We are Salt & Light, Yes?

If the PCA says NO! to Child Sexual Abuse,
Why Not NO! to All Sexual Immorality?

by Reed DePace

The latest general assembly (GA) of my denomination, the PCA, passed an overture (no. 6) that: 1) resoundingly condemning child sexual abuse, and 2) urging member churches and denominational bodies to take this issue seriously and address it in their day to day practices. Given that this horrifying expression of the dominion of Satan is indeed sweeping our nation, I wholeheartedly support this condemnation and admonition.

Yet this same GA struggled to pass another overture, even more mildly worded, with less stringent condemnation and less sweeping advice. This overture, no. 43, addressed two additional satanic horrors capturing the hearts of our nation: abortion and same-sex marriage. It only offered one small and insignificant call to action: expressing prayerful thanks for those striving to bring the gospel to bear on the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage.

The GA committee assigned to pre-review and advise on how to respond to overtures before GA, recommended that Overture 43 be declined (by a vote of 45-28). This is the same committee of men who recommended the GA approve the Overture no. 6 on child sexual abuse. It was only upon the significant efforts of a minority of this committee to bring an alternative recommendation (to affirm) that Overture 43 had opportunity for some consideration. (I’m pretty sure current assembly rules only allow for GA for an up or down vote, no debate, on the committee’s recommendation.) This substitute motion from the minority of the Overtures Committee reads:

“Be it resolved that the Presbyterian Church in America expresses its gratitude to the Lord for sustaining by His grace ministers of the gospel, chaplains, and Christians serving in the public sphere who are experiencing ostracism, penalties, and persecution for taking a Biblically faithful stand for the sanctity of human life and declining to participate in the cultural redefinition of marriage;

“Be it further resolved that the General Assembly pause and offer prayer to the Lord on behalf of such ministers of the gospel, chaplains, and Christians.”

And even then this rather mild expression passed only by a small majority.

If this leaves you scratching your head, I understand. Let me offer some explanation (informed by similar “decline” decisions of previous general assemblies).

The Overtures Committee (i.e., the majority) gave a list of four reasons for recommending to decline Overture 43. The first reason appears to be the most substantive:

“This overture is not needed. There is no lack of clarity regarding the PCA’s stand for the sanctity of marriage or the sanctity of life, biblically or constitutionally (WFC 24.1). Furthermore, we do not need an overture such as this to pray for, or encourage, those who suffer unjustly.”

This reason applies to the subject of Overture 6 as well. In fact, remove the words “sanctity of marriage or the sanctity of life” from the reason listed and substitute the words “child sexual abuse” and you can see what I mean. Indeed, the remaining three reasons given for declining Overture 43 could also be applied, with little tweaking, to Overture 6. So why was the latter easily passed and the former barely?

I expect the difference is to be seen in the application of a doctrine called the spirituality of the church to Overture 43 but not to Overture 6.  While a sound and wise doctrine, it can be easily co-opted for use in denying the Church’s responsibility to speak prophetically to the nations in her witness of the gospel. “We’re not supposed to get involved in politics,” ends up becoming an excuse (even unintentionally) to defend an unwillingness to obey God in speaking as:

A watchman to the Church:

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. (Ezk 3:17 ESV)

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  (Col 1:28)

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.  (1Th 5:14)

And prophetically to a nation:

But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the LORD.” (Jer 12:17)

If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. (Jer 18:7-8)

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything excepx to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mt 5:13-16)

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Ps 2:10-12)

I get not issuing political opinions. I agree completely that this is not only NOT the Church’s calling, to engage in it actually diminishes Her calling to proclaim the gospel.

Yet I fear we can become misguided in our efforts to apply this doctrine. I sincerely cannot quite fathom why the GA would speak clearly, “child sexual abuse is wrong!” and then hesitate to speak clearly, “abortion and same-sex marriage are wrong!” Neither is a statement of political policy. When intentionally connected to the gospel (something without which we should not speak), both are expressions consistent with the command that we love our neighbors as ourselves and warn them of judgment to come.

For the record, I’d be grateful to see some Presbytery propose an overture which simply:

  1. Identifies a laundry list of sexual immorality that is defining our national character,
  2. Affirms that the Scripxures are clear on the condemnation of these,
  3. Reminds that the only hope for the rescue from the deadliness of these soul honey-traps is the gospel,
  4. Acknowledges in repentance and faith that we ourselves are not without guilt save Christ in these sins,* and
  5. Admonishes our churches to prayerfully re-affirm our calling and commitment to go and rescue those trapped in sexual immorality through the ministry of the gospel.

