Thursday, June 22, 2006

Understanding Denominational Chaos

The scripture tells us that it was in the springtime of the year when kings go out to battle that David stayed in Jerusalem. In America, it is also in the spring and early summer that most mainline denominations have their annual conventions and meetings. When you see and hear stories in the news about these convocations, it can be slightly confusing. In the midst of great madness, let me try to help clarify

The Southern Baptist Convention wrapped up the 2006 convention in Greensboro, North Carolina last week. The meeting closed with the SBC facing some struggles of cooperation; but, in general the meeting was a time to clarify and unify our focus on world evangelization. Other denominations who met this past week are facing problems. The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church USA are deeply divided, but not over world evangelization. They are breaking apart over the ordination of openly homosexual priests and bishops, as well as an anti-biblical view of gender roles. Here is how Ruth Gledhill of The Times (London) reported the proceedings of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA: The Episcopal Church in America descended into chaos last night after leading bishops on both the liberal and conservative wings disassociated themselves from a last-gasp effort to avert a schism with the worldwide Anglican Communion. Just hours after its newly elected woman head preached a sermon in praise of "our mother Jesus," the Episcopal Church agreed to "exercise restraint" in appointing any more gay bishops after a tense day of debate and argument.

This is the kind of theological insanity and foolishness that has developed after a group, long ago, rejected God's Word as the absolute source of truth. We cannot allow our seminaries or colleges to slip into this well worn pattern of rejecting the truth of God's Word. In his new book, Exodus: Why Americans are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity, Dave Shiflett tells the story of one young seminary student, in a liberal denominational seminary, who found himself consistently at odds with his professors. Another student said to him, "We have figured out your problem. You're the only one here who believes in God."

Could this be why these same mainline denominations are in a decline nosedive? According to a 2000 study by the Glenmary Research Center, the Presbyterian Church USA declined 11.6% over the previous decade. The Episcopal Church lost 5.3% and the United Church of Christ watched as 14.8% of its members walked away. On the other side of the vast theological divide, most conservative denominations are growing. The Conservative Presbyterian Church of America [PCA} grew 42.4% in the same decade. The Christian Missionary Alliance grew 21.8%, Evangelical Free Church grew 57.2%, Assemblies of God increased 18.5%, and Southern Baptist grew 5%.

What lessons should we learn? First, God does not need denominations; denominations need God. The true church of the Lord Jesus Christ can be found in many different denominations and non-denominations. Denominations, at their best, are often wonderful examples of Christian unity in purpose. Together, we can do what few alone can accomplish in God's kingdom. Yet, we must guard our association with one another. We must be diligent to maintain fidelity to the inerrant Word of God. We must not allow ourselves to slip down the slope of theological liberalism.

Pray for our church to be “salt and light” in this decaying culture. Pray that we will offer hope to all people that can only be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ed Litton

Monday, June 19, 2006

Someone is Watching Us

It is called the Apology of Aristides.  It was written around 125 A.D., during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian.   Aristide presented
this set of observations and defense of Christianity by giving a glimpse
of the lifestyle and behavior of early Christians.  The observations are clear and profound. 

"But the Christians, O King, while they went about and made search,
have found the truth; and as we learned from their writings, they have
come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the
nations. For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of
earth, in whom and from whom are all things, to whom there is no other
god as companion, from whom they received commandments which they
engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the
world which is to come. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor
fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in
pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother,
and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges,
they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of
man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them,
they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols
they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease
(lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their
enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their
daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren
after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever
one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to
his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if
they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on
account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to
his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free.
And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have
no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the
needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah
with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God
commanded them. Every morning and every hour they give thanks and
praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food
and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him. And if any righteous
man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to
God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place
to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they
give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they
give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the
world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies
in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and
sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom."

Our greatest Christian apologetic is our way of life.  May modern Christians impact our generation with such powerful evidence of the life changing power of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Ignoring the Will of the American People

This week, 48 U.S. Senators voted against giving the people of the United States the opportunity to express their will to limit the institution of marriage to one man and one woman.  The failure to get 60 votes to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution is evidence that there are many in Washington who choose to ignore the
will of the American people.  I would rather not have to amend our constitution to declare what has been obvious for thousands of years, however, I believe we should do so because of the far-reaching arm of the courts to force the will of a few upon the whole.

This is a clear case of social engineering on the part of some in the courts. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona has indicated that he thinks this is an issue for the states to decide.  Well, Senator, what good does it do for a state to make such a decision only to have a federal court override the will of the people?  In Lawrence vs. Texas the Supreme Court overrode the will of the people of Texas and, in doing so, struck down every sodomy law in every state.

When Senators go back home for reelection, they will not likely make legalizing same sex marriage their top priority.  The truth is that they read polls and they know the mood of the country.  The deeper problem is that  the U.S. Senate refuses to hold the court accountable. By not holding the court’s power in check, they allow our nation to slip away from a democratic republic and slide toward an oligarchy.  In our Constitutional government, the United States Senate is the first line of defense against a tyrannical judiciary.  Many U.S. Senators surrendered their responsibility a long time ago.  They have allowed the courts to gain power and take a great many messy social issues off of their backs.  In doing so, some Senators won reelection and grew in influence and power, but the will of the people paid the price.  Mr. Lincoln, I am afraid that government by the people, for the people, is fading away.

Nevertheless, our duty is to hold our representatives accountable. Keep expressing your opinions to your Senators, holding them accountable and demand that they fulfill their constitutional duty to hold the courts accountable.  If they refuse find people who will serve the greater good and replace them through the ballot box. We did not really expect to win the Marriage Amendment the first time it went to the floor of the Senate.  We will need to go back again and again until it passes and the people have a right to be heard.

Ed Litton