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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.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Forgotten Name; A Remembered Important Principle

With this installment of Ethos, I will conclude my discussion of Dr. Roy Taylor’s defense of the National Association of Evangelical’s Resolution (October 2009) on illegal immigration or, as they choose to call it, on “undocumented workers.” An illegal rose by any other name, and you know the rest.

Many will not remember the name Magda Denes and probably most have never heard it. In 1976, a mere three years after Roe v. Wade, Dr. Denes (Ph.D.) wrote a book entitled, In Necessity and Sorrow. Life and Death in an Abortion Hospital. That book was published a year later by Penguin Books.[1] One of Denes’s operating theses was that abortion is terrible and immoral, but, as the title indicates there is an element of necessity in the midst of the sorrow of the immoral choice.

Long before Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics was in vogue, he published a book that bore the title Morals and Medicine,[2] in which this “Christian” man advocated abortion as the loving thing to do.[3] Unlike Denes, Fletcher did not lament a “loving” abortion.

Of course, both were wrong. It is both incomprehensible and unconscionable for any Christian to advocate abortion. Fletcher’s ethical method never—never—got around to defining what his standard of “love” might look like, so that ultimately, people were free to do what was good in their own eyes and to lean on their own understanding. Denes, on the other hand, admitted that abortion was immoral and involved sorrow at various levels. By the same token, certain situations involving abortion “demanded” or “required” a tough call and a hard decision; a decision of “necessity,” she opined.

There is something highly unethical and inexcusable about turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to evil for anyone, but especially for those who call themselves Christians. It might seem to an objective observer that that is precisely what the PCA is doing. It is almost as if some in the PCA believe that if they put their heads under the covers, the 800-pound gorilla in the room will go away. Currently, one of those issues is how some in the PCA want to view and handle illegal immigrants. I have held, for the longest time, that among these brothers and sisters in the Lord, evangelism trumps everything. That is to say, as long as you are evangelizing, you can use any method—biblical or unbiblical—and you can do anything as far as what is supposed to pass for “worship” is concerned. Truly, evangelism trumps everything. The other issue that the PCA is hesitant to deal with currently is a PCA congregation in New York (Redeemer. Not Tim Keller’s Redeemer) that has openly, blatantly, “in-your-face-esque” ordained a female to the office of Deacon ([4] If you follow the questions posed to the female on the chancel in the video, they are lifted verbatim from the PCA Book of Church Order, which forbids the ordination of a female to the office of Elder or Deacon. To my understanding, this unlawful ordination service occurred a few months back. Nothing came from PCA Headquarters in the Atlanta area, giving us a heads up that it took place, in spite of hearing from there about our “connectionalism” in the PCA. Apparently, there is a limit or boundary to how far connectionalism extends. If the connectionalism concerns something unsavory or unlawful, it gets swept under the carpet. Who has the requisite manhood to address this ordination? No one in Atlanta has stepped up to the plate thus far, so I will look for those in my Presbytery who are not emasculated males to join with me in addressing this matter.

All of this is a kind of preface to what has become “the gentlemanly thing to do” in the PCA. There seems to be a movement afoot to turn all the Teaching and Ruling Elders into male versions of Magda Denes, who see what is wrong, but would rather speak of the necessity and sorrow that attends such thorny, delicate ethical issues than actually deal with them. In point of fact, there is nothing delicate or unclear about the ordination. It is oh so clear; crystal clear. Quick! Someone run and get the ten-foot poles to see if anyone will touch this! It is at times like this that I am so indebted to and thankful for my training at The Citadel and in the U.S. Army. There are still some institutions in this country where leadership actually means something other than compromise, political correction, and the precautionary principle.

The Vineyard & the Wesleyan Methodists

One of the signatories to the NAE’s illegal immigration—oops! I mean undocumented worker (this is tantamount to saying that a drug dealer is an unlicensed pharmacists)—resolution is the Vineyard, which more or less plagiarized the Wesleyan Methodist resolution. In our last issue, we examined in some detail the faulty exegesis and hermeneutics employed by the Vineyard, which should not come as any surprise to us.

As we wind this down, I’ll touch on some more of what is contained in the Vineyard resolution and how they justify illegal immigration. The second principle is what they call “The Great Commandment Principle.” Here the emphasis is heavily on love. The “Therefore” section of their resolution on this point reads, “We will give ourselves in wholehearted love to others without intolerance, judgment, favoritism or disrespect, irrespective of who they are or what they have done to live among us.” Dr. Taylor would have us believe that this type of statement has little or nothing to do with blanket amnesty. I submit, however, that this statement, at the very least, leans strongly in that direction. Moreover, those who favor illegal aliens do show a great deal of favoritism towards them at the expense of those who entered the country legally.

