Posted by: gmscan | July 21, 2011

What’s Next?

I’m not sure where to go next with this blog.

It started out as a very personal journey. God was tapping me on the shoulder telling me it was time to wake up. I went back to the tradition of my family to seek answers and joined the local Presbyterian Church.

As I said some time ago, I wanted a church that focused on salvation and scripture, not on current political issues. I said I have a plenty of outlets for my political life, and don’t need a church for that. The church’s unique mission, it seemed to me, was uniting us with Christ and healing our souls.

That is exactly what I found in the Waynesboro Presbyterian Church, and a whole lot more. The pastor at the time, Brian Gawf, opened up a treasure trove of intellectual foundations and traditions. He suggested I subscribe to Modern Reformation magazine, listen to the White Horse Inn radio shows, and pick up the Reformation Study Bible. Our men’s group has exposed me to the writings of C.S. Lewis and other defenders of the faith. The men’s group also gave me examples of how to pray and what personal ministries can be like.  Other people in the congregation told me about web sites for The Layman,  the Presbyterian Coalition,  and Presbyterians for Renewal.  These in turn took me to Viola Larsen’s “Naming His Grace” blog,  the Redeemer Church in New York,  and a whole lot more.

And, of course, there is reading the Bible, which I do every night. There is really no substitute. It is not enough to read about the Bible, you have to go to the real thing and see for yourself what God has said. Scripture is the only authority — not the proclamations of men, not the intuitions of men, not the gut feelings of men.

As I said, it has been a feast, and I am still on the appetizer.

I am completely at home in the values and principles of the Reformation, including the idea that we are saved by God’s grace alone, received through faith alone in Christ alone. I completely recognize that we are all sinners, every day and every minute of the day. That it is impossible for us to obey God’s laws and the only thing that can make us holy in God’s eyes is that Jesus atoned for our sins on the cross. That once we realize that we are saved, only then can we work on Christ’s “great commission” — not to earn brownie points with God, but out of gratitude for his mercy and his gifts.

I realize now that everything — EVERYTHING — we experience is a gift from God. The desk I sit at is made of the wood of trees God provided, and was crafted into a desk by the gift of a talent God gave to the carpenters who did the work. My ability to write these words is a gift God gave to me. If I am a better writer than other people, it is not due to any merit of mine, but because this is the gift I was given.

But I also have seen that there is evil in the world, and that we can be fooled by Satan. Satan can appeal to our ego and our pride and trick us into thinking our gifts are the result of our own merit.  He can pervert the commandment to love our neighbor into a belief that we should please our neighbor and not say anything that might upset or offend others.

These are the kinds of things I want to spend time thinking about. So it was distressing when the politics of the PCUSA hit me between the eyes. And, boy, did it ever -– like a major league fastball.

That was also part of my awakening, and I had to learn more and respond to it. So I did — on Israel, abortion, homosexual ordination, and much, much more. I discovered that the PCUSA has completely corrupted the Word of God in favor of conforming itself to current left wing ideology.  What a travesty!

God’s Word has not changed in 2,000 years. It is today exactly what it was then. It is the rock we can rely on. How, then did supposed believers change so drastically?

The most generous explanation I can think of is that the leadership of the denomination is populated by people who want, above all, to be nice – to never offend anyone. So, when they are confronted with left-wing political operatives they search for a way to accommodate them. They are willing to chip away at Biblical principles to keep the peace.

Modern Reformation recently published a quote by Dorothy Sayers, taken from her essay, “Creed or Chaos?” –

“I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it. Seeing that Christ went about the world giving the most violent kind of offense to all kinds of people, it would seem absurd to expect that the doctrine of his person can be so presented as to offend nobody. We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus, meek and mild, was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of the church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever his peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference: and he said in so many words that what he brought with him was fire and sword. That being so, nobody need be too much surprised or disconcerted at finding that a determined preaching of Christian dogma may sometimes result in a few angry letters of protest or a difference of opinion on the parish council.”

So what do I do now?

The PCUSA is unacceptable. It has rejected fidelity to the Word of God in favor of conforming to secular leftist politics. There do not appear to be other Reformed denominations in this area yet, though I am looking. I am also looking at independent (non-denominational) churches, but I worry that they may reflect the preferences of their current pastor, rather than being grounded in long-standing tradition that has stood the test of time. Also, our church is sending our pastor to a meeting of a Fellowship group in August to find a way that orthodox congregations can unite to support each other. Maybe something good will come of that.

Meanwhile, the group Presbyterians For Renewal has sent out a very timely advisory cautioning patience. It writes —

While in some ways this vote is just another step in the ongoing disintegration of a denomination we have known and loved, this particular vote verifies the deep and unquestionable divisions among us—and consummates a significant institutional departure from the Christian faith we have been called to proclaim.  For those who love the Presbyterian Church, this is a form of death.

