Cool, Objective Academia Has its Place — But not Always
I have been thinking a lot lately about how we are often pressured, especially in the world of theology and writing and blogging, to maintain a cool professionalism that never gets torqued. A polite respectability if you will that leaves room for honest debate on an issue without attacking the other person personally (ad hominem as they say – “against the man”). And certainly this is proper and right in many situations. For example, if we are debating whether the Son has eternally been subordinate to the Father (not in being, but in role), or whether this subordination began only when the Son became incarnate, then all respect is due one party to the other. What is the precise nature of the Lord’s Supper? Is biblical eschatology pre-, post-, or a- millennial? Those sorts of things.
But there are other debates in which I reject the charge of being “too emotional” about. In fact, I maintain that anyone debating these kinds of issues had good and well better be emotional. Angry if you will. And even that we have the right and duty to charge the opponent with, well, sin.
Abuse is an arena that needs to be emotionally charged. This is something that we need to be angry about, as the recently-posted article by Lundy Bancroft said. Oh, not angry all the time and in every discussion – some people just need to hear the facts about abuse and how victims are being dealt great injustice in our churches. But I am talking about people who actively, stubbornly, and often arrogantly push injustice and oppression onto victims through their Pharisaical and “lording it over” attitude.
Yes, I have an example. The “permanence view” of marriage.
When I read a book or hear a church leader or someone like that teaching and writing and insisting that the Bible teaches that marriage cannot be broken for any reason, that even if a spouse leaves and marries another, the wronged party cannot remarry as long as that spouse is still alive, and that if they do file the divorce papers, for example, for ANY reason, or if they remarry while the ex-spouse is still alive (even thought that ex is the one who departed the marriage), then they are subject to church discipline – I get angry. And if I ever get into a debate with one of these types and they are hard-headed and arrogant, then I am going to right out tell them that what they are teaching is wicked and that it is oppressing the weak and they are lording it over Jesus’ people. This is no mere cool, objective, academic debate issue.
Think about it. Church leaders who embrace this permanence business exalt themselves above many, many other godly men and women in the history of the church and in the present church who reject that position. Yet the permanence guys insist they are right. In fact, they are so confident that they are right that they are willing to label any member of their church who divorces or remarries as an unrepentant sinner who must be ex-communicated from their church. If that is not lording it over the flock, then I don’t know what is. Think it through carefully. What must go on in a church leader’s mind for him to be willing to enforce this on people? And to teach it from their pulpit as being the only true interpretation of the difficult issue of marriage, divorce, and remarriage? I conclude that it takes tremendous arrogance mixed with at least a sprinkling of the spirit of Diotrephes (3 John).
“Oh, but that is too harsh, Jeff. You need to be more like Christ here and not be so emotional or angry. That’s not very scholarly.” Really? I simply give this as my answer:
(1) Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,
(2) “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat,
(3) so practice and observe whatever they tell you — but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
(4) They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
(5) They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long,
(6) and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues
(7) and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.
(23) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
(24) You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
Cool? Non-emotional? Respectful of the opponent? No way. What, are we going to say? That Christ wasn’t very Christian here?
Now, you might be thinking – “boy, but are these fellows who teach the permanence view of marriage really to be labeled by us as being of the same ilk as those Pharisees Jesus blasted? Are we saying that they preach, but do not practice? That they tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people all the while refusing to carry that burden themselves? Are we claiming that they love to be….first?”
Well, just think it through again. What kind of person does it take to preach and teach that the Bible forbids divorce for ANY reason, and that re-marriage is adultery (if an ex-spouse is still living), and THEN to make those teachings binding, upon pain of ex-communication? What kind of person does it take to elevate oneself to that kind of position?
Think about it long enough and you will have your answer. And you will be ticked off.
Note: Pastor David Dykstra of Grace Covenant Baptist Church in Willis, Texas recently gave a lecture at his church on this very topic. You can listen to it at Thoughts on the Permanence View of Marriage Many thanks to Pastor Dykstra.