but neither is submitting to unbiblical infringements upon our Christian liberty. Don't submit, and don't stay in a church that expects you to.

21 comments:

Joseph said...

So does the same hold true of children and parents, Dan? Children should leave the home and reject their family if their parents tell them not to read a certain book?

Dan Waugh said...

While I acknowledge there are parallels between parent/child and pastor/parishioner, I hope you see it's not an exact parallel. Should my kids leave because I had them circumcised (they'll love that I'm sharing that)? No. Should an adult leave his church if the pastor tries to have him circumcised? Of course (if you disagree, read Galatians). Should my kids leave if I spank them? No. Should an adult leave if the pastor tries to spank them. Of course.

What constitutes abuse of power in on context doesn't in another. Pastors are given the responsibility of exercising authority, but it is a limited authority. So, while as a pastor I may caution someone against reading a book (and who haven't I cautioned against reading Bell, McLaren, et al), or dating a specific girl or drinking a beer, I cannot bind their consciences in an unbiblical way by commanding and or enforcing my counsel through church discipline.

A pastors authority, only goes as far as the Bibles commands and not an inch further.

Jody said...

What if your book reader began to wander from the faith, and was trying to lead others astray, too? What if you knew the man and woman were fornicating? What if you discovered the innocent beer drinker was in fact a drunkard?

Would you bind their consciences or discipline them then?

Joseph said...

Ok, so parents and elders have been delegated different authority. And they've also been given different kinds of discipline to love those under their authority with.

And you imply that the difference between a father's authority and an elder's authority is that the father's authority is absolute, and the elder's is limited. I don't think you believe that. (And it certainly isn't biblical.)

So, again, can a father tell his son not to read a particular book? If so, on what biblical basis?

Dan Waugh said...

I invited people to test my conclusions, so I welcome the exchange.

Jody, in answer to your questions: if the book reader was wandering away from the faith, I'd guide him back. If he committed apostasy, I'd command repentance and church discipline would be appropriate. I would not, however, command someone not to read a book for fear that it would lead them astray. Some read heretical writings, writings by the new atheists, etc. and have their faith shipwrecked. Others read the same writings and have their faith confirmed as they are exposed to the hopelessness of the alternative. Myself, I've been greatly enriched by Calvin's Institutes. If I attended some churches, I would have been commanded not to read that 'heretic' (I know this first hand). The pastor who would have prohibited it would have done so because he thought he was doing my soul a service, protecting it. Unfortunately, he would have been depriving me of a fountain of deep and rich theology.

To the drunk, I would command him not to get drunk. I would not command him not to have a drink (though if drunkenness was a struggle, I would advise against it). Moreover, if he was a drunk, church discipline would again be appropriate to bring him to repentance - NOT TO PUNISH HIM FOR HIS SIN OF DRUNKENNESS.

To the couple fornicating, I would command them to 1)stop, or 2) get married. If they stopped, I but out. If they get married, I pray I'd have the privilege of helping them move from a life of sin to one God will bless.

Hope that helps.

Dan Waugh said...

Joseph,
Thanks for the push-back. I don't think I implied parents have unlimited/absolute authority (though I may have unintentionally). As a father, I do not have the authority to excommunicate my children, administer the sacraments, etc. That authority belongs to the church and its ministers. Moreover, my authority is limited by age - I will have less authority over my grown/adult kids who don't live under my roof.
On the other hand, I have been give broad authority by God to raise my children, to provide for and protect them spiritually and physically.
The church also has been given authority, but it is limited to the spiritual nurture and can go no further than Scripture allows. So says the Westminster Confession.

