Christianity: Doctrine and Ethics

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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Culturally Relevant Mission

I am becoming deeply concerned about the PCA. Last week, a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, who shall remain unnamed, sent me a YouTube video of a Redeemer Church (I’m guessing in New York) that fully ordained a female Deacon. The pastor read all six questions from the PCA Book of Church Order 24-6.1-6 and, the female candidate answered them in the affirmative. Some might be thinking, “So what’s the big deal?”

If you’re PCA, you’ve taken an oath to play by Scripture, the Westminster Standards, and the Book of Church Order. In 7-2 of the BCO, we read “The ordinary and perpetual classes of office in the Church are elders and deacons…. In accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only.” (Emphasis added.) In addition, in BCO 9-3, the previous stipulation is reiterated: “To the office of deacon, which is spiritual in nature, shall be chosen men of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly spirit, warm sympathies, and sound judgment.” (Emphasis added.) This is crystal clear and it is equally clear that this is an egregious violation of what the pastor promised on oath; by giving his word. Does this neither count nor matter in the PCA anymore? Is the blatant and obvious moral problem here not a problem? With all the talk of “connectionalism” in the PCA, if this act goes unanswered—immediately—we are just talking and not acting when someone crosses the line.

What I have mentioned in previous installments needs to be re-emphasized: I hold Dr. Roy Taylor in high esteem as a colleague and a brother. I am also committed to the PCA, having come from the Reformed churches, making a conscious and deliberate decision to join the PCA. That does not mean, however, that I am willing to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to those things that are out of order. Please understand well: I am not expecting perfection. I believe the adage that there is no perfect congregation and, if there were, I further believe that I would ruin it by joining. By extension, I hold the same to be true of the PCA. I did not join and bring the congregation I serve into it because I entertained some notion that the PCA was perfect. I did, however, very much appreciate its stance on Scripture, the Westminster Standards, and its Book of Church Order. I did then and I still do now, but there are some things that are giving me pause for serious reflection and Dr. Taylor’s attempt to assuage our concerns about the National Association of Evangelical’s October 2009 Resolution on illegal immigration and aliens is one of those things.

Thus far, we have noted that both the Evangelical Free Church and World Relief have spoken out of one side of their collective mouths about maintaining the sovereign U.S. laws of the land concerning—the euphemism is theirs—“undocumented workers.” World Relief went so far as to state unequivocally that these people that enter our country illegally are a blessing and are then sent out to plant churches. Ethically, this is unconscionable. I’m willing to wager that both the EFC and WR are both opposed to abortion, but they’d be hard pressed to explain why in light of their views on illegal immigration. We noted that at least World Relief is opting for blanket amnesty, even though Dr. Taylor says the NAE is not. World Relief is cited in the footnotes of the NAE Resolution with approbation and without qualification.

No one particularly wants to be the one saying, “Hey, look! The Emperor’s not wearing any clothes!” but someone has to do it. I categorically refuse to sit around wringing my hands about the state of the PCA—a church affiliation that I dearly love and am committed to—while the fox is in the henhouse. I am not certain if Dr. Taylor has read the “Sources” portion of the NAE Resolution, but if he has not, it would behoove him to do so. If he has read them and has no problem with them, then we definitely have a separate set of difficulties.

There are two more documents cited in the Sources that we need to investigate. The first is a position paper from the Vineyard churches. Since it incorporates—at times verbatim—the Methodist Wesleyan Church’s position paper on the same topic, I intend to combine these two into one. The second is the April 7, 2006 article, “Blessed is the Law—Up to a Point” written by Mark Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today.

The Vineyard Church

While admitting that the Vineyard Community of Churches is quite diverse, the position paper of “Undocumented Immigrants” holds to certain core values. What might those be? In order, they are “Kingdom theology and practice, culturally relevant mission, compassionate ministry, reconciling community and experiencing God.” (p. 1.) Without the advantage of a clear-cut confessional statement, the statement could just as well come from the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. If it’s any help—and it is not—the resolution continues, “We underscore the fact that we are committed to offering extravagant, unconditional compassion and mercy to all people.” (Ibid.)

While this all sounds nifty and spiffy, it does not pass “reality” muster. The only being that offers this type of grace to people is God, and I’m not certain that the citizens of Ai would have voted for Yahweh’s extravagant and unconditional compassion and mercy. If God did not show unconditional compassion and mercy to Sodom and Gomorrah, it makes little sense for a church affiliation to make such an extravagant statement, especially since it neither comports with reality nor experience. I’m just sayin’. Finally, God does not offer unconditional compassion and mercy to those in hell, and I’m one of those mean-spirited Christians who believes since Jesus spoke the most about hell we might want to listen up. If this kind of statement is what it means to be on a “culturally relevant mission,” then I’m going to stay home and watch Monday Night Football. Maybe even Oprah, because her theology and this statement are on par.

