Though I run the risk of appearing naive I nevertheless have to admit it... when I first stumbled upon the article I was flabbergasted. The title alone was enough to make steam pour out of my ears.:
"Prayers To Allah-Offered At PCUSA’s
General Assembly Plenary Session."
Could this be a mistake.... or a bad joke... or maybe a regrettable misprint, I wondered to myself. But, alas no. It was the shocking truth.
Accompanying the article was a video of the event and with my own eyes (at the 14:04 mark to be precise) I witnessed a Muslim man leading the allegedly Christian assembly in reverential prayers to the Muslim diety, with petitions such as: "Allah bless us and bless our families and bless our lord. Lead us on the straight path - the path of all the prophets... blah, blah, blah."
My response to all of this was an odd collage of conflicting emotions that rose up as if powered by rocket-fuel, until they found their way out of my mouth in the form of a very strange guttural noise. The best way I can describe the sound is by saying that it is similar to the kind of rasping growl one would expect to hear from a bulldog who has just been refused cake.
Pausing, I began to try and evaluate the multifaceted reaction that was boiling and bubbling within me as I read of the PCUSA's interfaith-free-for-all... and as I did a few things became clear.
The first thing I noticed was that I felt sad and sick and ashamed all at the same time. All of this had invoked an internal conversation in which I was arguing to myself that while Christians should certainly love and serve their Muslim neighbors in Christ's name, Christians must never affirm the errant beliefs of Islam - let alone partner with Muslims in the worship of God. To do so would be to throw truth itself out the window. It's only logical isn't it - I asked myself. The claims of Christianity and the claims of Islam are conflicting. They can't both be correct. For example, if the Holy Trinity is the One true God, Allah is not the true God.. Or take another example, if "in these last days God has spoken to us by His Son" then Jesus Christ is God's final word to mankind and the teachings of Mohammad are not.... Now all of this and more went through my mind before finally winding its way to a conclusion... I concluded that the Christian's involvement with his/her Muslim neighbors should always be governed by a loving, evangelistically-minded, Christ-glorifying, zeal for the truth of God's Word. This is precisely what the PCUSA failed to do in its public prayers to Allah. At the expense of truth they embraced the pretended and pretentious "virtue" of religious syncretism. Though profitable for self-aggrandizement and worldly accolades this kind of syncretistic interfaith sideshow is useless for anything of eternal value.
After concluding these things I sought to evaluate my feeling further. I realized I was also feeling indignant. Again the internal conversation began... The whole thing, I heard myself arguing, was not merely a failure to uphold the truth of Christianity but it was also an Insult to the Lord Jesus. To profess to be servants of Christ and to then offer public prayers to a false god - this is nothing short of contempt! And for these prayers to arise from the lips of a man who adheres to a religious system that openly denies the divinity of Christ and rejects His redemptive achievements - this is yet further contempt! One wonders what it was exactly that led the PCUSA to the following conclusion: when dealing with those who reject the person and work of Christ our best means of response is to invite them to lead us in prayer... Seriously! Of all the things you might conclude how on earth could you come up with that?
Seeking to evaluate my mixed emotions further I realized that I was also feeling very curious. What had once been a silent internal conversation suddenly became verbal and surprisingly loud. Sitting in my empty study I asked no one in particular: "If the PCUSA is going to do this kind of stupid stuff why bother with the pretense of Christianity? Wouldn't it be a lot more honest (not to mention a lot more sane) to just freely acknowledge that there is not now nor has there ever been anything distinctly Christian about offering prayers to Allah? And in light of this latest display of non-Christian worship shouldn't the PCUSA finally just admit what everyone already knows - i.e., sometime ago (and against the wishes of many of the Presbyterian faithful) the church hierarchy willfully set sail out of the harbor of Christianity. Having now lost sight of that harbor sometime ago a new generation of theologically-backrupt influence-peddlars, filled with a misplaced joy that only madmen can appreciate, have determined to set their denominational ship totally adrift on a sea of religious pluralism.... With these things in mind and with a burning sense of curiosity I asked myself a question which I could not and cannot provide a rational answer for - "Why doesn't the PCUSA just admit that there is longer anything distinctly Christian about them?"
The final thing I noticed as I evaluated my feelings was a sudden urge to correspond with someone sane. Quickly I fired off an email to a trusted and godly colleague who himself had exited the PCUSA not long ago at least in part because of the kinds of ridiculous garbage outlined above. "What's your take on all of this?" I asked him. His response (which he has been good enough to allow me to reprint below) was wise and Christ-centered. Reading it I saw that it contained not merely the insights of a former PCUSA insider but it also expressed a deep love for the purity of Christ's church and a pastoral concern for it's people.
I hope you'll read his response and benefit from it as I have.
And also.... on a personal note.... Thanks for what you wrote in response to me that night, John... I'm blessed to count you as my brother, as a wise friend, and as my partner in the gospel.
Some additional thoughts about liberal theology...
H. Richard Niebuhr powerfully encapsulated the teachings of Protestant Liberalism in a single sentence. He said liberalism teaches that "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross."
Perhaps J. Gresham Machen summed it up even more powerfully by describing liberalism as a religion different altogether from the Christian faith. According to Machen, "The chief modern rival of Christianity is 'liberalism' ...at every point, the two movements are in direct opposition."
I would suggest that time has proven the accuracy of these men's statements even as it has revealed the devastating impact that liberalism has had upon the church since the modernist controversy.
In light of its disastrous wake let us cling to the truth of God's Word all the more even as we affirm, with sobering conviction, the fact that liberal theology destroys souls and closes churches.
"...liberal theology destroys souls and closes churches..."
In His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus was asked why He ministered to sinners. By way of reply He reminded His questioners it is the sick who need a physician (Matthew 9:11-13).
Something that we need to be very clear about in our day is that homosexuality is a sickness. Whether is is a psychological one (as all medical professionals confidently affirmed until fairly recent decades) I do not know. What I do know is that homosexuality is symptomatic of spiritual sickness. Even the most rudimentary understanding of the Bible's position on human sexuality is enough to make this plain. Homosexuality is abhorrent to God and a clear violation of the boundaries with which He encircled human sexuality. But it is these selfsame difficult realities that brings us back to a very wonderful principle - Jesus, the great physician, is willing and able to cure those who are sick. His cure is the gospel of God's grace.
Though homosexuality is one of many sinful expressions of the God-given gift of human-sexuality it is a much confused and sensationalized issue in our day. Individual Christians, local churches, and entire denominations are under extreme pressure to either remain silent on the biblical view of human sexuality and Christ's power to transform sinners or to openly affirm sexual perversions in the name of tolerance and love. But since matters of Christian doctrine are not determined by special interest groups, supreme court rulings, or media driven cultural crusaders we Christians must go to the fount from which all doctrine springs - we must go to God's authoritative Word, the Bible. In order to minister to people properly we must start with the Bible. Without it we cannot hope to understand the nature of man, the disease of sin, and, the practice of homosexuality - let alone the life-transforming power of God in Christ through the gospel.
In my view the following article by John Freeman accomplishes these things nicely. My prayer is that it will prove beneficial to you as you seek to be salt and light in an increasingly hostile culture.
On this side of the fall, sex and sexuality are distorted to lesser or greater degrees. However, today there is controversy about homosexuality raging in evangelical circles and, increasingly, in Reformed churches as well. Not only is homosexuality often presented as good but it is also presented as something to be pursued with God’s blessing. It is alarming that the acceptance of homosexual behavior among professing evangelicals is increasing. We hear from some people that the kind of homosexual relationships we see today (loving, monogamous ones) aren’t addressed in Scripture. Although this trend seems likely to continue, these revisionist views must be rejected by followers of Jesus Christ.
God’s Word is firm in its negative view of homosexuality and same-sex sexual desire. The Bible is the infallible standard by which we must view homosexuality and understand the gospel remedy for it. Unfortunately, the reliability of the Bible in this area has been questioned by many today who claim the Christian faith. Christians who view Scripture as authoritative and inspired must not accept this watered-down view of God’s Word. The Bible reveals God’s assessment regarding the problems of the human heart, homosexuality being one of many.
How are Christians to think about homosexuality? We need to understand it in three ways. First, homosexuality in Scripture is always spoken of in terms of an action—something done physically with another person, or an internal, active thought pattern of the mind and heart. The Greek word most often used to describe homosexuality in the New Testament is arsenokoitēs, which refers to a male lying with another male. Therefore, whenever it is mentioned, it’s always defined in terms of an activity, a behavior, or a person who engages in that behavior of heart and body.
Second, homosexuality is labeled as sin in every place it is mentioned. It’s prohibited and is expressly seen as contrary to God’s will. Scripture states this clearly in Genesis 19:4–9; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; 1 Timothy 1:9–10; and Jude 7. Romans 1:24–27 also describes the activity of heart-centered passion and lust, as well as the behavior. It references both men and women. The behavior is listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, where we also learn that it was the history of some Christians in the early church. Among those who had experienced salvation were former practitioners of homosexuality.
Therefore, not only is homosexual behavior of body and heart defined as sin, but it is also portrayed as a consequence and effect of the fall. Referring to the reality of sex gone awry, Leviticus 18:6–19 lists more than a dozen forms of sexual sin, including homosexuality and sex with animals. Again, the gravity of sexual sin, particularly homosexuality, is stated strongly in Romans 1:24–26 using vivid and stunning phrases such as “the lust of their hearts to impurity,” “dishonorable passions,” and having a “debased mind.” That is in addition to the verses in Jude that speak of “perversion of the grace of God into sensuality” and of people who “indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire.” This latter designation is specifically tied to what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah.
But did God really have to convey that misusing sex in the aforementioned ways (and, by inference, the desires leading to that misuse) is prohibited and seen as sin? Of course. Our desires, especially our sexual desires, are never neutral. To see same-sex desire as neutral, especially when that desire either objectifies the other person sexually or sees the person merely as an object of sexual passion, is to misunderstand the depth and intricacy of sin. In Scripture, the heart is often seen as the seat of our desires. In Mark 7:21, Jesus describes the heart as the seat of all sexual immorality and sensuality. These propensities are portrayed as evil things that come from within. He is talking about desire, whether the object of that desire is someone of the opposite sex or the same sex. James 1:14–15 tells us we are lured and enticed by our desires and that desire gives birth to sin. Desire is not an impartial part of our being, but rather a very active part of it.
Admittedly, these views of Scripture are widely rejected. There is an overarching factor in the attempt to legitimize homosexuality biblically. Simply put, in today’s culture, our sociology is increasingly interpreting, defining, and determining our theology. What do I mean by that? There was a time when believers routinely looked to the Bible both to know how to think about issues of life and to find solutions to the dilemmas they faced, including issues surrounding sex and sexuality. No more. Today, the impact and influence of one’s social network and experience with friends and family have displaced what the Bible might say on this topic. Another term to understand this transfer of authority and credibility away from God’s Word to personal experience is cultural accommodation. Today, it seems that many people believe that the Scriptures must bow to our experiences or those of others.
We must also note that homosexuality is never described in Scripture as a condition or state of being. Contrary to the modern idea of an innate homosexual “orientation”—a term only frequently used in the last twenty-five years or so—this concept is not found in Scripture. It’s assumed in the Bible that we can become inclined or “oriented” to anything to which we continually give our minds and hearts. Do something in thought or action enough times and over a long enough period, and it will become ingrained in us.
However, we have to be careful of simplistic thinking here, especially when we think of our responsibility—something many don’t believe they have when it comes to their same-sex desires or behavior. We are the product of complex interactions of many factors over many years. Why are some prone to any number of psychosocial persuasions, including anger, depression, or chemical dependency? Here is the answer: we do not always choose our struggles or temptations, although we bear responsibility for what we do with them. They develop in us through a complicated interaction of temperament, internal and external influences, and our own hungry, broken, and sinful selves.
We easily and by nature cooperate with these influences so that habits of heart and behavior become strong and ruling. In one sense, we are the sum of thousands of small decisions we have made. We have cooperated with our cultivated desires. So, despite the external factors that may have been in play in the development of those temptations we find particularly enticing, we are still responsible for leading godly lives, including in the area of sexuality.
Finally, we need to understand that God offers forgiveness, a clean record, and restoration through Jesus Christ for all repentant sinners, including those who have a history of homosexual behavior and other sins. He not only forgives us as we are prone to misuse His gift of sex and sexuality, but His grace actually “trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11–12). This does not necessarily mean that we can pretend as if we hadn’t misused sex as part of our history or that illicit sexual desires will not continue to trouble us or be a source of temptation, but it does mean that the grace of God gives us power for transformed living as followers of Jesus Christ. He enables us to resist temptation and live unto His glory.
Christ mediates this grace and empowers believers, but the church, the body of Christ, also plays a crucial role. I overheard a pastor once say, “Repentance is killing that which is killing me without killing myself. ” I don’t know anyone who can do that all by himself. Learning to walk in obedience and put to death our sin and our sinful nature is never something to be attempted alone or in isolation. Biblical change is a community activity. The call of the church is to offer support and encouragement to those who experience same-sex attractions and other sexual temptations. Walking with those who are tempted in this way means we help bear the burdens of their struggles and temptations, offering friendship and fellowship, and helping them to believe for the first time or to re-believe the gospel every day. That’s what Christ does for us and what we need to do for others in dealing with sexual sin. In so doing, we will also be reminded that we, too, are forgiven for our transgressions.
This article originally appeared in Tabletalk magazine and is also available online at www.ligonier.org/tabletalk
A timely article about truth, tolerance, and Jezebel
by Pastor Kevin DeYoung
Of the seven cities in Revelation, Thyatira is the least well known, the least impressive, and the least important. And yet, the letter is the longest of the seven. There was a lot going on at this church–some bad, some good.
Let’s start with the good. Verse 19, “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance.” Ephesus was praised for its good deeds and strong work ethic. Thyatira is even better. Is has the deeds that Ephesus had and the love that Ephesus lacked. The church at Thyatira was not without genuine virtue. It was a tight-knit bunch who loved, served, believed, and endured.
Maybe Thyatira was the kind of church you walked into and immediately felt like you belonged: “Great to meet you. Come, let me introduce you to my friends. Here, I’ll show you how you can get plugged in, use your gifts, do ministry. We’re so glad you’re here.” It was a caring church, a sacrificial church, a loving church.
That was the good part. And the bad part? Its love could be undiscerning and blindly affirming. The big problem at Thyatira was tolerance. The folks at Thyatira tolerated false teaching and immoral behavior, two things God is fiercely intolerant of. Jesus says, “You’re loving in many ways, but your tolerance is not love. It’s unfaithfulness.”
The specific sin in Thyatira was the tolerance of Jezebel. That wasn’t the woman’s real name. But this false prophetess was acting like a Jezebel-leading people into adultery and idolatry. We don’t know if her influence was formal–she got up in front of people and told them these deceptive things–or if it was informal–taking place in conversations and by word of mouth. However it was happening, this woman in Thyatira was a spiritual danger, like her Old Testament namesake.
Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians. She worshiped Baal and Asherah and led her husband, Ahab, in the same. Jezebel is the one who plotted to kill innocent Naboth for his vineyard. She was called “that cursed woman” (2 Kings 9:34). As a punishment for her wickedness, she was eventually pushed out a window, trampled by horses, and eaten up by dogs. She was a bad lady. And she lead many Israelites down a bad path.
Jesus says to Thyatira, “You are allowing a woman like that to have sway over your people. Why do you tolerate her? Don’t affirm her. Don’t dialogue with her. Don’t wait and see what happens. Get rid of her. . . .or I will.” Apparently, by some means, the Lord had already warned her to repent, but she refused. And so now the Lord Jesus promises to throw her onto the sick bed and make her followers suffer as well, unless they repent. “I will strike your spiritual children dead,” says the Lord. Jesus isn’t messing around here. This isn’t a secondary issue. This is a serious sin worthy of death.
It was also an entrenched sin. There were a number of trade guilds in Thyatira. Suppose you belonged to the local BAT, the Bricklayers Association of Thyatira, and one night the guild got together for a feast. You’d be sitting around the table, ready to partake of this great celebration with your friends and colleagues, and the host would say something like, “We’re glad you could make it. What a happy occasion for the BAT. We have quite a feast prepared for you. But before we partake, we want to recognize the great god Zeus who watches over the bricklayers and has made this dinner possible. Zeus, you see his statue in the corner, we eat to you, in your honor, for your worship. Let’s dig in.”
What would you do in that situation? Stay or go? What would your participation signify before your fellow Christians, before the watching world, before God? Christians in the ancient world didn’t have to go searching for idolatry. It was woven into the fabric of their whole culture. To not participate in these pagan rituals was to stick out like a Yankees fan at Fenway Park. These feasts, with their idolatry and the sexual revelry which would often follow, were a normal part of life in the Greco-Roman world. To remove yourself from them could be socially and economically disastrous.
Which is why false teachers like this Jezebel in Thyatira or the Nicolaitans in Pergamum gained such a hearing. They made being a Christian a lot easier, much less costly, must less counter-cultural. But it was a compromised Christianity, and Jesus could not tolerate it. He was going to make an example of Thyatira to show all the churches that Jesus has eyes like fire, too pure to look on evil, and feet like burnished bronze, too holy to walk among wickedness. He wanted all the churches to know that he was the searcher of hearts and minds and he would repay evil for unrepentant evil.
The error of Jezebel was a serious sin, an entrenched sin, and a subtle sin. The people had probably been told that the “deep secrets” wouldn’t harm them. We don’t know exactly what it meant for the church to learn Satan’s so-called deep secrets. We don’t know if that’s what the false teachers called them or if that’s what Jesus is calling them. But what was going on was probably some kind of false teaching that devalued the material world. This Jezebel may have been saying, “The physical world doesn’t matter. It’s the spiritual realm that counts. So go ahead and participate in idol feasts and do whatever you want sexually. Those are material things. God doesn’t care about that.” Or she may have been saying, “Look, if you are truly spiritual, then your relationship with God will be strong enough to withstand the deep things of Satan. So go ahead. Participate in evil practices. You can handle it and you’ll probably even learn more about the enemy in the process.” Whatever it was that she was saying, it was a lie and it was leading people into sin. The church was more tolerant than Jesus, which is never a good idea.
To read this article as it originally appeared please visit Kevin DeYoung's blog.
"Same-sex marriage is in the news a lot lately. Where do you stand on this issue?"
"I am very much against the issue of same-sex marriage. Here are two basic reasons why I am against it:
1) We didn't create it, we can't redefine it.
2) God created it, God sets the rules for it.
In the meantime, if you are a Christian troubled by todays ruling and concerned about its implications for religious liberty and free-speech, please take comfort in the following facts:
1) Homosexuals are not our enemies - they are people who are lost and need the transformative gospel of Jesus Christ.
2) Regardless of the dictates of the governments of man, Christ is still on the throne and the good news is still true.
3) Agreeing with God's is always the right thing to do - especially when it is difficult to do so.
4) Always remember that Jesus wins (see Psalm 2). At the end of the game all of the pieces will put back in the box and only Christ and His people will stand victorious.
allow me to explain the answers I gave above:
1) We didn't create it, we can't redefine it.
Why is this?
This is because real marriage (unlike same-sex marriage) is most assuredly NOT a manmade institution or a societal construct, it is an institution very obviously imposed upon mankind from an outside source. Proof of this is that marriage is hemmed in with very obvious biological, anatomical, and psychological (not to mention theological) parameters.
A pastor would argue that these marital-parameters were given by God. An evolutionary biologist might argue that these parameters were given by nature. Either way though we are both agreed that the parameters are there. They exist. They are facts. They are beyond our control. They are unaffected by our feelings, preferences, desires, wishes, wants, and yearnings. They are unalterably bound-up in the concept of marriage. Since same-sex marriage has no such parameter and is little more than a societal construct it does not qualify as “marriage” in any way shape or form.
Politicians might pass legislation that will change how our society is permitted to use the word “marriage.” Justices might pronounce judgments changing the legal definition of the word “marriage.” But these are merely linguistic games that cannot change the institution of marriage any more than they can change the biological, anatomical, psychological and theological parameters that surround it.
2) God created it, God sets the rules for it.
Here are some scripture references that might help you understand why I, along with any Christian who takes the Bible seriously, cannot affirm the practice of homosexuality let alone support the concept of same-sex “marriage”
1.) Marriage has been given by God as a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride the church (Ephesians 5:32). This is yet one more proof that God has set the institution up in a very particular way and for a very particular purpose and therefore we have no real authority to redefine or recreate it.
2.) Homosexual behavior is strictly prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments (Lev. 18:22-24, Lev. 20:13, I Cor. 6:9-20, I Tim 1:10) as being contrary to God’s design in creation.
3.) Homosexuality along with all other forms of sexual immorality is always represented as intrinsically sinful behavior that provokes the wrath of God (Rom.1:26-28) and dehumanizes its participants.
4.) Scripture clearly shows that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. (Gen.2:22-24, Matt. 19:5-6).
5.) Homosexuals (like all of the rest of us) though sinners are NOT beyond the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (I Cor 6:9-11 – please note the implications of the phrase “such were some of you” in v.11). Christians who, in the name of love or tolerance, support same-sex marriage are simply affirming homosexuals in their sin. Furthermore, they have embraced a very troubling philosophy – namely, that whoever the gospel is for, it certainly isn’t for the sexually immoral.
An Email Sent to a Ministerial Colleague
a little background:
Two weeks ago while driving through a familiar part of my hometown I sat at an intersection. The evening sky was pink, the traffic light was red, the radio was playing a song by Uncle Tupelo, and I was in very fine spirits. But as they say, even the silverest of clouds have a dark lining (or something like that.)
Glancing to my left my eyes suddenly beheld a sight that made my heart sink. There, mounted high atop the bell tower of a stately old church building was a rainbow flag with the words "God is still speaking," boldly emblazoned upon it (see picture, right). I immediately wondered aloud, 'what kind of pastor would use his/her church building for the promotion of human sexuality?
Am I alone in thinking this a little odd?
What follows is a verbatim copy of the email I sent. Names, specific locations, web-addresses and the like have all been removed. My intention was/is not to insult my activist-minded colleague in ministry, nor to shame the flock that has very tragically placed themselves under her care. My intention is simply to show that using one's church building for the promotion of sociopolitical causes (especially very self-serving and unbiblical ones) is not merely an exploitative breech of ministerial ethics it is also a terribly sad substitute for genuine pastoral ministry.
I have not received a response to my email and I do not expect I will. If I do however I'll post it here on my blog.
a copy of my email:
Dear Pastor _____________,
After driving down ______________ Street just a couple of days ago I noticed your very beautiful church building and thought I would look you up online and drop you a quick note as a fellow Christian and colleague.
To my delight I found ___________ Church quite easily online and was delighted to read your "Faith Page" which assured me that you are open to “diverse" viewpoints and are committed to “different ways of thinking.” Moreover, I discovered that your Faith Page actually encourages readers to send their quotes for inclusion on your website. (i.e., “Email us and have (your quote) included!” see reference, www.________________.org)
May I say, that this is a wonderful way to highlight the fact that God is still speaking (as you claim)! In addition to this, it is a very bold yet practical way for you as a pastor to demonstrate publicly that you do, in fact, celebrate the kind of openness and diversity that your website makes so much of. I sincerely wish that more ministers of your kind would be as daring as you are in this regard.
Having said all of that, here is the quote I would like to submit. I trust that it will be thought provoking and helpful:
“I am a Pastor who feels that using one’s church building as a billboard for the promotion of human sexuality is a pathetic substitute for genuine gospel ministry.”
Please let me know when my quote appears on your site! I’d like to put a link to it on my blog.
-Rev. R Crabtree
All Souls Church
Green Camp, Ohio
The first church I served as Pastor was the famed, Harper Memorial Church in Glasgow, Scotland. It was and remains a fine church with many godly congregants. Though my time there was relatively brief, and marked by the 'rookie' mistakes of a first time pastor, I increasingly look back upon those years at Harper Memorial with found memories, laughter (mostly at my own expense), and a genuine sense of thanksgiving to the Lord.
I also remain thankful for the wonderful historical legacy that the Lord has given to Harper Memorial!
Harper Memorial was named in honor of its first pastor – John Harper – just a few years after his untimely death on the ill-fated RMS Titanic. Survivors, including Harper’s 6-year-old daughter, Nan, recalled that Harper lived as he died... He was an evangelist until the end.
While the majority of those rescued were women and children there were a handful of men plucked up from the frigid waters of the North Atlantic and into lifeboats. Among those rescued was a young Scotsman who had lived to tell an amazing story… The details of which are preserved below:
“Suddenly,” he said, “a wave brought a man near – John Harper. He, too, was holding a piece of wreckage.
“He called out, ‘Man, are you saved?’
“‘No, I am not,’ I replied.
“He shouted back, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’
“The waves bore (Harper) away, but a little later, he was washed back beside me again.
“‘Are you saved now?’ he called out.
“‘No,’ I answered.
“‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,’ Harper said.
“Then losing his hold on the wood, Pastor John Harper sank. And there, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I trusted Christ as my savior. I am John Harper’s last convert.”
Lord of life and Lord of death,
Enable me with every breath,
That I, if strong or I, if weak
The Gospel of Thy Son will speak.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Today in many parts of the church world the expectations we have of children are abysmally low. Is this because American Christianity’s view of children has been shaped more by American culture than by the Bible? I’m not sure. Whatever the reason, the result is that we no longer dress children like adults, we don’t ask them to sit alongside of the adults, and we certainly don’t think they are capable of singing the same hymns as adults…. And so we simply whisk our little prepubescent blobs of sunshine away to something called Children’s Church.
Is this wise?
Is this helpful?
More importantly, is this practice Biblically defensible?
Yes, I know that children are children and they can be restless and even disruptive during church services but is this sufficient reason to amputate children from Christ’s Body?
At All Souls Church we believe it is NOT. We believe children are to be welcomed into the Body of Christ just like adults. Yes, children do need to be instructed at their level, and we have special times set aside for this, but these times do not interfere with the corporate worship of Christ’s Body.
Here are a few reasons for our rationale:
Children are not merely the church of the future… they are the church of the present.
Someone from the peanut gallery objects, “But kids don’t have the understanding to get Big People Church.” This may be so, but since when have intelligence tests ever determined who we let into our services? Should the fact that children have the understanding of children be held against them? By this reasoning we could argue that the senile, the mentally retarded, or even the person who lacks a high school diploma should be excluded… but this would obviously be wrong. If there is any place on earth where the “weak and foolish” should be accepted with open arms, it is the church.
I contend that the church of the future depends upon children being ministered to in the church of the present.
Church must be “normalized” for children.
Unless children grow up in an environment where it is normal to see a man read the bible and where it is normal to listen to a sermon, they are very unlikely to see these things as normal when they become young adults. We’ve all heard teenagers dismiss church services as “weird” and perhaps we’ve wondered why. But wouldn’t you think church was weird too if you had spent the totality of your formative years being whisked away from normal Church to a world of flannel graphs, vacuous songs, and moralistic stories? I would… and for a long while I did, thanks to Children’s Church.
I contend that church must be normalized in the minds of children through their regular attendance of and participation in Lord’s Day Worship Services.
The regular means of grace are not just for big people.
“The reading of the Scriptures... sound preaching… singing of psalms… receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God.”
Elsewhere we read that these things are done “to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world.” As far as I can tell this must include both the old and young of a given congregation. The Lord has placed no age limits on the means of grace.
I contend that the regular means of grace are for both big people and little people and are to be received together as one body.
We have no biblical warrant to segregate the Body of Christ.
America has a dark history of racial segregation and thankfully great strides have been made to right the wrongs associated with it. Sadly there were even many churches in the past who were segregated along the “color-line.” But as anyone with a modicum of Biblical knowledge knows, the Bible lends no support to the idea of racially segregated congregations. It’s bitterly ironic therefore, that we Christians are not quite as quick to recognize other forms of segregation. Surely age segregation within the Church has no more biblical warrant than racial segregation and I would contend that it is equally as destructive to the Church because it fragments the body of Christ. Surely, the old and the young are members of one body – Christ’s body.
I contend that God has designed it this way and that we need each other.
Rev. R Crabtree
"...a son, a husband, a father of 6, a friend, a Presbyterian
(not the liberal kind), an eccentric, and a minister of the gospel... I am also the Pastor of All Souls Church and a Professor of Religious Studies at OCBC."
All Souls Church
Attributes Of God
Irenaeus Of Lyons
Journey Of Faith
Means Of Grace
Order Of Salvation
Westminster Confession Of Faith