XX.2: God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; *or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience*: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

Owen, one of my favorite Puritans also sums it up well in comments on Hebrews 13:17,

1st. It is not a blind, implicit obedience and subjection, that is here prescribed. A pretense hereof hath been abused to the ruin of the souls of men: but there is nothing more contrary to the whole nature of gospel obedience, which is our “reasonable service;” and in particular, it is that which would frustrate all the rules and directions given unto believers in this epistle itself, as well as elsewhere, about all the duties that are required of them. For to what purpose are they used, if no more be required but that men give up themselves, by an implicit credulity, to obey the dictates of others.

2dly. It hath respect unto them in their office only. If those who suppose themselves in office do teach and enjoin things that belong not unto their office, there is no obedience due unto them by virtue of this command. So is it with the guides of the church of Rome, who, under a pretense of their office, give commands in secular things, no way belonging unto the ministry of the gospel.

3dly. It is their duty so to obey whilst they teach the things which the Lord Christ hath appointed them to teach; for unto them is their commission limited, Matthew 28.20; and to submit unto their rule whilst it is exercised in the name of Christ, according to his institution, and by the rule of the word, and not otherwise. When they depart from these, there is neither obedience nor submission due unto them.


Wow. Now this has turned into another post, not just a comment!

Joseph said...

Dan, you don't need to add more support proving that spiritual authorities must not go beyond the Bible (at least for my sake). We're agreed on that.

The point of my line of questioning was to get you to examine exactly what is and isn't biblical for pastors and/or fathers to do. In an attempt to cut short the back and forth a bit, let me make an argument now.

The example of reading a book is perfect because it translates so well between the two categories. You still haven't answered whether you have the right to tell your son not to read a particular book, and if so why. You claim that you "have been give broad authority by God to raise [your] children, to provide for and protect them spiritually..." To be crystal clear, I agree. But you don't support it biblically. Why not? Because to do so is largely to undercut your main point. The fact is, the church leaders have been given broad authority to provide for and protect the people in their church spiritually as well. And an argument supporting your right to give commands to your son, such as "You may not read this book." will also support the same conclusion for pastors and elders.

It all comes down to the question "What exactly does being "limited to the word" allow and prevent?" Now Owen, Calvin, and the men who wrote the Confession would never agree with how you are using their texts. None of them would have had any qualms with commanding their flock not read a particular book. Why? Because that's perfectly biblical.

"Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting." (Romans 16:17-18)

"For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain....

"These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you." (Titus 1:10-11 and 2:15)

The problem with the pastor who tells men to stay away from Calvin isn't that he is abusing his spiritual authority by telling people to stay away from certain men. That's *clearly* biblical. The problem is that he's telling them to stay away from a man who does *not* "cause dissensions and hindrances" and who is *not* "contrary to the teaching". He is unbiblical, yes. But not in the way your arguing.

The fact of the matter is that if a pastor is not willing to *command* the sheep, whom he is given broad spiritual authority to protect, to stay away from certain men who are "causing dissensions and hindrances," then that pastor is not being obedient. If he is just warning people about a particular author, but he is perfectly content to be disregarded in the matter, he is not being biblical. He is not caring for the sheep.

Just as there are physical babies, so there are spiritual babies. To point at the bottle of poison and say to your two-year-old, "That's poison. You should probably stay away from it." simply isn't good enough. You have to command with all authority. "Don't touch that!" and then you have to refuse to be disregarded in the matter. The same is true of spiritual babes and poisonous doctrine taught by wicked men in books that they wrote to make sordid profit. To warn the spiritual babe, when he doesn't understand the danger (what does poison mean to a two year old?), and then to let him disregard you and be led astray, is to have his blood on your head.

In Christ,
-Joseph Bayly

Jody said...

>To warn the spiritual babe, when he doesn't understand the danger (what does poison mean to a two year old?), and then to let him disregard you and be led astray, is to have his blood on your head.

Precisely so. Abdication of authority is just as abusive as the overextension of it, and every bit as sinful. The neglect of authority is a condition infinitely more common in the churches today than any "going beyond Scripture" in the discharge of office. So much so, Dan, that I can't see the post as anything other than your arguing against a Straw Man.

