Friday, December 08, 2006

Balancing the Christ-like Walk

Note: I wrote the following letter after considering the comments in this post of Wenxian’s blog.

Dear Wenxian, Daniel, and Jenson,

Re: Balancing the Christ-like walk

I hope I am not intruding into something private here. On the other hand, if it is private, it shouldn't be on this blog then. :)

When we deal with unbelievers and heathens, we ought to strive to preach the truth to them with love and patience. Should we condemn any of them as reprobates? Of course not! We do not know who is or is not an elect.

But what about disobedient, professing believers? I believe there must be a spectrum of attitudes to these brethren, and we must treat them at least as well as we treat heathens. Towards outright heretics who deny gospel truths and essential Christology, Titus 3:10 is the rule of thumb (e.g. modernists who claim that Christ is just a man).

There are times when disagreements do not concern issues pertaining to heresies (and let us NOT be quick to label anyone who disagrees with us as heretics). What should we do then? I think there must be a place where we can sit down and talk (e.g. Starbucks). If we cannot come to an agreement in the next ten years or so, do we “de-fellowship” each other? Yes and no. Let me give an example.

My ex-pastor used a lady preacher for the Chinese service for a few years, until she felt it proper to leave for her own congregation. I approached her before she left, and explained to her that it was not appropriate for her to preach on the pulpit. I subsequently talked to my pastor regarding this issue, and to the Session. All these were done with much time, waiting, and most of all, prayer. I never talked to her in a confrontational manner, and we left each other peaceably. I prayed that she would eventually understand what I meant. It is not that we hate each other, or that we have “defrocked” each other. I think, our different views on a serious doctrinal issue somehow kept us apart from further ministry together. So, in that sense, we parted ways, just as Paul and Barnabas parted ways (Acts 15:39, note different context). I cannot claim infallibility in my interpretation of Scripture, but I must act according to my conscience, which is bound by the Word of God. Did I “de-fellowship” her? No. I will still have coffee with her, or even begin Bible studies with her if she is so willing. Perhaps she might have changed her views by now even as we write!

No matter what we do, we must do it unto the Lord. Paul wrote, “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's (Rom. 14:8).”

Sometimes churches part ways because of doctrinal differences, but they retain a certain amount of love, respect and concern for each other. Such parting of ways is not bad at all; it might even be essential for the work of the gospel. In other cases, it might even be necessary for us to separate from a heretical church. The separation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) from its modernistic forefathers is an example. However, the Bible Presbyterians and the OPC subsequently separated not because it was an issue of heresy, but because they couldn’t agree on less serious issues e.g. the issue of liberty and alcoholic drinks, premillennialism etc. This separation is to avoid unnecessary, further disputes, and is for the sake of furthering the work of the gospel. I believe the OPC and the Bible Presbyterians are not swallowing each other’s guts!

What about myself? I have even written a critique of Bible Presbyterianism in the past year. Am I being hypocritical? To be honest with you, I never once hated, or even harbored a grudge against my church or my ex-pastor. I was disappointed that they couldn’t see what I saw, but I was never angry with them for not accepting my views. Do you know what my pastor told me before I left the church? He said, “I will consider supporting you if you ever start a church, even if you are an amillennialist.” But that was before I told him that I was leaving.

I will try my best never to do anything to hurt my previous church. Even if I were to publish the critique, my objective is only to convey what I have learnt, and not to put the Bible Presbyterian church in a bad light.

So, what will be my thoughts if the Bible Presbyterian Church in Singapore would admit that they are dispensational? They are, after all, a solid, bible-believing, God-loving, and Christ-serving church. And I will love them as they are: a Presbyterian, yet dispensational, church. But this must not be confused with compromise.

Soli Deo Gloria,


ddd said...

Eh??? Why is my name there?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you might be interested in my Bible Reading Notes, covering the whole of Scripture
Best Wishes.

wenxian said...