In any case, the VCC is convinced that their “core values” will serve them well as they consider “the complex question of undocumented immigrants” in their respective congregations. (Ibid.) After a few more preliminaries, the VCC informs us that it is estimated that there are 11.6 million “unauthorized immigrants” in the U.S., which works out to one in twenty in America being “undocumented.” How convenient not to mention the word “illegal” twice. But why not, since the Evangelical Free Church and World Relief have done the same thing. In fact, there are even those in the PCA who are so PC that they will not use the word “illegal.” It’s almost as if if they don’t use the word “illegal,” the illegal immigrants might somehow miraculously become “authorized” or “documented.” I have written to Atlanta about this, especially to our Mission to North America organization, but in case you’ve forgotten, I don’t really exist until they want money. In other words, I received no answer.

But let’s follow the VCC closely because what they say next is pertinent and important. We are told that they are attempting to give us some guidelines of “undocumented Vineyard members” and how their current pastors should “respond when these members continue on to become leaders and eventually desire to plant a new church.” (Ibid.) These are precisely the kinds of “lead by example” leaders we need, right? Who is your leader? Oh, it’s Jorge. He’s in the country illegally, but he will lead you along the right path for making biblical ethical decisions—apart from the illegal alien thing, of course. What should any pastor say to an illegal alien about becoming a leader or planting a church? Why didn’t Dr. Taylor advise us that this was the position of the VCC in his article about the NAE 2009 Resolution on Immigration? Why didn’t he tell us up front that some of the member churches—and he sits on the Executive Board—advocate allowing illegal aliens to become leaders and possibly church planters?

Further to elucidate their position, the VCC offers eight “principles” lifted from the Wesleyan Methodist playbook. We’ll look at them in turn.

The Creation Principle

The VCC’s first principle focuses on man created in the image of God and the Arminian principle of “the vicarious death of Jesus Christ for all humanity.” (p. 2.) They cite the usual Genesis 1:26-28 and for their appeal to Jesus dying for everyone, head-for-head indiscriminately, they trot out Galatians 3:28. How odd and quaint that such an appeal is taken from a chapter where Paul deals almost exclusively with justification by faith.

The verse in question from Galatians 3:28 reads, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. The VCC believes that this text clearly teaches the vicarious death of Jesus Christ for all humanity. But it really cannot mean that, can it? If we look at the immediate context—verse 27—there is a particular qualifier: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The German New Testament scholar, Theodor Zahn, believes that who Paul is addressing in verse 27 are those who are in union by faith with Christ.[1] The Dutch New Testament scholar, the late S. Greijdanus, teaches the same.[2]

In the translation of Herman Ridderbos’ commentary on Galatians, he informs us of the following concerning verse 27: “…Paul wants to indicate by his objective-sacramental mode of expression, and by appealing especially to baptism for establishing the sonship of the believers, that the reality of becoming one with Christ is nowhere so clearly revealed or so firmly founded in the Christian consciousness of faith, as precisely in this baptism (cf. Rom. 6:3ff. and Col. 2:12ff.).[3] The main point of verse 28, therefore, is that “In Christ there is no descent, rank, or sex.”[4] In addition, “From the point of view of redemption in Christ, however, and of the gifts of the Spirit granted by Him, there is no preference of Jew to Greek, master to slave, man to woman.”[5] It is as ludicrous for the VCC to attempt to derive a notion the vicarious death of Jesus Christ for all humanity from this text as it was in the 1970s for the Christian Reformed Church to use the text to substantiate their unbiblical idea of the ordination of women as Elders.

At the end of the first principle, the VCC appends a “Therefore.” It reads this way: “Understanding that all are made in the image of God, we will seek to treat all people humanely and with dignity, regardless of race, class, nationality, gender, legal status or any other distinctive.” (Ibid.) It is, indeed, a kinder, gentler VCC. Well, what could possibly be wrong with this statement? By being non-specific it says far too much. If there is an escaped murderer in my house late at night trying to harm my family I rather doubt that I will treat him with dignity irrespective of his legal status. Rather, I will do everything within my power to protect myself, my family, and my property (cf. Westminster Larger Catechism 135-136).

In our next installment, we’ll move through the remaining principles with greater rapidity. I took my time with this one to demonstrate how shaky the exegesis of the VCC is in this very important matter dealing with illegal immigration. This document is cited in the “Sources” of the NAE October 2009 Resolution on Immigration that Dr. Taylor commends to us.

[1] Theodor Zahn, Der Brief des Paulus an die Galater, (Leipzig: Georg Böhme, 19072), p. 186 where he states, “Dazu kommt, daß v. 27f. nicht von der Gottessohnschaft durch Glauben, sondern von Einverleibung in Christus die Rede ist.” (Emphasis added.)

[2] S. Greijdanus, De Brief van den Apostel Paulus aan de Gemeenten in Galatië, (Amsterdam: H.A. van Bottenburg, 1936), p. 250.

[3] Herman Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), p. 148.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 149. Also see the Lutheran exegete, R.C.H. Lenski’s, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 19613), p. 188.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Airbrushed, Politically Correct Reality

The recent shootings at Ft. Hood, Texas should be a wake up call to the way in which Americans view reality. Few still are willing to admit that the politically correct nonsense that permeates our country is truly harmful. In the case of MAJ Nidal Malik Hasan, he was allowed to run through “stop signs” and his actions and words were “tolerated” (a loaded PC term) with the only negative result being that he was given a negative fitness report. The result of toleration regarding MAJ Hasan is that, at latest count, thirteen soldiers are dead, one of whom was pregnant and approximately thirty were wounded.

Even now, the media are walking (reporting) delicately on the murders and trying, at all costs, to avoid using the “M” word; you know, Muslim. We have been conditioned and bullyragged (I haven’t used that word for a while!) into what I’ll call an airbrushed, politically correct view of reality. Why, we hardly dare to speak plainly anymore, fearing that we might offend someone by our words. Of course, people are offended all the time, it’s just not a two way street. A handful of bent out of shape atheists can be offended by “In God We Trust” on our coinage or the words “one nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance. These are incredibly thin-skinned people who are offended by Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, because she’s a white, non-feminist, who smokes cigars and owns an arsenal of weapons. Well, maybe I made the last part up, but substitute Sarah Palin for good old Becky and you’ve got the same scenario.

I use this as my introduction because I greatly fear that my esteemed colleague, Dr. Roy Taylor, might be guilty of airbrushing the National Association of Evangelicals’ stance on illegal immigration. In all honesty, Dr. Taylor is not the first to take this tack. In previous articles published by members of the PCA’s Mission to North America, at least two authors categorically refused to employ the term “illegal alien,” opting, rather for the more airbrushed, politically correct phrase “undocumented workers.” Personally, I have written MNA about this on at least two occasions and both times I received precisely the same response: I was totally ignored and received no response at all. Do you know the only time either I or my Session hear from MNA? If you said, “When they want money,” then go to the head of the class.

The same can be said about the PCA Administration Committee, which is chaired by Dr. Taylor. As stated clerk of South Coast Presbytery, I was unable to attend the training session for clerks back in Atlanta, primarily because I would have to take a “red eye” from LAX and a number of other complicating factors. For four years running, I requested a DVD of the meetings so that I could learn, even if the DVD was not ideal; not interactive. For all four years, I received no reply from the Administration Committee. I was beginning to think I didn’t exist. The whole episode did untold damage to my self-esteem! However, even though our congregation pays the Administration Committee double what they ask for, one piece of correspondence we can count on is their letter asking us for more money. Of course, this makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Like any bureaucracy, people get ignored and the machinery grinds on. On a more positive note, I stand in awe of the manner in which the Administration Committee conducts our yearly General Assembly.

To my mind, Atlanta has a huge problem with autonomy and non-accountability to anyone, except a few, who apparently are important enough to actually hear from the various committees when they don’t need money. Anyway, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest and feel much better, back to the matter at hand. In our last installment, we took a look at the NAE 2009 position paper on immigration.[1] After torturing a number of biblical texts to their advantage, the National Realities section reverted to airbrushed political correctness by criticizing U.S. immigration policies as unfair and draconian, if not downright bigoted, and employed the familiar “undocumented immigrants” phraseology. The resolution also expects us to believe that the glut of illegal aliens into our country is a revitalization of our churches.[2]

