An Evangelical Declaration


The institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in its present state has forfeited any rightful claim to belong to the true Church of Jesus Christ.  In spite of its de jure claims to
orthodoxy and orthopraxy as seen primarily in our Book of Confessions, its de facto reality as an institution promotes increasingly unbiblical beliefs and practices as normative for Christian life. When councils pretend to forge new articles of faith contrary to the
plain Word of God, “…we must utterly deny them as the doctrine of devils…” (Scots 3.20).  Those who approve such untruths may simulate allegiance to Christ, but though they are in the church for a time, they are not of the church (as tares among wheat, traitors among citizens, cancers among healthy tissues (Second Helvetic 5.139).

While we recognize that no church or covenant community of churches is entirely pure (tares will always remain among the wheat until Judgment day), and that at times churches can reflect more worldliness than holiness and still remain part of the true
Church, yet we believe that when churches publicly endorse or willfully turn a blind eye toward evil and refuse to repent of such travesties, but instead cite them as examples of reformation, conversion and advancement, they cease to be part of the body of Christ (Westminster 6:144 [1647 ed.] reads: “some [churches] have so degenerated as to become no Churches of Christ but Synagogues of Satan” ).

Reformed theology has long taught that the distinctive marks of the true church are: faithful proclamation of the Word of God; proper administration of the sacraments; and upright execution of ecclesial discipline to repress vice and nourish virtue (see Scots 3.18).  Second Helvetic 5.140 speaks a stark warning: “…we must be vigilant lest while the pious snore the wicked gain ground and do harm to the Church.”  We confess our complicity in culpable negligence of ecclesial discipline at all levels in our denomination, which has in turn led to the proliferation of false gospels being proclaimed from our pulpits and the confusion of vice and virtue among our congregations.  False teachers are never at all to be tolerated among God’s people, but rather driven away (5.167).  Yet we have welcomed them warmly in the name of diversity. The PC(USA) has forsaken the marks of a true church of Jesus Christ.

The true church is rightly described as one, holy, catholic and apostolic.  These terms no longer apply well to the institutional PC(USA).  By its scandalous and draconian application of the “property trust clause” against congregations wishing to align with
other Reformed bodies, and the entertainment of scurrilous charges against other Reformed denominations, the PC(USA) has shown complete disregard for the truth that we and the properties of which we are stewards exist not for ourselves but for Jesus Christ and his Kingdom. We have publicly maligned the oneness of the church.

By its recent decision to provide a way for unrepentant, practicing GLBT persons to serve as ordained leadership in our midst, the PC(USA) has declared holy what the Scriptures
unequivocally call sin, denying divine revelation in favor of cultural captivity. In the face of nearly universal disapprobation from the church catholic (and particularly our sister
Reformed bodies around the world), the PC(USA) has chosen to follow this unholy course, disdaining not only Scripture and reason but also the collective voice of the church from all times and places. With breathtaking hubris we have celebrated our false wisdom and in the process undermined centuries of work in ecumenism .

The apostolic church is branded by the commission to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world.  This gospel, as passed on by Jesus’ first apostles, is good news to a human race whose fallen nature deserves God’s eternal judgment.  Salvation is proclaimed for all who will recognize their sinfulness and embrace the cross of Jesus, where alone atonement for sin and reconciliation can be found.  The PC(USA), in allowing for a false anthropology which declares that in spite of the Fall we are created good (and thus homosexual inclinations are blessed by God as are heterosexual ones), thereby eradicates the reality of sin and undermines the apostolic message.

If the church may rightly be defined as “an assembly of the faithful, called and gathered…by the Word and the Spirit” (see Second Helvetic 5.125), which as one people bound throughout time  recognizes only one way of salvation, one God and Father, one Lord, one Spirit, one faith, one baptism, one Head over all whose truth and authority is to be our way, then the church is called to a spiritual unity characterized by shared submission to and engrafting into Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Such unity is reflected by “being of the same mind” (Phil 3:15f.), the mind of Christ, as seen in the truth and unity of the catholic faith (5.141).  Christian unity “…comes only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit” (Barmen 8.01).  The PC(USA) today, chanting the mantra of theological diversity, has cast off any hope of such unity, and thus of renewal as well.  The manifold errors of heterodox Presbyterianism are devastating the church and fracturing our communion.

Therefore, as evangelical, orthodox believers, we must speak with one voice today.  Our biblical and confessional vows forbid our remaining silent any longer.  Standing firmly in the center of our Reformed confessions, we emphatically reject the defamatory claim that by opposing the errant direction of the institutional PC(USA) we are somehow being schismatic, or motivated by fear or hatred of others.  Indeed, we stand firmly on the historical, theological and spiritual foundation of our original forebears, and warmly
invite all others so inclined to join us. We have not broken away from the true church.  The denominational apparatus has separated itself from its Reformation roots.  We are not betraying the denomination; it has betrayed us by mutating into a post-Christian, political activism party.  Our faithfulness to Jesus Christ leads us to these positions:

We reject the claim of the Presbyterian left that Truth is progressive, subjective and abrogative in such a way that central theological and moral truths revealed in the Scriptures can now be trumped by cultural imperatives, appeals to “social science”, new
so-called revelations of the Spirit, or the recasting of biblical words with alien meanings.  The diversity to which the church is called should be seen sociologically and culturally, since God has created us with many ethnicities, stations and conditions of life.  But the mind of Christ is one, and we are called to discover together the unchanging truth found in him, and so discover a like-mindedness grounded in the Word and Spirit.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:33)

“I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

We reject the heretical and unfounded claim that the Holy Spirit is speaking new truth that is no longer tethered to the Scripture, or that abrogates or redefines what is clear in Scripture, as if the Spirit had not fully inspired the teachings of Old and New Testaments in a coherent way, pointing clearly to Jesus Christ as the consummation of God’s revelation to the world.

