Discernment vs Unity


I’ve been reading John MacArthur’s book Ashamed of the Gospel in which he discusses the “downgrade” controversy between Charles Spurgeon and the Baptist Union in the early 1900’s.  Naturally, I did some searching and came up with some of Spurgeon’s own writings about the subject.

The question that I have been wrestling with in my own thinking is the inevitable clash between those who favor “truth at any cost” discernment ministries and those who favor “peace at any cost” unity advocates.  Jonathan Falwell recently tweeted:

RT @PastorTullian: F. Schaeffer said bitter divisions among Christians give world justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel

Now this may seem innocent enough until you read that Liberty University has recently been the subject of a small kerfluffle over the resume of their own Ergun Caner.  Said kerfluffle originated from online “discernment” bloggers.  To be fair, Liberty University has been professional and upright in their own investigation into the allegations and Dr. Caner has been willing to answer questions.

As I see it, two things happened here that can be useful in further discussions.  One is that a discernment “ministry” spent time and effort combing through someone’s resume to try and find a discrepancy.  I don’t think we can call this a productive use of discernment skills and time.  There are so many glaring and public instances of apostasy in the news today that one hardly needs to use a magnifying glass to read over footnotes in someone’s biography to find examples.  Discernment ministries will be more respected and treated with civility when they act the part of mature Christians.

The second lesson we can learn from in this debacle is the proper way to respond to questions raised about one’s ministry.  Liberty University did well in this situation by appointing a committee to investigate rather than just issue blanket denials.  Perhaps Jonathan Falwell’s tweets could have been a bit more restrained but over all I think they handled the situation well.

Another example of working well was the recently situation with Chuck Smith and Lighthouse Trails Research in which Pastor Smith responded and clarified his position without hiding behind a wall of “unity at any cost” or “touch not mine anointed”.

We would all do well as Christians to remember that upholding the truth and staying faithful to Scripture is of course vitally important but so is speaking the truth in love and being honest and open when confronted over issues rather than hiding behind tired and worn out clichés such as “touch not mine anointed.”

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Growing Apostasy in the Church

This news from Reuters today:

(Reuters) – The Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles ordained an openly lesbian bishop on Saturday, a move likely to stoke further tensions between liberals and conservatives in the deeply divided global Anglican Communion.

…is growing evidence of just how far the mainstream churches have fallen from a biblical worldview.  Ordaining women into the clergy is one thing that certainly is far from being universally accepted yet doesn’t quite fall into the realm of brazen heresy.  There are legitimate biblical viewpoints both for and against women in ministry.

What is clear is that the practice of homosexuality is sin ( Lev. 18:2220:13; Rom. 1:24,26,27).  It is impossible to say that the bible approves of homosexuality so one must either deny the scriptures the authority to speak in that area or attempt to so cloud the issues that the clear intent of the passages become the exact opposite of what they clearly say.  In other words, the flagrant homosexual pretending to be Christian must either deny the Scriptures’ authority over his/her behavior or they must invent a “new” way of interpreting the bible so that it doesn’t say what it actually does say.

A rough definition of sin might be expressed thus: “I know what the Scriptures say, but I don’t like it, so I’ll do what I want anyway.”  Romans 1:32 has God’s reply:

32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

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