Jody said...

Actually, no. It's worse:

You're arguing against a Straw Man, and creating a principle from it that will cause your readership to feel even more justified in rejecting Godly authority next time it comes knocking.

Dan Waugh said...

Hey Joseph,
Sorry I misunderstood your line of questioning. Probably had something to do with responding and watching the baseball game at the same time!

Let me clarify too that I support the use of church discipline to bring members to repentance (and serve as a warning to others).

To the issue, you're right, I don't have a text to quote, and honestly, I don't believe I need one. I do not turn to the Bible to tell me exactly what I'm to do as a father. Certainly I can do nothing that goes against Scripture, but I don't need to validate every parental decision on with a text.

On the other hand, I do have to be able to point to a text to exercise pastoral authority. I have no pastoral authority other than what is outlined in Scripture.

On Calvin and Owen, I doubt you're right, but maybe. I haven't finished the Institutes - maybe there is a list of banned books at the end. Somehow I doubt it because that was the kind of binding of the conscience Calvin was breaking free from in the Catholic Church (where there was a list and the Institutes was on it). I know Luther has my back, at least when it comes to beer! Even if they did command (not advise, but command) their flock not to read certain books, they weren't always consistent with themselves.

I fail to see your distinction regarding the pastor who commands his church to stay away from Calvin. Ask someone in the Southern Baptist Convention if he's caused dissension and division! Lots of pastors would like the trouble caused by men like Piper to go away and the Young Reformed crowd to fall back in line. Thank God some will disobey their pastors! Those pastors would argue Piper, Calvin, et al are contrary to biblical teaching, 'of the devil', etc. (I've been given copies of David Hunt's horrible book 'What Love is This' by pastors and I know I wouldn't be asked to preach in some of my families churches because of my Calvinism).

Ok, so there's a church in East BummbleChuuck Mississippi. The pastor of the We're the Real Christians Church commands his flock not to read Calvin, Piper, Edwards, Spurgeon, etc because their theology is of the devil. How will someone from the church know their pastor is off their rocker unless they read them and test the ideas for themselves? What is to check our theology from drifting into unorthodoxy? How can we honor the committment to always be reforming if we're not allowing our people to challenge us, read people we disagree with?

We should, as pastors, rebuke false teachers. I've called out many of them by name on my blog, in my classes, from the pulpit...

Dan Waugh said...

... It does boil down, it seems to me, to a difference almost akin to the Regulative principle vs. the Hooker principle. Seems like you're saying that if Scripture doesn't restrict a pastors authority in a specific way (like circumcision), then the pastor can assume it falls under the broad authority to protect. Me, more in keeping with the Reformed Regulative principle, would argue that unless a pastor is specifically given the authority to bind his flocks conscience in a specific way, he must not.

I will continue to warn people about certain authors - especially the babes in Christ. I will refuse to infringe on the Christian liberty. And no, I won't be perfectly content when my advise is disregarded. I'll be broken and sad - but not angry. They've disregarded counsel, not broken a command from God. Obviously there is a difference between a 2yr old and a babe in Christ. The two year old doesn't have the vocubuary to understand warnings, a neophyte in Christ understands words like 'dangerous', 'heretical', 'not edifying', 'shipwreck your faith'. I will counsel, advise, but refuse to be a add commands where God hasn't.

Off the topic of the books, what do you think about a pastors right (?) to command obedience to things like tea-totalling, homeschooling, going green, voting Republican or Democrat?

in Christ, dan

Jody said...

Would you command your people not to go to the BumbleChunk church?

Joseph said...

Dan, of course there is dissension and division. Jeremiah was surrounded by it, as were all the prophets, and Paul, and on and on. But who is causing dissension and division? Jeremiah? Paul? Calvin? No! Those pastors who are refusing to teach God's truth in the doctrines of grace are at fault. They are the ones causing division in the body. So those pastors are to be avoided.

Further evidence that they ought to be avoided is that they bind up consciences, saying "do not taste, do not touch" alcohol, which is clearly unbiblical. (This also answers part of your last question.)

But can we please do away with this straw man, that you claim you would never forbid a book? You would do so if it was a book of pornographic photos, would you not? And on what basis? Because the Bible gives commands that bear directly on avoiding the material in the book. You don't need a command in scripture saying, "Pastors can forbid wicked books", in order to forbid wicked books. You don't need a command in scripture saying, "Elders can forbid people from viewing wicked websites" in order to forbid your people from viewing wicked websites. And concerning books, remember that in Acts 19 they had a good old fashioned BOOK BURNING!

Moving on, you said, "I don't have a text to quote, and honestly, I don't believe I need one. I do not turn to the Bible to tell me exactly what I'm to do as a father. Certainly I can do nothing that goes against Scripture, but I don't need to validate every parental decision on with a text. On the other hand, I do have to be able to point to a text to exercise pastoral authority. I have no pastoral authority other than what is outlined in Scripture." You simply state this by fiat. You don't support it in any way scripturally. On what basis is the father allowed to do this and the pastor not? You can't support it for the father without giving up the heart of your claims about pastors. Try.

Joseph said...

But even if I were to grant that pastors are limited in the way you describe, you are still completely inconsistent. Where does scripture command you to forbid a Christian from dating a non-Christian? It doesn't. You are not obeying your own rules for what pastors can do. You're only allowed to command them not to get married. You have no right to say anything to them about dating, since the Bible doesn't address it specifically. To use your own words, you are "going beyond scripture."

Now let's talk about that theoretical dating relationship further. Let's say a young man, (let's call him Fred), shows up a couple of times at church with a girl who hasn't been going to church, but who he says might be interested in becoming a Christian. By your own admission, you would forbid Fred from dating her. Furthermore, you know that Fred just broke off a sinful relationship, filled with sexual immorality less than a month ago. It simply adds further conviction to the command, doesn't it? Now suppose Fred says, "I have no intention of dating her."

Then two weeks later he says he's going to start dating her. You tell him, "I already warned you that you can't do that." He says, "She's a Christian."

That's always the way it works. You ought know that from working with college students. He wants to marry somebody who isn't a Christian, so they both summarily declare that she is now a Christian. Are you satisfied by that? Are you going to just say, "Oh, Fred, why didn't you say so before? I didn't realize that after you guys had a nice hot make-out session last night that you convinced her to start calling herself a Christian. Now that she's a Christian, what more can I say? I'm so excited for you two! Can I have the privilege of marrying you?"

On the contrary, you say, "I see little or no evidence to support your claim that she's a Christian. You may not date her."

He says, "Tough cookies, Dan-the-chump! I say she's a Christian, therefore she is. Furthermore, Pastor W from Church X says I shouldn't listen if my pastor tells me not to date somebody that's a Christian. In fact, he suggested maybe I should flaunt my rebellion by taking a picture of us kissing, and send it to you. He also says that it would be sinful for me to submit to you in this. As a matter of fact, he says I should leave the church because you're trying to make me sin. I'm outta here! And if you try to discipline me, I'm going to make sure everybody is informed how wickedly authoritarian you are."

The consequences of your argument are terrible, Dan. Eternal souls hang in the balance.

In Christ,
-Joseph

Dan Waugh said...

Jody,
Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that abdication of authority is every bit as sinful as abuse of it or usurping it. I don't see how I'm abdicating authority. To abdicate means you have it and give it up. I don't believe I have it. To take it would be to violate Christian liberty and usurp authority that doesn't belong to me.

Also, I believe the abdication of authority is in many cases a response to pastoral abuse of authority. People/Pastors see authority abused and so fear that they don't exercise the biblical authority they do have.

While it may be true that authority is more often neglected than abused, that doesn't mean we should speak against the abuse of it. Polygamy isn't common, but I'll preach against it if a text demands I do.

Additionally, I fail to see how my argument is a Straw Man. To begin, I invited readers to test my conclusions. Second, the biblical point that some submission is sinful hasn't been contested. Third, the examples are real life examples from three different churches I have first hand knowledge of, spread throughout the country.(I didn't even include the example of the women to talked with me last week about being kicked out of her church after getting caught wearing pants during the week).

The principle doesn't come from the examples, but from Galatians and other texts - don't submit to slavery - to the unbibilical binding of conscience. I applied that to pastors who abuse authority. I didn't construct my case from the examples.

My hope is that people will increasingly be able to discern God's authority in his word and differentiate that from human opinion, man made rules and traditions.

Lastly, and since you don't know me (i dont' think), I can understand why you may think I don't care enough to command people not to read so and so's book. To me, that would be the easy way to deal with it (though unbibilical). Instead, when someone asks me if I read the latest Bell or Eldridge book, I don't tell them not to. Instead, I read it too so I can interact with them about the book, teaching them to discern truth from lies. Trust me, I didn't want to read Love Wins or Fathered by God or numerous other books I feel compelled to read. Probably 25% of what I read is strictly so I can debunk heresy and help the people I teach/lead do so too.

Dan Waugh said...

Grr. I can't keep up!

Joseph said...

I forgot to answer the rest of your questions.

A pastor is obligated to command his congregation to care for the earth, and subdue it.

An elder must command his flock to raise up their children in the nurture and discipline of the Lord, teaching them God's commands. If they can't do that unless they homeschool, then they need to homeschool. On the other hand, if homeschooling will prevent that, then they ought not to homeschool.

There's a lot for pastors to say about how people should vote, but it doesn't have anything to do with political parties. It's about God's moral law. If that means that Christians can only in good conscience vote for one party after listening to their pastor, they have the other parties to blame, not their pastor.

-Joseph

Dan Waugh said...

Joseph,

I believe you did point out an inconsistency. Thanks. I wouldn't command a guy not to date a nonChristian girl. I'd advise against it. I'd refuse to marry them/ejoin them by God's word not to be married. But, if you're not going marry them, then why date them (unless you've got some sexual immorality in mind, right?)!

I'm not sure I understand the second paragraph. So you're ok with pastors saying 'don't read this', but not 'don't drink this'?
There is a clear difference between a pornographic book and Rob Bell's or Charles Finney (who'd be on my banned list for sure!). Is it sinful for me to read Finney or Bell or Eldridge? No. I do it all the time - to critique usually. Do I sin in reading them? Only when I loose my temper and throw their books across the run chasing with a string of profanity! Would it be sinful for me to pick up a pornographic book? Yes. That's the purpose of porn - to promote and feed lust. Looking at it IS looking at women in lustful ways and IS forbidden in Scripture THEREFORE I will command people not to 'read' Playboy! Engaging bad theology isn't sin. If so, Paul and even Jesus would be guilty of it!

Joseph, do you see the slippery slope you're establishing. If Pastors have the authority to bind consciences as they see fit without limiting their commands to what Scripture teaches, where does it end. Your first paragraph seems to suggest that the Calvin is a good teacher/theologian. I agree. Others disagree. Why my list of approved books? Because I deem them correct? Why not Pastor Finney's? Because we think he was in error? Why our standard of morality and decency and not a teatotalling, pants eschewing Nazarene? Or a Mennonite one? Lets forbid what Scripture forbids and stop there.

Dating example...na, skip it.

Too the accusation that souls hang in the balance. Really? So, DumbKid X marries someone he shouldn't. He's now going to hell? DumbKid Y reads John Eldridge and thinks he should camp more, and now he's hellbound?

Wow. I thought grace covered all those things, and a few more too?

Ok, I'm off to study Galatians 2 for this Sunday.