Principle number three is “The Sovereignty Principle.” Coming from the Vineyard, it gives the usual Arminian lip service to God’s sovereignty in the world and in salvation. The “Therefore” section under this principle manifests what the Vineyard is aiming at: “We view immigration as an aspect of God’s larger plan to bring salvation to the world. Immigration can be used through God’s wisdom to introduce many to Jesus who might not otherwise hear the gospel message.” In the first place, the resolution fails to point out that the issue in discussion is not immigration per se, but illegal immigration. It does not take much of a stretch to understand the notion that the Lord might use illegal immigration to introduce many to Jesus—but, he might not. We are called to obey laws that are legitimate and not disobey them and then surmise that God might use that disobedience to bring people to faith.

“The Submission Principle” comprises number four. This principle contains a major caveat. The “Therefore” section starts out in the direction Dr. Taylor would have us believe the NAE wants to move: “We will exercise awareness of the laws as they pertain to immigration and will endeavor to obey them, unless they are contrary to God’s Word.” Well, of course. That’s like breaking down an open door. But here’s the rest: “As Christians, we support the rights of those who engage in civil disobedience against harsh and unjust laws, policies and measures on the basis of biblical principles.” If I am an illegal alien reading this, I draw two conclusions. First, the current immigration laws in the U.S. are against the Word of God. Second, I am permitted to engage in civil disobedience because the current laws are harsh and unjust.

Number five is called “The Hospitality Principle.” The “Therefore” section here is reasonable enough. “We will encourage one another to engage in acts of kindness and compassion (e.g., providing food, shelter, clothing, and other resources) toward immigrants who are in need regardless of their immigration status.” I concur as long as “other resources” does not involve getting them jobs, which is also illegal in the United States and falsified documents. I’m also not convinced that it’s our place to provide them shelter if they are planning on staying illegally and I’m opposed to what just happened near me where the taxpayer got hosed for $90,000 for a “shelter” near a Home Depot where illegal aliens get picked up to work. The shelter provides bathroom facilities for those waiting for illegal employment. Nice touch.

Number six is “The Great Commission Principle,” and the “Therefore” section contains—surprise! Surprise!—an unashamed engagement in evangelizing and discipling immigrants. Again, the problem here is not with immigrants, but with illegal immigrants. Should illegal immigrants receive the gospel? Of course, they should, but they should also be told to go back and follow the lawful procedures to become a citizen of the United States.

Number seven is “The Grace Principle.” The Vineyard concludes, “We will show God’s grace by accepting those less fortunate than us [sic]. (One can only hope their evangelism will include correct English—RG.) We will seek to have a welcoming heart to those that are strangers in our land, showing them acts of kindness and doing our part to understand other peoples’ cultures to better serve them through God’s love.” We need to spend a little time here. I am not certain that I need to manifest a welcoming heart to someone who has entered this country illegally anymore than I need to have a welcoming heart to a burglar. Christians should, indeed, be kind. It is one facet of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Not fruits; fruit.

But what about the part that says we are to understand other peoples’ cultures. Which ones? All cultures? How is that possible? How much of Mexican culture can I really understand? Do I want to understand? When I lived in Holland for ten years, I used to chuckle at those who came over for a two week mission trip, wanting to understand the culture. In two weeks you understand nothing. In two months, you might make a small start. This statement about understanding other cultures smacks of PC multiculturalism and relativism, but I’m not surprised.

Number eight (The Justice Principle) hearkens back to the unjust and harsh laws premise. The principle itself reads, “God’s people are called to seek justice for all persons proactively by calling for just, fair, reasonable, and humane laws and serving as advocates and defenders for those who are powerless, disenfranchised, and marginalized.” Oh, you mean such as illegal aliens? This sounds like the liberal plea for the victo-crats. Looking at the last march in Los Angeles and the violence that erupted there caused by some of the illegal immigrants, I’m not certain powerless is the correct term. The “Therefore” section reads, “We oppose and condemn all unjust and harsh law, policies and measures directed against immigrants among us, whether documented or undocumented. We will act as advocates for just and humane policies and practices for all people by all levels of government and in all parts of society.”

This begs the questions: which specific unjust and harsh laws are directed against legal immigrants to this country? It seems that Americans in general and Christians in particular are advocates for just and humane policies and practices.

The Vineyard concludes that they realize that their principles do not address the moral questions “regarding undocumented immigration,” but they certainly address illegal immigration repeatedly. They admit that the Vineyard is a “house divided” on the issue, but their resolution does not supply any enlightenment or real biblical support outside of quoting some texts, some of which apply and others that do not.

Blessed is the Law—Up to a Point

Mark Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today wrote an article for CT in 2006 that touched on the notion of illegal immigration. There was a backlash to his assertions. He writes, “We expected a fair amount of criticism for portraying sympathetically the plight of immigrants in “Blessed are the Courageous.” We did not expect one complaint to be repeated in nearly every email.” Such is the plight of shoddy journalism.

First, the complaints were not about the “plight of immigrants,” but about illegal immigrants. There’s a big difference. Second, why would CT not expect law abiding citizens to be upset when the rule of law is violated?