Hello Vincent,

I will have no problem drinking coffee with them (ex-church), playing pool, watching movies or going to their houses. For i do the same with the herthern

But in matters where my association implies that i actually share and affirm their teachings, i would remain separate.

I would reserve critique for my ex-church. If the place leads to error, i do not see a reason why i should promote it or give silent approval. Approving them is a penchance towards ecumenism. While i do not condemn all, i believe i have identified the leaders clearly and accurately as compromisers.

While we do not 'put the church in a bad light' with groundless accusations; when we preach the truth, their error will be exposed anyway. It is this preaching of the truth that puts a 'bad' church in a bad light - for it shows what it truly is. In this case, they are exposed because of the light of the Word that shines on their darkness.

I'm sure you do not give approval to saddleback church.

With reference to my ex-church, Rick Warren's teachings, liberal interpretations in a church combined with women preachers is not a 'minor' issue. It is serious.

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Wenxian,

I agree that Warrenism is seriously flawed, and even dangerous to the soul. What, then, should we do to those who become victims of such errors? Surely we cannot pretend to agree with them, or continue to cooperate with them. Perhaps leaving such a church might become necessary, especially when the leaders are entrenched in such serious errors.

How, then, should we leave a church (when it becomes necessary to do so)? We should leave in a Christ-like spirit. We let our brethren know that we still love them, and that we correct them because we truly love them. How should we correct them? Hastily and contemptuously? No, but with patience and forbearance. I am sure you would have been patient with your ex-church mates.

Being firm doesn’t necessitate the employment of language any less than loving and understanding. Of course, God’s enemies are our enemies, and we hate such God-haters with a holy hatred (Ps. 139:21-22). But the psalmist immediately said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Ps. 139:23-24).” As we are sometimes placed in the uncomfortable position of making a judgment upon sins and errors, we must likewise make the uncomfortable decision to search our hearts, which is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).” Could there be a possibility that we may have acted in an inappropriate manner?

Even if we deem ourselves as having acted in a perfect manner, we must also look at the fruits of our actions. Do we edify the brethren? Do we cause further misunderstandings? Do we put a stumbling block before the work of the Gospel? If we can answer no, then we truly may have acted appropriately.

Coffee or no coffee, what we must remember is to be a living epistle to fellow believers and even non-believers. Many times we fail. There are even times when I have blurted out angry words, which I subsequently regret. Let me tell you a story.

I was a visitor at Pilgrim’s Covenant Church for some time. I didn’t continue to worship with them because of my convictions on divorce and remarriage. But I failed to do something important: at that time, I didn’t perceive it as being necessary to explain my convictions clearly to pastor JJ Lim. I left quietly in an attempt to avoid any disputes or misunderstanding. However, my actions caused hurt to pastor Lim, which of course, I didn’t realize! In my attempt to AVOID hurt and misunderstandings, I actually caused hurt and misunderstandings!

I eventually wrote a letter to ask for his forgiveness for my inconsiderate actions. And he forgave me.

Brother, what I want to convey to all of us is this: leaving a church can be the right decision sometimes. But if done insensitively, it may cause hurts and pains, which we may not realize. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter what your ex-pastor may say or do to you. It is what YOU SAY AND DO (AND WRITE) THAT MATTERS. Amen? We cannot be responsible for the sins of others, but we must be responsible for the sins of our own makings.

Having said that, you may have acted correctly, and I am not making any comments concerning that issue. After all, I do not know what transpired between you and your ex-church mates.

My post is simply a general remark directed at all of us.

In Christ,

wenxian said...

For that statement written in capitials, i amen that.

Agreed that we have to make every effort to present the truth in a gentle way.

But sometimes no matter how good we put the truth ahead, people agains the message will always villianise the messager so as to avoid hearing the message.

I sincerely believe that we just say the truth. Whether or not it offends, it is at the level of the person reading it which is very much beyond control. At least telling the truth is not wrong.

What a terrible mess human beings are. We need God desparately.