The Separation of Church and Truth

Cover_RLV_Issue64“Do I have to be a bigot to be a Christian?”  That was the question that Jeff Cook asked in his recent article in Relevant Magazine following the shocking announcement that Exodus International, a ministry focused on homosexuality and the so-called LGBT community, was closing after issuing an apology for “years of undue judgement” and “imprisonment” in an “unbiblical worldview.”  In short, the efforts of Exodus International to speak truth to the homosexual community over the years is now a thing of the past.

Apparently Exodus International had answered Cook’s question with a triumphant “no!”  But it is my allegation that such a question is not only misframed, but it is also misleading.  The better way to ask this question, rather than using the politically charged and culturally expedient word “bigot,” is to ask: “Must one hold to a standard to be a Christian?”

Toward the end of his article, Cook not only tells us that “Christian bigotry” is repulsive and “antithetical to love,” but he also attempts to attach a rough description to it; namely, that it is “irrational devotion to one’s opinions at the exclusion not just of other opinions but of other people.”  I wish to use this description as the framework by which we can peer into the rest of the written piece as a whole.

To begin with, Cook tries to point out, at the expense of 1 Peter 2:9-11, that too often, the Christian wrongly “perceive[s] moral differences as camps as “us” and “them.” marking our opponents and so commencing an ideological war.”  But of course, as 1 Peter 2 points out, it is the very nature of the Church that we are a separate people, called out and chosen.  But how does this logically lead to a situation wherein our enemy are those unchosen and not called out?  Cook assumes that to believe in a separation is to suddenly make others the enemy.  That is a clear distortion of the doctrine of Scriptures.  Regarding whether we have commenced an ideological war, we must affirm that any statement of belief or system of ideas, any creed whatsoever, is an ideology.  And any time written or spoken words are used to express those creeds, especially when they lie in disagreement with the world, is to “commence” a war.

But it is important to note that the war is against the lies of this world and, as the author himself admits, is not against flesh and blood.  There is nothing in our standing strong for the truth that should indicate we are waging war on people.

Now, since our doctrines and systematic theology is mutually exclusive with that of liberalism, (see Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen). we apparently fall within Cooks description of a bigot.  We hold to “opinions at the exclusion… of other opinions.”  But the remarkable irony in this description lies in the fact that his entire article points to a view that is mutually exclusive with my own view.  Does this make him a bigot?  If he disagrees with, say, the Calvinist view of election, whereas I affirm such a doctrine, we must face the fact that Jeff Cook is guilty of bigotry.  For how can God both unconditionally elect his chosen people and at the same time not practice election?  To say this is possible is, to use his own word, “irrational.”  Surely Cook would object here by noting that he doesn’t hate the Calvinist, just disagrees with the doctrine.  And I and fine with that.  But cannot I use the very same objection when accused of bigotry for holding to the immorality of homosexuality?

To believe is to exclude other ideas, but it is not to create enemies out of human beings.

Moving away from the matters of belief and bigotry, we must shift the conversation toward Cook’s claims about God Himself.  Cook predictably opines, citing the Romanist Thomas Aquinas, that “God displays his power, not by eliminating all His opponents but by converting them.”  What is slightly humorous about this statement is that it is a clear breach of the postmodern desire to avoid absolutes.  On one hand the option is this: God displays his power by eliminating all His opponents.  On the other hand the option is this:  God displays his power by converting them.  Both Aquinas and Cook choose the latter.  But this does not mean that to disagree with them is to choose the former.  No, we take a different view altogether: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”  (Romans 9:22-23).  To be clear, we hold that God “eliminates” some of his opponents, but also “converts” others.

From the faulty assumption that God’s “mission is to bring all men and women to Himself,” Cook concludes that “our main concern cannot simply be who is ‘right’ but who is redeemed.”  Such a conclusion is remarkably frustrating.  First, as for “who” is right, we hold that Christ is right.  He is the very truth, the very word, that became flesh.  He is the “who!” And we as Christians ought to follow in his glory and proclaim His name!  Second, to say that we as humans ought to be concerned with “who is redeemed” is to say that we ought to take upon ourselves the role of God Himself! Who is or who is not redeemed is a matter for the Lord, not for us, his lowly servants!  That Cook puts this forward in a Christian magazine is absurd and quite concerning.

Off and on throughout the rest of the article, this idea continues to be pushed that if we work on “relating” to the unsaved and “acting” in the right way toward them and being “bound” to our neighbor, then and only then can we convince others that following Christ is a “respectable, rewarding, and an attractive pursuit.”

There is so much wrong in this method. (1) “Relating” to the unsaved does nothing to glorify God if by “relating” we are mimicking or approving their actions.  (2) “Acting” in a specific way so as to convince them that Christianity is the “way to go” is simply a way denying that “faith comes by hearing” the proclamation of the Gospel. (3) “Bound” to one’s neighbor is a distortion of Paul’s statement that he is a servant to all.  To make this concept more Biblical, we ought to realize that we are bound by the Word, bound by Christ, and then we, with Christ, practice the art of servant hood.  But we are not bound to other people.  No, Christ set us free to be bound to Him and to Him alone.  Lastly, by doing all these things, God forgive us if our intent is to convince others that Christianity is a “respectable, rewarding, and an attractive pursuit.”  Christianity is hard.  It leads to persecution.  It is mocked.  It is frustrating.  It is demonized. What is the Christian life? A hip coffee house?  A theme park?

No, the Christian life is a Pilgrimage.  We are on a weedy and pothole-ridden path home.  But home, in the presence of God’s glory, is where we can rest and receive our reward.  And home can only be our future if we “repent of our sins and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15) which of course, is a “stumbling block” to some and “nonsense” to others (1 Cor. 1:23).

6 thoughts on “The Separation of Church and Truth

  1. Theophilus says:

    I once heard that the term “Bigot” originated from an oath “I will NOT (recant) By God” as a response to the Inquisition. Any Lexicographers out there?

  2. It is true that God does convert His enemies (cf. Eph.2, Rom. 5) but He does not convert all of them – we are all justly under God’s wrath as His enemies; that’s the starting place of fallen humanity. Cook, however, is simply taking something Aquinas wrote (presumably about election) and is pulling it out of context to make it mean what he wants it to mean = uncool.
    This article sounds like a massive fail that will be “Facebook liked” by many in the emergent and liberal camps. Sad

  3. Susan says:

    This may sound simplistic, but I always thought that GOD LOVES ALL HIS CREATIONS, even after the Fall. He is waiting anxiously for us to return HOME on His terms not ours.
    I have never approved of name calling. If we are to follow in Christ’s foot steps then we should not judge our fellow man, but embrace them with love. We may not agree with their choices. Infact we might hate what a person says or does. Our choice would be to not hang out with that person. This goes both ways. Everyone is out pushing their own agenda. Sometimes I think that satan is causing all this confusion to get the potencial
    Christian to separate, stay far far away from their Heavenly Father. Don’t forget that satan is fighting a war with God to get more followers. By separating our selves from God, we are and causing others to fall into satan’s trap. Looks like satan is working harder than God. Many people have allowed pride to sway them away from the truth.
    Many will not give up their control to God. Greed and power/control, seems to bind us up with self interest. We need to stop all this bickering, and accept people for who and what they are. Homosexuals need to stop flaunting their personal choices. To a Christian, we find this life stye immoral, against the teachings of God. This act greatly affends us Christians. So why make such a fuss about it. Stop forcing your agenda on others. The rest of us can choose our own beliefs. It is okay to share your faith with others, allowing them to decide which way they want to go. We can’t force anyone.
    Didn’t God give us free will? Societies all over the world are fighting each other to FORCE other’s to be of one faith, theirs. What will it take to calm everyone’s fears?

    The FALL, created this situation. We wouldn’t be in this mess if we had listened and followed God’s rules. When we disobeyed, we sinned against God and was no longer pure in HIS sight. We couldn’t stay because we would contaminate Heaven. God then came up with a way we could get our purity back. That was for Jesus Christ’ to come in flesh and die on the cross. He took ALL of mankind’s thoughts, words, and actions
    upon himself, so that His creations had a second chance to get into Heaven. God didn’t want to lose one soul. In order for this way out, a provision was made. If a person wanted to be with God in Heaven, he would need to come and turn over himself to God, asking for forgivenes for all their sins, and turning away from their sins. to become a new creature in Christ. This called being ” Born Again”.
    This is my belief based on the Gospel. Each person needs to look at the choices and make a discision. We can change our belief system as we mature. Since we are created by God, we really have only 2 choices. Heaven or Hell. Hell is for those who have permanently turned away from Jahova God, our designer/creator in Heaven. Guard your beliefs, you never know when your time here on earth is up.

    Susan

  4. T. I. Miler says:

    Susan,
    have you not read Matt 23 where Jesus went on a name calling tirade? Have you not read Matt. 18:15 where Jesus demands judging and church discipline?
    Have you not read of things which God hates in Proverbs?
    Have you not read in Matt. 7 where Jesus said we SHOULD remove the speck from our own eye THEN judge our brother?
    Have you not read where Jesus told the Pharisees that they were of their father the devil?
    And all this was said by Love incarnate.
    do you measure your love standards by His love standards?
    You must line up your heart and your mind with the whole council of God.
    Although I appreciate your heart felt intentions, by even recommending how we OUGHT to behave, logically you are judging all who differ.
    My point being the only way to be fully non-judgmental is to be fully comatose.
    that is my judgment on the topic.
    .

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