Which God Saves Us home Something From The News home

Which god?    God or god?

“Thou shalt have no other god before me.”  (Exodus 20:3 KJV)

Is liberal Christianity signing its own death warrant?

July 19, 2012

The Rt. Rev. Mark Joseph Lawrence, the Episcopal bishop of South Carolina, fears for the future of his church.



This is the lead line in the article Is liberal Christianity signing its own death warrant? in this msnbc article.

A bit later in the article we read -

"I see other mainline denominations that are fairly liberal, like the Presbyterians and the Methodists, just really being very careful about jumping over this hurdle," David Hein, Hood College historian and co-author of “The Episcopalians,” a history of the church, told NBC News, "because it really wreaks havoc with the denominations for the national headquarters on down, the institutions, the seminaries, the parishes when you start to lose huge numbers of members.”


it wreaks havoc with the denominations ... when you start to lose huge numbers of members.

True enough - it does.

But is that the big issue here?

Is it the denomination that needs to survive -
or the souls of the people in them?


It was just last week that I wrote about Confidence in organized religion hits all-time low - which talked about how people are losing confidence - not necessarily in God - but certainly in organized religion. Now - here's another article in the mainstream press about pretty much the same thing.

What really struck me right away was the concern.
Not concern for the people -
God's people -
but for the denomination -
for the "brand" of church -
for the various institutions of the church.


So - what is it that has the church leaders worried?

One week after the U.S. Episcopal Church overwhelmingly voted to approve a provisional rite for blessing gay unions and the ordination of transgender people, Bishop Lawrence said in an interview with NBC News that his denomination is moving too far out of the mainstream.

Seems like they fear the churches are losing their way.


In Deuteronomy 5:32-33 - when Moses was recounting the events from when he received the commandments from God - he said this to the people -

Dt 5:32 So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

"do not turn aside to the right or to the left"

Do not leave the path the Lord has set for you -
do not turn right or left -
do not lose you way.

So - these church leaders -
they recognize they are losing their way -
in this case turning to what we call the left.

They realize this is a problem -
but is it for the right reason that that they are concerned?

There another recent article - this one from the New York Times - titled Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?

This one starts of with -

IN 1998, John Shelby Spong, then the reliably controversial Episcopal bishop of Newark, published a book entitled “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Spong was a uniquely radical figure — during his career, he dismissed almost every element of traditional Christian faith as so much superstition — but most recent leaders of the Episcopal Church have shared his premise. Thus their church has spent the last several decades changing and then changing some more, from a sedate pillar of the WASP establishment into one of the most self-consciously progressive Christian bodies in the United States.

If this sounds a little off the straight and narrow path from God - hang on to your hats - things become even clearer in the next paragraph -

As a result, today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians. It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.

Dt 5:32 So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.


Now - one might think that a religion that has strayed so far into the pop culture of the day would be wildly successful - right? After all - they are changing themselves into what the world is turning into - in an attempt to draw in the crowds.

Well - here's what's happening -

Yet instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace. Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, Episcopalian church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase.

Dt 5:32 So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.


Now - those of you into math & logic will know - the only thing that can be certain from the statement above is what's called it's contra-positive.

That means - what Moses said was that IF the people followed the ways of God and didn't turn to the right of the left THEN they would live and prosper in the land He would give them.

The contra-positive says that IF they didn't live and prosper in the land He would give them THEN they didn't follow His ways and they did turn either to the right or the left.

While it's tempting to say that IF one doesn't follow His ways and does turn to the right or the left THEN they won't live and prosper in the land He would give them.
However - from mere logic - this isn't a 100% certain outcome.

Really? Is that true? One can not follow God and still prosper?
In the end - God will make sure justice is served -
but in the short term - things are not necessarily so.
Check out what Jesus said about loving our enemies in
Matthew 5:43-48 -

Mt 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


So - the conclusion that we can logically draw from this collapse of these organized religions -
a lot of the people want to follow the straight path -
they recognize that their "church" isn't doing that -
they aren't prospering (in a true religious sense) -
they aren't living in the "land" that God gave them -
so they are leaving that religion which isn't following the ways of God.


Both articles have suggestions for these organized churches.

In the New York Times article they conclude with -

Today, by contrast, the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism. Which suggests that perhaps they should pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world.

Absent such a reconsideration, their fate is nearly certain: they will change, and change, and die.

Ouch!!

That's pretty brutal.

And yet - remember the logic above.
From a logical point of view - there's no other conclusion possible.
If they don't return to the ways of God -
they cannot live and prosper forever -
they cannot survive forever.


In the msnbc article - Bishop Lawrence - who was quoted at the very beginning - says this -

"I had an issue of conscience in which I believed that a line had been crossed in the church’s teachings, that I could no longer pretend that nothing significant had happened," Bishop Lawrence said, adding that he has no intention of leaving the church, despite the walkout.

“It’s not merely a matter of adapting the Church’s teachings about Jesus Christ, about salvation, about right and wrong to the culture," he said. "The culture is adrift in sexual confusion and obsession.”

...

"I still believe there is a broad and silent middle [within the Episcopal Church], I just don't know what it would take for them to stand up with moral courage and say, 'We don't believe this,'" Bishop Lawrence said.


Sounds like my conclusion in the Low Confidence in Organized Religion piece -

Be involved.

Somebody's souls could be saved.

Anybody's souls could be saved.

Everybody's soul in your church could be saved.

For sure - if your not involved in your church - will be saving Nobody's soul in that church.

And - to be sure - this isn't a concept I made up.
It's a variation on something Jesus Himself said -
to the Church in Laodicea in
Revelation 3:15-16 -

Rev 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.


My conclusion -

Any given denomination isn't what's important.
The Church - God's Church - His people - that's what really matters.

Again - using Paul's illustration of The Church as a body with many parts - from 1Co 12:12-31 -

One Body, Many Parts

1Co 12:12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

1Co 12:14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

1Co 12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

1Co 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

It's important for every part of the body to fulfill it's role.

It's important for every member of the church body to fulfill it's role.

It's important for The Church to fulfill it's role.

Dt 5:32 So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

Bishop Lawrence concludes with -

“If ever there was a time for the church to be clear, hopeful, and to offer a moral compass to the struggling, and grace, and forgiveness, and healing to the broken, it’s now,” Bishop Lawrence said.

Remember -
The Church isn't just the pastors / ministers / priests -
The Church is everyone -
The Church is all of us.


I still believe there is a broad and silent middle [within the Episcopal Church], I just don't know what it would take for them to stand up with moral courage and say, 'We don't believe this,'" Bishop Lawrence said.

The words of Moses from the Old Testament talked about the promised land -
the land of milk and honey -
the place here on earth that they would posess after wandering in the desert for 40 years.

Dt 5:32 So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

For us as Christians -
what we are promised for living / prospering / prolonging our days -
in the end -
we are promised an eternity in Heaven with God.

"I had an issue of conscience in which I believed that a line had been crossed in the church’s teachings, that I could no longer pretend that nothing significant had happened," Bishop Lawrence said, adding that he has no intention of leaving the church, despite the walkout.

“It’s not merely a matter of adapting the Church’s teachings about Jesus Christ, about salvation, about right and wrong to the culture," he said. "The culture is adrift in sexual confusion and obsession.”

...

"I still believe there is a broad and silent middle [within the Episcopal Church], I just don't know what it would take for them to stand up with moral courage and say, 'We don't believe this,'" Bishop Lawrence said.

Is it time for you to stand up and say 'We don't believe this'?