Dan Waugh said...

Two more closing quotes (I'll not turn comments off, but I probably won't respond any more)

John Owen: “The second principle of the Reformation, whereon the reformers justified their separation from the church of Rome, was this: ‘That Christian people were not tied up unto blind obedience unto church-guides, but were not only at liberty, but also obliged to judge for themselves as unto all things that they were to believe and practise in religion and the worship of God."

Calvin: "Let my readers only bear in mind, first, that whatever be the offenses by which Satan and the world attempt to lead us away from the law of God, we must, nevertheless, strenuously proceed in the course which he prescribes; and, secondly, that whatever dangers impend, we are not at liberty to deviate one nail's breadth from the command of God, that on no pretext is it lawful to attempt any thing but what he permits."

Joseph said...

Dear Dan,

First, in answer to your question, "So you're ok with pastors saying 'don't read this', but not 'don't drink this'?" Yes. Of course. Because the Bible tells us to silence some men. It never tells us to prevent people from drinking.

You portray me as saying that "Pastors have the authority to bind consciences as they see fit without limiting their commands to what Scripture teaches". On the contrary. I'm simply arguing that you are refusing to bind consciences in the way that Scripture commands you to. I pointed out that Scripture tells us not to have anything to do with certain men *because* of what they teach. You've ignored it. I'm not making the claim that anybody who ever reads Bell is sinning. I'm pointing out that as pastors, we must be willing to be obedient to the commands of God that tell us to silence some men. Why? On what basis?

Not, as you claim, because *I* decided he's bad. *Scripture* is the judge. You throw up your hands in helplessness and ask "Why our standard of morality and decency and not a teatotalling, pants eschewing Nazarene?" Don't be so postmodern. You know very well why one and not the other. You've been arguing it the whole time. Scripture is the final test. If you really can't figure out the difference between me telling a young Christian not to read Bell and another pastor telling a young Christian not to read Calvin, something's wrong. The difference between Bell and Calvin is not my opinion verses the other pastor's. It is the difference between Calvin who is expounding God's word faithfully and Bell, who is leading people to hell. There is such a thing as truth. You can't just play the relativism game here.

...

Joseph said...

As for the rest of your response, it was clarifying, although it saddened me. I was hoping that you would see your inconsistency and back down from your claims--not pursue them into further lunacy.

Concerning dating, I'm very sorry to think of the souls under your care as a college pastor. I'm sorry to have brought them into more danger, since because this conversation you will no longer command those Christians to be obedient to God by not dating a non-Christian. Do I dare point out the next inconsistency? I fear it will only make matters worse for those under your care.

By your own admission, nowhere in the Bible are you given the right to tell people that they may not read certain books. Why are you willing to break the command of God by commanding people not to read pornographic books?

If you are going to be consistent, you must change your position on this also. You must warn, and suggest that they not look at pornographic books. The only *command* you can give them is not to lust. But if they want to look at the book, it is the same as dating a non-Christian. You have no right to command them not to.

Let me pose a question. If the purpose of pornography is to incite lust, what do you think the purpose of Rob Bell's latest book is? To have a dialogue?

Remember that Jesus was known to hang out with prostitutes also. Does that mean you need to read their books to find out how to engage them? No, as a matter of fact, you don't. You say it can't be sinful to engage with wicked theologians. But God's command to Titus is to "avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. (Titus 3:9)"

And now, lest I be guilty of disobedience to this command, I'm also done.

In Christ,
-Joseph

P.S. Your claim that souls aren't at stake makes me sick to my stomach. I can't tell you the number of college students I've seen abandon the faith as they pursue "foolish" relationships with non-Christians. I grieve for them, and I grieve for your attitude to this. I also grieve for those who have made shipwreck of their faith by reading Bell and Mclaren. I don't understand why you would even bother warning people against them, if there's no real danger to anybody's soul. What a staggering assertion. You need to repent of it.