For those who will admonish me, “but our standards ALREADY (in effect) say such things; there is no need to repeat ourselves,” my response will be a simple, “and where would you and I be if God did not repeatedly, page after page, remind and admonish us of our sin and need of Jesus Christ?” If God sees fit to repeat Himself, why should not His Church follow His example?

[*Edit: a friend in a comment below brought up the concern of the appearance of hypocrisy. Sexual sins are so potent in terms producing guilt and shame that speaking openly about them immediately provokes all in hearing to respond, in force. Unless one has a good grip on Jesus and His cleansing the tendency is to marshal one's own fleshly resources to a defense marked by attack (often all out). It helps them if the Christian identifies his own culpability. Then they have hope you are not just a hypocrite, but one who does indeed love them.]

by Reed DePace

Whatever Happened to the Church

Reed DePace

Question I’d ask any to comment upon: is God in the process of judging the Church in America? Scripture to contemplate: Jh 6:28; Mt 5:13; 1Ti 3:4-5; Eph 5:13; 2Ti3:1-5; Jh 15:6

The background to my question comes from this FB status I posted:

Whatever Happened … To the Church?

That is what your grandchildren may ask one day. If things keep going the way they are, God is going to remove the Church from this land. America may become a post-post-Christian nation with barely a remembrance of Christ.

What ever happened to a man not being qualified to shepherd God’s family if he cannot shepherd his own family (1Ti 3:4-5)? Preachers’ Daughters (check out the family bios.)

We are awash in pastors who promote godliness but deny the only One who is its power (2Ti 3:5). Christianity IS NOT about us keeping the rules, and pastors who teach that are doing the same thing the ones Jesus condemned did.

(Don’t read between the lines. Holiness is essential. We don’t get it in any manner that is based on our effort. Our problem with sin is worse than we imagine. We neither believe nor live in what Jesus said is necessary for true holiness. Jh 6:28)

The shame of the Church continues to be paraded and laughed at by the unbelieving culture. What in the world are we thinking supporting that by parading our own sinfulness – and celebrating it – before those who mock Jesus Christ? (Eph 5:12; 1Pe 4:3)

When salt is worthless, what do you do with it? According to Jesus, you throw it into the mud where at least it can add some traction for the feet of those who walk on it. (Mt 5:13) The Church is washing away her saltiness in shallow love for God and heated love for the world. Our children are leaving us in the mud and jumping into the manure-pile of the debauchery of this world.

God have mercy, Christ have mercy, Holy Spirit have mercy. If He doesn’t our grandchildren will be wondering whatever happened to the Church in America.

Reed DePace

Feminism and the Church

The fifth tooth of the wolf is feminism. This post will be very politically incorrect, I realize, but it must be said. The other caveat I would issue here is that the church, in reacting against feminism, should not denigrate the gifts God has given to women, and should be actively looking for ways in which women can use their gifts in proper settings. Sometimes it seems as if the attitude towards women in conservative churches is more focused on what women cannot do, as opposed to encouraging women to do what they should do.

One other caveat should be given here, and that is that not all forms of feminism are the same. Not all feminists, for instance, would agree with every point of Sittema’s description. There is definitely a range of opinions on these matters. All these caveats aside, there is no doubt that the feminism Sittema describes is very dangerous to the church.

Here are the points that Sittema summarizes from James Dobson’s analysis of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. In other words, this appears to be fairly mainline feminism. For those of us used to kinder, gentler forms of feminism, this may come as something of a shock. But this is their agenda: 1. Marriage is the enemy for women, since men are by definition oppressors. 2. The family is to blame for violence suffered by women. 3. The sex of a baby is something imposed on them from birth, and is not biological (i.e., it is entirely a social construct, and is therefore oppressive). 4. The language of “wife, husband, son, daughter, sister, brother,” etc. must be changed to “parent, spouse, child, and sibling.” 5. The government needs to mandate that household responsibilities be divided 50/50, and so must the military also. 6. Abortion is a mandated right for all women. 7. The homosexual agenda walks hand in hand with feminism in its redefinition of traditional roles and sex. 8. All patriarchal religions must be oppressed. 9. The Bible is not authoritative when it oppresses women by forbidding teaching roles to them over men. If the Bible does not speak to modern women’s experience, then it has no authority there. 10. Traditional Christian doctrines need to be redefined, including the doctrine of man, God, sin, redemption, and Christology, to be more favorable to women.

