Monday, October 28, 2013

Acceptance AND/OR Approval

We have a serious problem within the Church that healthy parents of children usually don’t make.  There is a difference between acceptance an approval.  In the current debates on sexuality there is a strong lobby in the media and in the Church, not defending, but propagating alternate life styles.  

From the viewpoint of this intense pressure we are told that if we don’t approve of alternate life styles we are rejecting those who practice them.  That is a bald faced lie!  Many within the Church do actually accept sinners of all stripes because we know that we are cut from the same piece of cloth. 

What we don’t accept is that either our sins or the sins of others are acceptable before God.  It is not a matter of sexual orientation.  That is pure malarkey.  It’s a matter of what we think and what we do.  If our sexual orientation is towards fornication, adultery, pedophilia, sodomy, or any of the other varieties of sexual practice, we should not be surprised; after all we are all fallen creatures. 

So you have discovered that Scripture proclaims that you are a sinner?  Well and good, the question is “What comes next?”  St. Paul said, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).   Scripture is quite clear regarding sexual immorality in all its forms, but the world and the world within the Church does not accept the clear word of Scripture. 

The offer is acceptance, not approval, and the gift and grace of transformation.  But the children of world and the world within the Church say, “I don’t want be transformed.  There’s nothing wrong with me. Don’t just accept me, approve of me; I’m not doing anything wrong.” 

The problem posed for faithful Christians is simply this: If we accept our own need for repentance and transformation how can we say to others that Scripture doesn’t matter; you don’t need to be transformed?  A common and no longer unique form of judgment is allowing each other to wallow in our sins without offering the grace of forgiveness and growth in transformation.  That in itself is an exceptional cruelty.  

The world and the world within the Church militate against the call to sanctification because is cuts rudely across accepted social practices and viewpoints.  What the Church should be saying is, “We accept you; come and be transformed with the rest of us sinners!”

Dietrich Bonheoffer observed:

The old world cannot take pleasure in the Church because the Church speaks of its end as though it had already happened—as though the world had already been judged.  The old world does not like being regarded as dead.  The Church has never been surprised at this, nor is it surprised by the fact that again and again men come to it who think the thoughts of the old world—and who is there entirely free from them?  But the Church is naturally in tumult when these children of the world that has passed away lay claim to the Church, to the new, for themselves.  They want the new and only know the old.  And thus they deny Christ the Lord.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, translated by John C. Fletcher. (New York: Macmillan, 1959), p.11

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A GAFCON Observation

I am deeply troubled not only by the growing apostasy of the American Episcopal Church, but also by the influence of American Evangelicals and Charismatics who have exported their theologies to the African scene.  

The problem is this: 

Many of us who had significant conversion experiences and experiences of the Holy Spirit in the sixties and seventies had our basic theological training in American seminaries with little exposure to classical Systematic Theology or Church History, and in some cases no Ascetical Theology whatsoever.  The positive work of the Holy Spirit fell upon those who did not have enough of grounding in the theology and history of the Church to understand what had happened to them.

Some of these men have risen to positions of leadership in the Church and I know personally of some who have had, and still have, a strong influence on the African Churches.  Some of the ones that I have known personally have demonstrated serious problems with authority and when I see them leading the fray I am disheartened.  It is enough that we are exporting the Prosperity Gospel to Africa, but we are also exporting a shallow view of the Church along with a “come out from among them and be ye clean” mentality.

I have some familiarity with Uganda and Nigeria and enough experience to know that by and large, where they are unaffected by us, they are soundly orthodox; but often their orthodoxy rests on the same shallow foundations as that of their American advisors. It is fashionable among American Evangelical Christians to view the African scene through rose coloured glasses.  In point, the East African Revival is a movement of the Holy Spirit in the past and what we are now looking at is the heirs of that Revival who are strongly influenced by American theology with all of its problems.  Do not idealize African seminary training; guess who they have been trained by.  

When GAFCON meets it runs the danger of perpetuating a divisiveness born in the American Church scene.  There are some good reasons why many of us with Evangelical of Charismatic backgrounds have remained within the Episcopal Church.  Despite all claims, the grass is not greener on the other side.