Observing two predominantly Hispanic church plants in my Presbytery for a number of years has not yet convinced me that this is true. While I am thankful to have ministry to Hispanic communities, we have yet to receive confirmation that these church plants will eventually assimilate into Anglo congregations already in existence. The resolution declares that the presence of illegal aliens in America is “a blessing from God.”[3] I guess that’s what we tell them after handing them the four spiritual laws in Spanish. Finally, the resolution attests that “an evaluation of recent immigration cannot be reduced to economics and national security issues.”[4] After presenting an extremely shaky—at best—apologetic for illegal aliens, the resolution then dismisses two of the key, essential elements of illegal immigration and Dr. Taylor wants to assuage our consciences that this is just hunky-dory. In their Call to Action, the NAE asserts that what is needed is that “the government legislate fair labor and civil laws for all residing within the United States that reflect the best of this country’s heritage.”[5]

Implicit within this assertion is the notion that our laws are not fair as well as a plea that those same laws be reformed with a view to everyone currently residing in America. This is a less than veiled plea for universal amnesty. Apparently, Dr. Taylor does not believe this is true, because he tells us that “The Immigration Resolution does not call for blanket amnesty; it calls for earned citizenship.” It is true that the Immigration Resolution does not call for blanket amnesty in so many words, but the thought is there. This is similar to President Obama getting all over Sarah Palin’s case about “death panels” in his socialistic health care plan. True, the words “death panels” cannot be found in the plan (have you read it yet?), but the notion is there. When the NAE hopes for and aspires to fair labor and civil laws for all residing within the United States, the meaning seems clear enough.

World Relief

Another entity listed in the “Sources” of the 2009 NAE Immigration Resolution is World Relief. When you go to their web site (, you’ll find a plethora of information dealing with Disaster Response, Child Development, Maternal and Child Health, Agricultural Development, HIV/AIDS, Microfinance, and Immigrant Services. Under Immigrant Services you’ll find an article entitled, “Interfaith Statement in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”[6] In case you’re not familiar with World Relief, it is an interfaith organization that petitioned then-President Bush in 2005 to consider—as the title indicates—comprehensive immigration reform; this at a time when American citizens were screaming against the kind of comprehensive reform that ignored the immigration laws on our books.

The signatories of this resolution (mostly liberal Roman Catholics, Lutherans, one Christian Reformed Church celebrity, the United Methodist church, and two folks somehow involved in the Islamic community) espouse the notion that “Our diverse faith traditions teach us to welcome our brothers and sisters with love and compassion.”[7] Do they mean “diverse faith” initially now or at the founding of this country, because they cannot mean both and be correct. On the other hand, America has welcomed the huddled masses to its shores and then expected them to jump through the legal hoops to become American citizens. After that, the expectation was that they would assimilate into the country as full-on citizens.

In the subsequent paragraph of the resolution, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qu’ran are quoted. Of course, that’s what interfaith organizations do best. The quotations are selective, bolstering World Relief’s ideology and presuppositions. So why did World Relief and its hangers-on cobble this resolution together? Funny you should ask. Here’s their answer: “We call for immigration reform because each day in our congregations, service programs, health-care facilities, and schools we witness the human consequences of an outmoded system.”[8] America and its practices are badly outmoded.

A few simple questions are in order. What is outmoded in their congregations? Are they not diverse enough? How do you “fix” that? How does, say, a left-leaning Christian Reform Church crawl out of the Dutch ghetto and be an ethnically diverse congregation? Specifically, what kinds of immigration reforms do we need in our “service programs”? Does this mean “welfare programs”? Why should we reform our “health-care facilities” since illegal aliens already enjoy “free” medical care at U.S. taxpayer expense? But maybe, just maybe, what World Relief would like to see is universal health care in America. As P.J. O’Rourke once quipped, “If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it’s free!”

Stanford economist, Thomas Sowell, wrote recently (“High cost of cheap care” The Orange County Register [Nov. 6, 2009], Local, Opinion, p. 17), “Costs are not reduced simply because you don’t pay them.” Given the overall considerations outlined in the World Relief resolution, it doesn’t take a genius (or even a czar) to decipher that what is desired is “free” health care. People still don’t seem to get it that in every country where universal health care has been tried, it has failed. For World Relief (and perhaps the NAE also) universal health care is what they believe Jesus wants us to do.

As far as our government schools are concerned, they are broken and are run, by and large, by union thugs. Our children are being brainwashed on all kinds of social issues, while core subjects are neglected. Grades are inflated so that our children can graduate from high school indoctrination in airbrushed political correctness and go on to the same bowl of swill at the college and university level. Yes, it’s all outmoded and all we need are more social engineers and left-leaning Christians to correct this outmoded system. I’m certain that they’ll be more than willing and able to show us the way.

Another link advocating “comprehensive immigration reform” is the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.[9] This organization wrote to President Bush and the U.S. Congress asking for redress on aspects of our immigration policies. Their opening salvo states that they wrote “as non-partisan Hispanic Evangelical leaders and churches who are concerned about the issue of immigration and the current polarization of our society.”[10] The NHCLC does not designate what this polarization of our society looks like, but, according to them, the polarization is there. Moreover, “immigrant families a long [sic] with the entire Hispanic community find ourselves facing racial profiling, discrimination and a hostile ethnically polarized environment not seen since the days prior to the successes of the Civil rights movement.”[11] Wow! One has to wonder if Dr. Taylor has addressed this statement, since he sits on the NAE Executive Board. This is not merely a far-reaching statement, but also a very outlandish one.

Is the intent of the NHCLC that all immigrants face these hostilities? The statement merely stipulates “immigrant families” and not illegal immigrant families. If the NHCLC means that U.S. taxpayers are growing weary of picking up the tab for illegal immigrants in this country, then perhaps we can understand. But not all racial profiling is wrong, is it? For example, law enforcement along the I-95 corridor from Florida to our northern states tend to “profile” a certain type of individual, primarily because they have not arrested that many eighty-year-old Jewish women driving Edsels for drug running. Besides, most eighty-year-old Jewish women don’t wear “‘do-rags” and listen to hip-hop. But to assert that the entire Hispanic American community suffers much like pre-Civil Rights days is simply tendentious, self-serving, and false.

The NHCLC’s resolution goes so far as to avow that “Cities across America are beginning to pass ordinances that in essence legalize racial profiling and place the Latino community in an unnecessary defensive posture.”[12] Right. I’m sure that, like me, you couldn’t wait to get out to vote when your city held this referendum. Surely you remember it, don’t you? No. Me either, actually, but the NHCLC said it, so it must be true. Americans are just a bunch of bigoted rednecks, who have nothing better to do with their time than to pass ordinances that essentially racially profile innocent people. I hope that clarifies the problem for you.

“But, wait!” someone objects. “This is not the NAE, but the NHCLC.” That’s correct, but according to their resolution, they are “the sister organization of the National Association of Evangelicals.”[13] In addition, they serve approximately 14.5 million Hispanic Americans. Thus, it’s a powerful organization that espouses being called Hispanic Americans rather than simply Americans. Pass the PC airbrush, please. There is more PC claptrap though. The NHCLC is wholeheartedly committed “to assist in the threading of the Hispanic American narrative.”[14] I beg your pardon. Translation please. Threading the Hispanic American narrative? I must have missed something. Their desire, further, “is for every Latino in America to become a productive citizen, master both the English and Spanish languages, embrace the core values of the American idea and realize the American Dream.”[15] How does the NHCLC expect to effectuate such noble goals and ideals? They called upon Bush and Congress to “put an end to all illegal immigration.”[16]

Lest you foolishly believe that the NHCLC wants to stop the glut of illegal immigrants into the U.S., let me make clear to you that the NHCLC means no such thing. Putting an end to illegal immigration is tantamount to blanket amnesty, the very thing that Dr. Taylor would have us believe the NAE does not desire. If the NAE doesn’t want blanket amnesty along the lines of the NHCLC, then please let them step up to the plate and tell us all that this is not their position. They listed the NHCLC approvingly in their “Sources” and are in a sister relationship with them. Am I making these accusations up? No, not at all. In addition to the “guest worker” program, the Hispanic Church in America wanted Bush and Congress to “facilitate avenues by which the millions of families already in America that lack the legal status can earn such status in a manner that reflects the Judeo Christian Value system this nation was founded upon.”[17]

This statement encapsulates the essence of what the NHCLC is aiming at: a fast track for illegal aliens to become U.S. citizens. Those who lack legal status (suddenly they’ve gone from undocumented workers to those that lack legal status. Airbrush. Airbrush.) will come under the spell of the Judeo Christian Value system, which, apparently, has no problem with people being in the country illegally. This is the path that Dr. Taylor wants us to follow. I suppose there are some in the PCA who find it acceptable for people to enter this country illegally, take more money from the beleaguered U.S. taxpayer, and to use our schools and medical facilities for “free.” (Hint: the costs get passed on to the U.S. taxpayer.) The resolutions of the NAE and the NHCLC are clear. To use the words of Lord Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, “This is why I’m shouting now!”

[2] “These brothers and sisters in Christ are revitalizing churches across the country and are planting churches and evangelizing.” (p. 3.)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid. Emphasis added.

[7] Ibid., 1.

[8] Ibid., 1-2.

[10] Ibid., 3.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.