One can quickly see, first of all, that what many of us would regard as “radical” feminism is actually more mainstream. This is what the world council on feminism has said.

Second of all, one can see that if feminism has its way, then the Bible’s authority will be completely undermined. I have seen two approaches to the Bible in feminism. The first approach is to deny the Bible’s authority. This is actually the more honest approach. The other approach (especially with passages such as 1 Timothy 2) is to “interpret” the passage to make it mean pretty much the opposite of what it actually says. This is done by the so-called “evangelical feminists,” who still want to cling to the authority of the Bible. As Ligon Duncan said, if one can make “I do not permit a women to teach or have authority over a man” to mean “I do permit a women to teach or have authority over a man,” then one can make the Bible say absolutely anything.

Sittema suggests four ways of fighting feminism in the church: 1. Teach the Biblical model of gender relationships. 2. Don’t over-react. We must remember that there are a range of views. Just because someone might say something like one of the above 10 points doesn’t mean that they believe all of them. 3. Use women and their gifts in the church. He quotes the memorable dictum “cults are the unpaid debts of the church.” If the church were to encourage women to use their gifts to the best of their ability, and in the right setting, then feminism would not have much room to make inroads into our churches. 4. Honor marriage, family, and motherhood within the church. Show the church how much the Bible praises these things, and what a high calling these are for women. I would add 5. Be sympathetic towards women who really have been abused by men. This should never be tolerated, even though our definitions of “abuse” will be different from the feminists’ definition. We would not regard keeping men as elders and deacons in the church as a form of abusing women, for instance. But verbal and physical abuse of women does happen, and we should never become soft on such abuse just because we’re reacting against feminism.

Great Quotation on Sex

This quotation is making the blog rounds (originating here). I think it is a wonderful quotation that our modern culture should definitely hearken unto and digest.

To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once. It was incommensurate with the terrible excitement of which one was talking. It showed not an exaggerated sensibility to sex but a curious insensibility to it. A man is a fool who complains that he cannot enter Eden by five gates at once. Polygamy is a lack of the realization of sex; it’s like a man plucking five pears in mere absence of mind. (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 103)

No Impurity

Ephesians 5:3-4

No Audio Available

Teen facts. Since the popular push for contraceptives for teens began, teenage sexual activity and pregnancy have increased 400%. Of teens who marry because of pregnancy, 60% will be divorced in five years. Secular education has espoused the view that if we talk about sex education, and instruct teens in how to have “safe sex,” the problems with our society will go away. They think there will be fewer problems in our culture. The statistics show otherwise. What is the problem? The problem is the way in which our culture speaks about sex. We will compare what Paul says about sex with what our culture says about sex.

First of all, a difficulty in the text. The text says that there should not be a hint of sexual immorality. Literally, the text says, “these things shouldn’t even be named among you.” Well, if they shouldn’t be named, then why am I preaching a sermon on this topic? Am I not naming these things? Well, if talking about them at all was what Paul had in mind, then he would have contradicted himself, since he himself actually named them. What he is actually talking about is that there shouldn’t be even a hint that such things are happening among us. So, the NIV translates it well here: “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality.”

So by this Paul means adultery, fornication, incest, rape, pornography, lust, any thoughts that tend in these directions, and any talk that tends in these directions. These things all break the seventh commandment. It is important to note here that these sins are like all other sins. They bring condemnation upon the person who commits them. But also like other sins, they can be forgiven. If you have committed any of these sins, then now is the time to repent of that sin, turn to Jesus, and be forgiven. However, it is not enough merely to say, “I repent.” it also means that we get rid of the source of temptation. It is a bit like the kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar when he wasn’t supposed to be eating a cookie. His mother caught him and asked him what he was doing. He replied, “Mom, I am putting my hand in the cookie jar in order to resist temptation.” Right. One does not resist temptation by throwing oneself into the way of temptation. There are two ways to avoid temptation. One is physically to rid yourself of the source of temptation. If your TV causes you to sin, and there is no other way to get rid of temptation, then get rid of it. The other way to avoid temptation is to become accountable. This is really the only way for the internet, for instance. The internet is a great tool. However, it is also a source of temptation. The way to avoid temptation is to use a program like Covenant Eyes, which monitors every place you visit, and then sends a report to someone who is your accountability partner. This, in conjunction with a good internet filter, can eliminate the internet as a source of temptation. What about places that sell Playboy? Don’t go into those stores if it tempts you. Of course, many of these temptations I have been describing apply mostly to men. With women, the story is a bit different. With women, it tends to be the emotional draw of a kind, understanding man who listens that is the temptation more than the purely visual. Romance novels are particularly bad, and they are often called pornography for women. Rid yourself of these novels. They are poison for the soul. And they, like more visual forms of pornography for men, will make you unhappy and dissatisfied with your spouse. For both men and women, one of the great secrets to avoiding temptation in this area of life is to delight in your spouse. Be content with the spouse that you have.

Paul also says that any kind of impurity is not allowed. So, we are not talking merely about sexual impurity, Any uncleanness is here meant. What does “uncleanness” mean? Well, Jesus taught us that it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out from the heart. Sin in the heart makes us unclean. Any sin of the heart is unclean, and that is forbidden as well. Sin is not merely outward. We should know that from the Ten Commandments, anyway, since the tenth commandment against covetousness is a command against an inward sin.

These kinds of sins are inappropriate for God’s people, since they are holy. Again, what does “holy” mean? It means different, set apart, clean. Everything the world isn’t. If we are saints, then we had better act like saints. We are saints because of what Christ has done. We must never forget that. Christ’s work cleanses every last stain away. But that means that we shouldn’t be eager to get a whole new set of stains. Yes, it is true that Christ’s sacrifice cleanses us of all sin past, present, and future. However, that does not give us a license to go on sinning. As Paul says in Romans 6, how can we go on sinning since grace is abounding? How can we who have died to sin, keep on living in it? We do not live in sin. The condition of a Christian is never perfect in this life, even though perfection is always the goal. The condition of a Christian is that he is living more and more to righteousness and less and less to sin. Is that your condition? Is your trend line going to more righteousness?

Paul, in verse 4, addresses our speech. This is a verse that counters our culture more than almost any other verse in Paul. As you are well aware, obscene language is everywhere in entertainment. You can hardly turn on any TV show these days that does not have foul language, and talk about immorality that makes sin seem enticing. Paul says that we should not use such language. Various four-letter words (you know which words I am talking about!) are off-limits for believers. Also, we should never make jokes about the marriage bed. That is what Paul calls “coarse joking.” Foolish talk is talk that doesn’t have any edification in mind. It is talk that doesn’t have anything good in mind. It talks about foolish things. How do we know when something is foolish? Well, we need to have spiritual discernment about these things. How do we develop discernment? We learn wisdom from the Word of God. There is no shortcut to wisdom. It comes from the Word of God, and from all the means of grace. The Word of God needs to be connected to prayer always.

And prayer needs to be in an attitude of thanksgiving, as Paul says at the end of the verse. Thanksgiving is the opposite of all these sins. Rather than engaging in these sins, we should be thankful for our salvation, and act like true children of the King.

Hear now this solemn warning in verse 5. Sinners such as we have described, who are given to those sins, have no place in the kingdom of God. That sounds somewhat depressing. Suppose some of us are prone to these sorts of sin? What then? Is there no hope for us? There is always hope. There is a difference between someone who is given over to those sins, versus a Christian who is struggling with those sins. The difference lies in whether there is a struggle or not. The one given over to the sin in unbelief has no struggle with sin. His conscience is seared to the point where he hardly even recognizes sin for what it is. The believer, on the other hand, every time he falls into a particular sin, feels a great heavy burden that can only be lifted by the power of Christ. Do you feel bad when you sin? That’s good! Your conscience should accuse you, and then point the way towards the cross. Always go back to the cross and the atonement. Always remember Christ’s blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

The last sin mentioned here is greed. If sexual sin is prevalent, it is usually done in the dark. And oftentimes, people will not swear around a Christian. But greed is practiced right out in the open. It’s there for everyone to see. I wouldn’t say necessarily that greed is more prevalent than any other sin. It may be. But it may only seem that way, since you can see greed operating, whereas these other sins work in secret. But greed is certainly very widespread in our community, especially with regard to land. Sometimes it seems impossible for people to be content with the land that they have. And yet, that is our call, isn’t it? We are to be content with the land that we have. That doesn’t mean that we can never buy more land, if the opportunity arises. But can you do it without going into horrendous debt for it? Can you do it without any underhanded deals? Can you do it without any greed whatsoever? That is the issue. Paul plainly says here that a greedy person is an idolater. Idols are not only the things made by human hands. Idols are also the gods of our heart. Land is very easily an idol in the heart of a farmer. Tear down that idol, being content with what you have, and giving thanks to the Lord. So, impurity is not allowed. Not sexual impurity, not any other kind of impurity, not greed, not impurity of talk, none of it. Rather, be thankful.

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