Sunday, March 12, 2006

3/12/06, Re: A Pastoral Plea To All

From: Bob S.
To: Pastor Greg Price
Cc: List
Sent: Sunday, March 12, :47 PM
Subject: Re: A Pastoral Plea To All

Sunday, 3/12/06
Dear Pastor Price - and List,
I was on the verge of replying Tuesday, 2/14/06 to your request Saturday, 2/11/06 "to discontinue the public debate that has ensued since the Announcement of the Day of Prayer and Fasting," because I disagreed so strongly with it. With the death in your family of your brother, Phil though, I thought it best to put it on hold. Still, close to four weeks should be long enough to wait before one replies.
Not that I am at all interested in revisiting this issue unneccessarily, but then again, I am also not interested in what might happen if I dont say anything at all and let things pass. In other words, while I would be happy to abide by the request, yet there is also a time when silence is sin (Jm.4:17). In my judgement with this request, that time has come. Consequently and respectfully then, the following:

The request says: I urge us all to discontinue the publc debate that has ensued since the Announcement of the Day of Prayer and Fasting. I see only further wedges and deeper divisions following from further public debate.
Reply: While we all would deplore and repudiate any wedge of division, we should not let the desire for peace - at any cost, without discussion, without conflict - become an accursed thing, an idol, an end in itself. Rather as the early church father, Gregory of Nazianzen put it, as quoted by Shields in the opening pages to A Hind Let Loose, "Discord is better for the advantage of piety, than dissembled concord." If one reads no further, that says it all. The request essentially advocates a dissembled concord. That I cannot agree with or abide and the following only further spells out why.

The request states: However, it should be apparent to us all that our ongoing public debate is tearing us apart even though we profess to adhere to the same Terms of Communion.
Reply: Rather what is obvious at least to me, is that some of us are, at the very least, seriously confused. If not about the the third term of communion and church government, at least about the second; more specifically LC 145 on misconstruction of the words/evil suspicions about fellow brethren. It does not behoove a brother, even one with authoritarian leanings - whether an unofficial assistant to the elders or not - to presume other brethren to be guilty on the basis of the brothers own inarticulate and unwritten surmises and suspicions and subsquently require affidavits from those other brethren. Otherwise I might suppose Calvin's trinitarian orthodoxy must also be suspect because in his day, he refused to sign the Nicean Creed solely at the demand of a contentious critic.
Yet without the certain specious and non sequitur inspired inquiry of the Society of Prince George's inquiry on the public fast, the elders could have answered the question from the SPG - as they did - the SPG would have thanked them -as they did - and we could have all gone back to whatever else we do when off line and all would have been well. But note bene - note well - that did not happen. (As to how or why the brother who is not a member of either the SPG or the "court" is privy to the SPG's private communications to the elders is an interesting, but yet still unanswered question.)

The request states: There will be a time to address all concerns in a way that will promote our reformation.
Reply: Really? I certainly hope so, but I am sorry, I have been here almost eight years and I am respectfully starting to wonder. After all it has been almost three years since the dissolution of presbytery without a word further on where we are at in our church government, but now restructuring our government is on the table. Yet the one burning question would have to be: restructuring from what to what? Would it be too much to ask anybody to attempt to understand why someone might be more than a little skeptical/pessimistic about the whole thing?
As for mentioning any of this regarding our church government in public, the fact of the matter is that quite simply no one should have to ask anybody about these matters, privately or no. As a matter of course the congregation should be informed about the changes in our name and government as part of due process and good order in government, ie. standard operating procedure in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But whether or not I look forward to hearing the proposals on restructuring church government - if not that the whole thing is a done deal by the time the congregation finally hears about it - one thing is certain, I am definitely not interested in continuing to play musical chairs or mum's the word on the questions and issues involved in this discussion. Again, if I say nothing at all about this request, my fear and concern is the status quo will continue to prevail. And that again, without apology I am respectfully, but most definitely not interested in. I hope that is quite clear.