While explaining that CT upholds the rule of law (a good way to lose the readers would be to declare that you’re an antinomian), the article goes on to say, “…[the law] is not everything.” What does that mean? Galli explains, “…law-and-order is not ‘supreme.’” For support, he cites Daniel’s determination to worship God despite “the laws of the Medes and Persians.” This doesn’t quite fit, does it? Daniel was commanded not to worship Yahweh. For illegal aliens to remain in their home of record and not come across a border illegally does not cause them to violate one of God’s commands.

The other example Galli trots out is the “hooliganism we call the Boston Tea Party.” He surmises, “Our Declaration of Independence is nothing but an explanation to the world for this law-defying act.” Mr. Galli might want to re-read the section on overthrowing tyrannical governments, which, one might add, does not comport with illegal aliens coming into this country.

Thus we come to the conclusion of our disagreement with Dr. Roy Taylor’s assessment of illegal immigration. I will end where I began: Dr. Taylor is an esteemed colleague and brother in the Lord. I appreciate very much of what he does and I have learned a great deal from him and his interpretations of our Book of Church Order. I do not and will not, however, concede his points on illegal immigration in the NAE or PCA, nor will I appreciate or adopt his PC language, calling those in this country illegally “undocumented.” The whole discussion would have been more profitable and lively if Dr. Taylor would have gotten in touch with me and dialogued about this more. Unfortunately, he did not and it is what it is. Equally unfortunately is that once again a Teaching Elder in the PCA was ignored by PCA Headquarters. I have come to expect such treatment from my appointed and elected officials and journalists at various newspapers. It’s just hard to be ignored by the church affiliation that you love so much.

[1] Magda Denes, In Necessity and Sorrow, (NY: Penguin Books, 1977).

[2] Joseph Fletcher, Morals and Medicine, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1954).

[3] Joseph Fletcher was Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Virginia. Prior to that, he served as Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Episcopal Theological School, in Cambridge, MA and Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, in Cincinnati, OH.

[4] Today, I received a copy of an email from the pastor involved in that particular service, Scott Sauls. His explanation is that what he did was an error and was entirely of his doing. Apparently, he recently transferred back from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, having been PCA before. Knowing this, he should have been aware of PCA practice. Did he have no Elder present to halt him and correct him once he started down this erroneous path? Given the magnitude of the error, I am prepared to listen to Pastor Sauls’ explanation, but, honestly, it needs to be more than 4-5 short paragraphs.



Blogger Jeff said...

Let's say a certain Church had been given a quite sizable government grant for their community center (link to IRS Form 990 ).

Should they check ID's of those who utilize their services? Services such as ESL classes, Childcare/Preschool, A Multicultural College Fair, 1st Time Home Buying, etc.?

Strange that locally they are phasing the word "Church" out of their name. Could it be to get more grant money? I'm sure this too could be rationalized away as all for evangelism.

7:41 PM  
Blogger randy buist said...

Dr. Ron. Suppose Dr. Taylor would have called you back. What would have been the value of his time speaking with you in terms of this conversation?
There is no way under God's good sky that you'll ever change your position on this matter. From your writings over the past year, it seems to be your sixth point of Calvinism. So, those who differ seem to fall short of God's forgiveness. I hope you recognize why Dr. Taylor didn't call you back.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Dear Randy,
Thank you for such a penetrating and well thought through response. I know it clarified a lot for me concerning the issue.
Had Dr. Taylor called me back, I am rather certain that we could have had a reasonable discussion about the issue. He could have raised his points and I could have raised mine.
If I am ever convinced by Scripture that I am in error, I will change and bring my views into line with God's Word. To this point, neither Dr. Taylor nor Tim Keller, both of whom I know and respect have put forward sufficient scriptural evidence to convince me that their positions are correct.
5 points of Calvinism suffice for me.
No, I do not know why he did not call me back. Obviously, you think you do and you've never met the man, I'm willing to wager. Such wisdom; such insight.

4:32 PM  
Blogger randy buist said...

Brilliant Ron! Brilliant!!!

9:43 PM  
Blogger randy buist said...

by the way, Scripture isn't capable of correcting error if it's always understood through your eyes, ears, and particular way of approaching the text... perhaps when one of your granddaughters wants to become a missionary to latinos in L.A., then you will have a change of heart... I hope for a kingdom when the lion and lamb finally lie down together... until then, let us spill blood.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Currently, none of my granddaughters desire to become missionaries, but I would take them aside and explain what 1 Tim. 2:8-15 says about women. I would also point out the clear difference between "didaskoo" in 1 Tim. 2 and "ektitheemi" where Priscilla & Aquila talk to Apollos. You do what the difference is, don't you, Randy?
Since we're talking about illegal immigration what would you tell your daughters about 1 Tim. 2:12 that says, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain silent"?

9:50 AM  

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