Saturday, March 16, 2013

Only a Bigot Would Discard Principles for Sentimentalism & Politics

When a Senator changes his stance on same-sex marriage because his son told him he's gay, it makes me wonder if he'd change his stance on balanced budgets if his son told him he was neck-deep in credit card debt. I realize same-sex marriage is a sensitive issue when it's intertwined with close personal relationships, but what does this sort of flip-flop say about a person whose sentimentalism trumps his principles?

But it helped me realize something: The people who ought to be most despicable on this issue aren't the people who hold fast to their convictions—rooted in foundational moral principles—even in the face of rising opposition, marginalization, and scorn. No, the real scoundrels are those who U-turn on same-sex marriage for sentimental & political reasons. They expose the ugly truth that the issue never really was a matter of serious principle to them. They were just going with the flow . . . until it became inconvenient. As it turns out, they were the real bigots all along.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dear Gary Bauer, What's Really Uncharitable Is Dismissing People's Convictions As If They Don't Matter.

This article by Gary Bauer is dead wrong when it argues that Roman Catholics and evangelicals agree on the most essential issues. Here's the very center of where his error:
Doctrinal differences remain, of course, but the Catholic-evangelical alliance has reshaped American politics. In many cases, Catholics have provided the intellectual framework and vocabulary to discuss Christianity's vital role in our democracy, while Protestants have contributed fervor and youth. 
We do not agree on every issue. But on the essential ones -- those both faiths consider "non-negotiables" -- Catholics and evangelicals are allied. 
We both champion the idea -- the truth -- that there are reliable standards of right and wrong to which all institutions, including government, must adhere. We stand together in proclaiming that all human life has equal dignity and worth. And we stand together in defending the traditional and time-honored conception of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
Of course he's right that objective truth and moral issues matter a great deal in the public square, and he's right to be grateful for the contribution of both groups in those issues. But he could not be more profoundly mistaken when he suggests that they're more important than doctrinal issues—unresolved disagreement (at least at the level of official RCC teaching) over the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ *alone*.

Level-headed disagreement simply isn't disrespectful or uncharitable, as Bauer argues that it is. Serious evangelicals and Roman Catholics perceive that ideas and convictions matter. I actually respect and appreciate my Roman Catholics friends who recognize that fact far more than I respect Gary Bauer. And I respect them by taking their views seriously, not by dismissing them flippantly.

Not surprisingly, Carl Trueman addresses the same issues much more helpfully.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What Sort of Fruit Do Churches Reap When They Concentrate Authority?

Every now and then I read or listen to someone who's attempting to make the case that sole pastoral leadership and/or a qualitatively unique sort of authority invested in one man are perfectly acceptable options. By that I mean, despite the consistent NT pattern of plural eldership in local churches (reinforced by apostolic command), some commentators deny that plural elder-led congregationalism is an ideal we ought to pursue deliberately. They think it's merely a viable option; I understand it to be a biblical model. I believe the exegetical case is formidable, but let's assume for the moment that it's ambiguous.

Now, does this disgraceful affair emerge from a vacuum, or is it possible that the leadership culture and hero worship so endemic to churches in this stream facilitated the pastor's [and I use that term with clenched teeth] opportunity to abuse his authority? Is it possible that the church's Pastor-centered polity enabled his exploits?

Perhaps some might respond that this is an extreme example. I'd concede that it's an extreme example of power and influence concentrated in one man in a local church context. (I'm not so sure it's an such extreme example at all of the misuse of that power and influence.) I'd also concede that plural eldership has a distinct set of pitfalls. But if we believe anything about depravity, and if we understand anything about the storyline of the Bible, will we then be more or less inclined to centralize authority in one person? And will those understandings lead us toward a stronger or weaker commitment to identify and train faithful men who be able to teach others also?

Friday, March 01, 2013

Three Ways to Preach Biblical Truth in a Way that Makes It Seem Less Attractive

  1. Use a consistently angry tone, not only at false doctrine, but also at your listeners.
  2. Make yourself the hero of most of your stories (not Jesus).
  3. Misrepresent the people that you agree with on the most important issues, but disagree with on secondary or peripheral issues.