Friday, June 10, 2011

Give No Ground

If a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions so that peace may at last be established in the Church, yet if he refuses to budge on even a single point of doctrine—to human reason this looks like excessive stubbornness, even like downright evil intent. This is why such theologians are rarely loved or praised during their lifetime.  On the contrary, they are scolded as disturbers of the peace or even as destroyers of the kingdom of God.  They are regarded as men worthy of contempt.  But at the end of the day it becomes clear that the very determined, unfailing tenacity of these theologians as they cling to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church.  On the contrary, it is this very attitude that—amid the great dissension—builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace.  Therefore, woe to the Church if it has no men of this stripe—men who would stand watch on the ramparts of Zion, sounding the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, men who would rally to the banner of Jesus Christ, ready for a holy war!
C. F. W. Walther1

These words from Walther struck me in light of the propensity of church leaders to:
    ● acquiesce when confronted with wrong teaching
    ● soften the clear testimony of scripture
    ● resolve issues through expedient and pragmatic means
    ● allow improper church practice
There are multiple reasons given to allow these, but they generally boil down to relevancy or tolerance.  An attempt is made to establish a reputation for a church or individual pursuing unity without contention.  Differences in doctrine or practice are relegated to the status of opinion as part of a "big tent" mentality making for easy dismissal while pursuing a common good.

While the admonition of brethren being together in harmony is quite scriptural, an "openness" policy that I have described creates a false unity based not on the Word of God but on emotional stability within a social construct.  Fellowship that should be centered around and built upon Christ is artificially constructed with worldly plans and materials rather than eternal truths.  Lack of strife and willingness to "get along" become the standards of spiritual maturity instead of Christ-likeness.

What Walther posits is a call to stand fast in what is true and right.  He uses the example from Ezekiel 33:1-20 of the watchman diligently looking for what might assail from outside.  The apostle Paul issued the same type of warning for those wolves within the flock (Acts 20:28-31).  The Lord has promised tribulation against and among his people from the enemy seeking to destroy what Christ promises to build.  The call for his church is to be singular in their mission.  Again looking at Paul's address to the Ephesian elders, what does he say was his mission and message?
I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Acts 20:20-21)
This message is the message of relevancy for us today.  We must fight the good fight of faith laying hold of those weapons that "are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds" with the end to "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor 10:3-6).

What is the application for the local church not currently dealing with false doctrine or false sheep?  Be faithful to what you have been taught.  Do not succumb to group dynamics such as peer pressure.  If you are faced with a matter for consideration which already has a majority for approval, do not concede.  Make an argument via scripture and sound reason.  It may be that the dissenting voice is the correct one.  And if you as the dissenter is wrong, the scripture and sound reason used by others will carry the day.  In the end, the basis for moving forward is not the whim of man but the wisdom of the sound teaching manifesting itself through the body.

1 C.F.W. Walther, Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible, (trans. Christian C. Tiews; St Louis: Concordia, 2010), 32-33.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I think one thing a good church should be doing is preaching from the pulpit warnings against every new aberration or heresy that comes down the pike so that the sheep will not go after it. For example, where are the pastors telling their congregations about the false teaching in "Heaven is For Real"? Or "Purpose Driven" anything? What about teaching against the use of "The Message"? I could go on with a litany of bad theology being carried around by members of any congregation. More warnings from the pulpit are needed!

Steve Bricker said...

That would be worthwhile: exposing the heretic and expositing the scriptures.