Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Little Facebook Conversation

I was once described as being ruthlessly committed to the doctrine of grace. Rather nice I thought and it was meant positively too. Grace trumps everything. Grace means you can look at another person and bless them even when they tear you apart. Grace means you can see in others the struggle to live in a context of faith even when they appear to be messing stuff up. This is neither being delusional about sin nor unwilling to address it and discipline it when appropriate. Grace is not a way of avoid ing conflict.

Some people lack grace, to state the obvious. some express their faith through generating conflict in the name of truth. Convinced of their absolute rightness in all things, they quickly condemn or call out others. I recently had a very short Facebook conversation with someone that illustrates this. Now normally I follow the advice that goes something like: Remember, it's actually possible to read something on Facebook with which you profoundly disagree, ignore it, and move on with your life. Experience tells us that getting into an online debate is often pointless and people rarely change their minds. But sometimes it's important to engage and express a contrary perspective, even if it's only to keep the conversation honest. Anyway, here's the statement to which I rose the other day:

Standing face to face with these false teachers, Jesus Christ the Son of God, called them "hypocrites", "blind guides, " "blind, " "whited sepulchres, " "serpents, " and "generation of vipers" (Matt. 23:23-34). Yet, we are told today that we are to fellowship with men whose doctrines are just as unscriptural as those of the Pharisees. Some who say they are Bible believing Christians insist on working with Roman Catholics and other assorted heretics. Yet, according to many, we are not supposed to rebuke them for their compromise. We are to MARK them and AVOID them. "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them " (Rom. 16:17). Those whose conduct and teaching contradicts the Word of God are to be marked and to be avoided. This requires discernment and judgment in the light of the Bible. 
Here's my response:

 I'm not sure I really want to get involved in this petty debate, but a friend of mine posted it and I do feel that there are unanswered questions and issues that need to be thought through. I'm concerned that the original author seems to assume that simply quoting Scripture is equivalent to declaring truth. That's a dangerous stand to take. Think about it for a moment and you will realise that a verse quoted out of context can be a dangerous thing. Secondly, who are all the other assorted heretics? Are charismatics heretics because they accept the use of gifts or are those who are cessasionist heretics because they don't? Are the Seventh Day Adventists heretics because they choose to worship on a Saturday rather than a Sunday? Are Methodists heretics because they practice infant baptism rather than believers baptism? What about those who hold a pre, post or a-millenial view of the end times? Who are the heretics and who are orthodox? How about the role of women in leadership or the practice of ordination? How about Calvinist and Armenians? Once you start down the road of being the only one who tells the truth, everyone else becomes a heretic. Do you think that the primary focus of the Kingdom of God is to dot the i's and cross the t's of orthodox doctrine or to populate heaven? I'm not really expecting a response, in fact I'm not sure I even want one! I'm not going to get into a tit-for-tat debate. I just wanted to suggest that some thinking needs to be done. 
I didn't expect the reaction to be "Oh, gosh, you're right. How could I have been so narrow-minded and arrogant. Thank you for pointing that out, I'll rethink my attitudes." This was their response:

We do not use scripture out of context. We can back up with scripture why the cults we call out are indeed cults. If your preferred cult is among them let us show you the truth according to the word of God in His one true book. 
I'm somewhat intrigued by the idea of a "preferred cult". I wonder what the writer would have to say if he actually knew my background and experience, not that that makes me immune to error of course. I might just be an heretical theologian after all! Anyway, I thought a short snappy reply was in order and wondered if the injection of a little humour might help. Okay, so a little sarcasm.

I have a sneaky suspicion that you are going to be terribly disappointed at who God allows into heaven. Perhaps you need to have a quiet word with him just to be sure he's on the right track. I would hate for him to make a mistake! Btw, I've never given the idea of a preferred cult much thought. How does being vegetarian sound?
I got no further response!

Okay, so I probably wasn't as gracious as I could have been. Do you think they spotted the sarcasm in my last response?

I guess the question I struggle with is whether it's actually worth the effort to engage with such theological naivety. Sometimes it is because at least that puts another perspective into the comments and one would hope encourages others to engage their brains. One can but hope.

All the time these simplistic pronouncements are made about who is right and who is wrong; who is going to heaven and who is not; who is a cult and who is not, the mission of God is left unattended as we focus our attention on who we think should be excluded rather than upon God's great desire for who he wants included.

No comments: