Monday, August 27, 2012

How The Wrong Foundation Excludes Christians From Christianity

I'm taking a side point here and making an issue out of it.  Carl Trueman, an admitted complimentarian, writes a post at Reformation 21 (HT to Tim Challies here) about his bewilderment that the egalitarian/complementarian debate is making such waves at The Gospel Coalition.  Quoting:

Given that the issue of complementarianism is raising its head over at The Gospel Coalition, it provides an opportunity to reflect on an issue that has always perplexed me: why is the complementarian/egalitarian debate such a significant bone of contention in parachurch cobelligerent organisations whose stated purpose is to set aside issues which divide at a church level but which do not seem to impact directly upon the gospel?
He then compares this attention to how little this organization is giving to such essentials as baptism and the Lord's Supper - issues the church has wrestled with for centuries.  He then reasons that an egalitarian could possibly believe in inerrancy but hold to a "wrong" interpretation, and applies such a paradigm to Baptist ecclesiology - where Baptists could invite a Presbyterian to preach at their church and subsequently deny him the Lord's Supper.  His rabbit trail winds up at this precious gem:

This is not the only awkward question one might ask: for example, which is more unacceptable to a Baptist - a woman preaching credobaptism or a man preaching paedobaptism?
Although my post here is not about the egalitarian/complementarian debate, I do note that I have labored in great pains on this blog to show the inconsistency of foundations and applications of the doctrine of baptism by both paedobaptists and credobaptists.

But to my main point.  Allow me to continue off-road from Trueman's path for him, and force his side note into the forefront.  I could add to the toxicity by pointing out that there are churches that have formal memberships and a "closed" communion, restricting the Supper to members of their own church.  So, then Baptists could invite another Baptist to preach at their church and subsequently deny him (or her?  LOL) the Lord's Supper.  Truly septic.  Many Baptists don't accept the baptisms of their own members if they were baptized as infants in other churches, especially if they were baptized in the Roman Catholic church.  Then there are paedobaptists who rail against anabaptists (re-baptizers) for forcing rebaptism of their former members when they switch to a Baptist church, when they themselves don't recognize an infant baptism that occurred in the Roman Catholic church!  They then rebaptize former Catholics, just like the Anabaptists of the radical reformation did.  Anti-anabaptist anabaptists! At least the Reformers recognized the baptisms by the Roman Catholics.  And don't even get me started on all the various views on marriage, divorce and remarriage that people hold to that affect how people can serve in churches and in leadership.  I could go on forever here.

Church leaders then wonder why there are so many people who drift in and out of churches, go church shopping, or stop going to church altogether because just trying to find one that they can attend proves futile.  People are discovering that trying to fit into a church isn't merely falling in the right place on a spectrum.  They need to conform to a 12-dimentional matrix more complicated than the RGB color mapping on their computers.  And if one does not conform, they are cut off from the Lord's Supper, church membership, baptism, ability to serve according to the gifting God has given them, help from the benevolent fund, etc.  So, holding a wrong doctrine as one's foundation can exclude others from one's view of Christianity.

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.   Matt. 23:13
Maybe Jesus could shed some light on the situation.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 34) - Why Is The New Covenant Not Enough?

Alan Knox at the assembling of the church does a re-post of something he did two years ago, and re-asks the same question: Why is one covenant (the new covenant) not enough?

He adds this very good question at the top of the re-post:

In Christ, we are all already part of the new covenant. Because of that covenant we are all now children of God and, therefore, brothers and sisters with one another. That covenant alone covers how we should interact with and treat one another. So, why do so many feel that we still need more covenants, i.e. a church covenant?

I'm not sure what Alan's intended scope is when he refers to "church covenants," but I'm assuming he also means - and if he doesn't mean it, I will add it to the list! - to include church membership covenants.  Either way, he hits the nail on the head.

What can an extra-biblical church covenant do that the new covenant cannot?  After examining this question in several paragraphs, Alan concludes with:
If we use a “church covenant” to include some believers and exclude others, then we are dividing the body of Christ and making distinctions that only God can make. We are trying to choose who to love and who to serve. (Of course, this makes life much easier, but it doesn’t make it a life that [is] lived according to the gospel.)

I also note here that I have dealt with the same concept in different ways in Part 21 and Part 27 of this series.  Please make an effort to read Alan's recent post.

Read the entire series here.

Part 33.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

"Re-Thinking Church Membership" Series Is Back

One of my all-time favorite series here at From the Pew is back on my blog.  Yes, I have re-posted all the posts in the "Re-Thinking Church Membership" series.  I have also added the link to this series in the "Blog Series" header, as well as to the "Ongoing Blog Series" links in the right margin.

This is another of my "Re-Thinking" series that I took down (I'll go into why this happened at a later date) and planned to re-post after some re-working. Well, this one is now back! This series had reached over 30 posts at the time I took it down.

I look at a common doctrine of church membership as is widely taught in conservative evangelical circles today. I show how this particular doctrine misses the mark biblically, how it is widely supported by many well known evangelical leaders, and I have proposed a solution for the unintended consequences it fosters, all to the disbelief of its adherents. Stay tuned as this series grows.

Please read it in its entirety to get the overall flavor of what I'm saying about church membership.  If this is too much, I plan to sometime in the near future re-post each of the posts one at a time, every few days, over the course of a couple months to allow an easier time in following along.  I hope this series provokes its readers to further thinking about this important topic.