The request states: But for the present, let us each one focus more upon our own sins, weaknesses, and failures realizing the depth of our offence against Christ and His infinite love for such wayward children.
Reply: But again, there is a time when silence is sin, as stated above. Or as Martin Luther was supposed to have put it:
"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle field besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point (Jm. 4:17)."
And the point for us today? I think we know what it is. But we don't want to talk about it. To our shame and confusion. We prefer a dissembled concord, rather than discord and piety.
Granted nobody is interested in a squabble and online dogfight per se, but neither is dead silence a real scriptural alternative. As JC Ryle said, "I have always held that truth is most likely to be reached when men on all sides conceal nothing, but tell out all their minds (LCat. 144)." Which is precisely what has not happened in this discussion, (if not that some refuse to tell us their minds, even as they demanded it of others. But that's what is called a double standard, is it not?) Still, I am more than willing to put up with some comparatively minor turbulence, if that is the only way there is -and so far it seems it is - to find out what I got from this discussion on any number of things including church government and who or what we call ourselves and why. It did not make me very happy, but it still was well worth it.

The request says: Let us likewise spend much time in humble and sincere prayer for one another (especially those with whom we may disagree) calling upon the Lord to reconcile us in love and in the truth.
Reply: While I can go with the first clause, I can't with the second. Rather our self appointed inquisitors and lords over the consciences of the brethren are WRONG. It is NOT a question of disagreeing. It is S-I-N. And if we don't understand that, it is meaningless to talk about unity or terms of communion when we are not willing to acknowledge the obvious, but instead keep putting it off, if not resorting to buzz words and pious pussyfooting around. Healing the hurt of God's people slightly is not a Biblical option. Neither is avoiding, downplaying or suppressing the whole counsel of God on the matter.
Rather the truth of the matter we need to be reconciled to is that "Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, while the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Prov. 27:5,6)." Those Scriptures have yet to be acknowledged in all this, but are rather being openly ignored. Nor as a free man in Christ, does one have to take it kindly when a brother assaults the rights of the members of the congregation to a free public and brotherly inquiry and tries to intimidate and cow them into silence on an open forum, unmoderated or not. That they seemed to be sincerely duped about their compromise of Christian liberty, is but another unfortunate aspect to the whole affair.
For that matter, if Augustine could say 'the ridiculous deserves ridicule (Prov. 26:5), it is NOT sinful or divisive to roundly rebuke and call suspicious and divisive nonsense by its wicked name. Rather it is the biblical, righteous and LOVING thing to do, even if those who are more accustomed to drinking milk than eating meat don't think so, but call it "biting and devouring a brother." They may say what they will, but no one is at liberty to judge according to appearance instead of righteousness; instead of reality (Jn. 7:24). Neither is anyone required to go the private route of Matt. 18. When foolishness is vented repeatedly in a public forum, as it was in this case, unmoderated or no, rebuke, repentance and restitution should take place in the same. (And by the same token, since this request was public, so too this response to it.)

The request says: If our mutual aim is to promote the Cause of Christ by means of a covenanted reformation, let us not forget that we are mutually bound in love and truth by covenant obligation:
"and shall not suffer ourselves, directly or indirectly, by whatsoever combination, persuasion, or terror, to be divided and withdrawn from this blessed union and conjunction" ("Solemn League And Covenant" Article VI)."
Reply: But we may NOT read Art. VI of the Solemn League and Covenant apart from and before the previous articles I, II and & IV on sound doctrine, church government, popery, prelacy, heresy, division, schism and superstition as over and against unity for the sake of unity alone. Unity is only in the truth or it is not true biblical unity.
Unity is only in the truth or we don't have it. Do we? If not, why not? If we do, then why the past discussion? If not, then how do we get it? If we do, then how do we keep it, as well increase it? Rhetorical questions to be sure in light of the request to stop debate - if not that Gregory answers some of them - but to the point nonetheless. And to my mind exactly where we should pick up the discussion, if and when as promised, in the indefinite future, according to the request, there will come "a time to address all concerns in a way that will promote our reformation."
Make no mistake about it, I am definitely looking forward to that time and day.
But in the meantime, without apology, I am doing everything I can to hasten it.
Otherwise I would not have written.
Thank you very much,
cordially in Christ,
Bob S.
Member, Washington Society

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