Just as in any other season of significant grief, now is not the time for quick action or far-reaching decisions.  That time is coming.  But for now, it is important that we speak honestly with one another about the reality of the pain, anger, fear, and loss we are experiencing, and that we find appropriate ways of lamenting before God.

So, I will continue to study the options and pray for God’s guidance, knowing that everything is in accordance with His plan and he will light up the path for me, and the rest of His church, to follow. Every time I have asked for His guidance He has come through – not always with the answer I was hoping for, but always, unerringly, with the right answer. That knowledge leaves me, not just hopeful, but filled with joy for the adventures that are yet to come.

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Responses

  1. Greg,

    I know of what you speak. My journey to Christianity was more complex than yours. I started as an American-style Orthodox Jew and when, as an adult, I discovered Christ, the church that I chose to affiliate with was, like my Judaism, a “traditional” body. I have remained an active Catholic since my baptism (1974), although, in some circles, I may be somewhat “deviant” (in that I have reservations about some of the actions of the institutional Church these days) and would like to see some of the clerical rules changed (to allow married and female clergy). I have also found comfort at selected Anglican/Episcopal churches because of their “closeness” to Catholic tradition; but I agree with you that the political orientations of many of the “mainline” Protestant churches are far too “politically correct”.

    We would probably disagree on a few subjects (aspects of homosexuality being perhaps one such; my views are changing in this area from accepting “domestic partnerships” only to acceptance of gay marriage); but I suspect that we agree on a lot more (abortion and life issues), but these disagreements are subject to more knowledge and, of course, the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives (of which I am a firm believer).

    It sounds as if both of us are traveling a similar road, but I am sure that, with His guidance, things will eventually turn out according to His Will.

    Best wishes,

    Bob

  2. Greg, your original belief that faith and politics could be separated and should be mutually exclusive may have been flawed. I am reminded of the early Christian church in Rome (that was political) and the Eastern Christian church centered in Constantinople (heavenly concerns only). The Eastern church failed to expand Chrisitianity as the Muslim political strength overwhelmed it Today, where Paul converted thousands is only 2%-3% Christian. The capital is now Istambul and the church home the Hagia Sophia became a mosque and is now a museum. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagia_Sophia)

    The Western Church spread Christianity throughout Europe. I am of course ignoring all of the flaws of the Western church and only focusing on the growth and expansion be not ignoring the real world of politics and religious interactions.

    As to you problems with the PCUSA, please check out the other Presbyterian sect PCA. You may not have any PCAs in your area, but you can either form one or move to Atlanta and join me at Perimeter Presbyterian.

    PS I enjoy your faith journey and consider it as a resource to my own walk. Thanks for your blog and sharing your thoughts.

  3. Bob and Ron,

    Thanks. You both have given me a lot to think about. My initial thought is that how civil society treats issues like gay marriage is and should be different than how the church treats them. The church must be faithful to scripture, the state does not have to be.

    On Ron’s point, I’m not so sure that state endorsement of a religion is actually very good for that religion or for believers. State-sponsored churches in Europe are not doing well — formulaic and empty — while non-state evangelical churches are booming. Even in the U.S. “Christianity” may have become the norm, but I’m not sure many people who styled themselves as Christian actually believed in it. Modern Reformation discusses a lot what it calls “Sheila-ism” which is basically — “I am a good person and God lends a hand when I need it.” That seems to be the prevailing faith in the U.S.

    Greg

    • I may not have expressed myself clearly. I was not endorsing state sponsored religion. Quite the contrary, I am against that in any shape or form. My point was that ignoring the realities for the intersection of government and religion by assuming that they are mutually exclusive can lead to government outlawing your beliefs, government making laws that work against your church, and.or other governmental actions that may favor other beliefs.

      It is important that to spread the gospel and practice your beliefs freely, the laws of the land must support that freedom. That is a far cry from state sponsored religion.

      You are right that current European government and big church collusion has diminished religion in Europe. For example in Germany, the state taxes everyone acccoriding to which church they associate with (even if they do not go to church they MUST select a church for taxing purposes). The churches then get their “donations” after a pass through of government hands. The church coffers are filled but the pews are empty.

      • Thanks for clarifying, Ron. I agree with all this.

        The freedom to practice the religion of our choosing is a political freedom that requires political action to preserve. Interesting how the people who cite the First Amendment often forget to mention the “free exercise” clause. The constitution actually says that we are all free to “exercise” our religion at any time in any place, without restriction — including high school football games and graduation ceremonies.


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