Spiritual truth claims are not to be accepted on the basis of individual human will or desire, nor through the majority vote of interested parties, but must be tested as to their alignment with the Word of God which is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).

“If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be
eternally condemned!” (Gal 1:9)

“All Scripture is inspired and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness….” (2 Tim 3:16)

Jesus said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you
have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)

Again he said, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you in all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” (John 16:13-14)

We reject the deceptive claim that “God is beyond names or definition,” which is intended to undo the particularity of biblical revelation and to allow liberal adherents to recast God in whatever image suits their cause.  As a result of this falsehood, God’s self-descriptions in the Bible are ignored, and the declaration that “God is love” is perniciously distorted into “Love is God,” with “love” defined by whatever cause is in socio-political
ascendancy.  Likewise, as understanding of the true God is severed from Scripture, this deception results in a universalistic soteriology where all religious paths are equally acceptable ways to relationship with God.

We affirm instead that God has made himself known fully in and through Jesus Christ, and that what we know of God depends on his revelatory initiative. So Paul could say to the Athenians, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” We abhor the idolatry that stems from ignorance or abandonment of God’s Word.

“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in
closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18)

“This is my Son, whom I love; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form….” (Col 2:9)

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Heb 1:3)

We reject the absurd claim that human beings are born with good natures, uncorrupted by the Fall, such that all innate human desires or dispositions are deemed “good” because they were “willed by God.”  The Reformed doctrine of total depravity reflects the deep truth of Scripture that from the start all human life is corrupted by sin, that as Augustine understood we are awash with “inordinate desires.”  Our innate rebellion against God’s Law at all points demonstrates this depravity.  The present attempt to normalize aberrant sexual proclivities by appeal to God as their Creator either eradicates any objective standards for sin, or makes God the author of the evil he condemns in his Word.

We reject further the logical corollary that if human beings are born good there is no ontological reality to sin but only a functional one.  There is no need for rebirth to a new quality of life but only rehabilitation so as to keep the right rules.  As such, there is no need for a Savior for humanity, only messengers and teachers.  But we acknowledge:

“Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:3)

“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

“Our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

“We have seen and testify that that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.” (1John 4:14)

“He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son has not life.” (1 John 5:12)

Finally, we reject the lie that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for those who will not repent of sin.  God through the sacrifice of his Son will forgive every sin but those which we refuse to acknowledge and surrender.  The radical inclusiveness of the gospel welcomes all sinners to the foot of the cross, but it does not permit us to overrule God’s judgment by arrogating to ourselves the definition of what is or is not sin.  We are welcomed by God on his terms, not our own.  As Heidelberg 4:098 reminds us, “…we must not try to be wiser than God….”

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings….” (2Tim 4:3)

“If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14)

“If we say we have fellowship with God while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth….If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and
cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:6-9)

“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord….” (Acts 3:19)

In light of these and similar false teachings which have been tolerated and even given safe harbor within the PC(USA), we hereby declare that we can no longer remain idle, but must decide together in one of two directions: either we move forward peacefully to reclaim this denomination and rebuild it on the Reformed foundations upon which it was originally established, cleansing it of the heresies and evils that have led to its downfall; or we withdraw peacefully, shaking the dust from our feet even as we grieve the decay and coming judgment of a once noble and faithful denomination.  But one thing is sure: there is no longer any option of remaining under the authority of a structure that has cast revelation and obedience to the wind.

“For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity?  Or what fellowship has light with
darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial?…Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.”  (2 Cor 6:14-7:1)

Soli Deo Gloria.

August 1, 2011

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85 Responses to An Evangelical Declaration

  1. Mateen, you have exquisitely expressed the heart-cry of many orthodox evangelicals worshipping within the PC (USA). We long for a sweeping movement of the Holy Spirit to breathe the cleansing and renewing winds of revival into the churches of our denomination.

    Failing that, we long for strong, faithful leaders to forge a loving, kind, and respectful pathway out of a morass of sin and unfaithfulness and into a new, vibrant, exciting, and effective gathering of committed believers.

    Your thoughtful and articulate stand for righteousness will not go unheeded. You have called God’s people to remember our roots of righteousness. You have challenged us to remember Kingdom values and Kingdom calling. Thank you!

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Dean, thank you for your quick and encouraging response. I am hoping this attempt may serve as one catalyst that moves us to unified action. I am very heartened by your words!

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  2. Mateen, I’m grateful to God for your clear, intelligent and biblically sound defense of the Gospel! Now we evangelicals await the outcome of the Fellowship’s meeting later this month. Grieving as we are now, we wait to see what the Spirit will work in the hearts of those leading and those attending the Fellowship gathering. Will they do more than muddle the water further? Will they propose a bold stand for our denominational future or call us to ‘be nice’ to each other in the PCUSA present wilderness ? Will they propose clearly defined choices? Will PCUSA heiarchy heed your call? I doubt it, but one can hope … in Christ.

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    • mateenelass says:

      Larry, thank you. This was written precisely for those going to the Fellowship gathering in 3 weeks, as well as those who wish they could go. I’m concerned as you are that with so many attending with so many questions and agendas there will be no galvanizing point to lead us to unified vision and action. My hope is that this declaration could be a starting point that gets us all on the same page (or the large majority anyway) and that from there we could reach consensus on the goal and strategy we need to pursue. May God lead us clearly, whatever means He uses!

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  3. Randy Schreurs says:

    Thanks Mateen. When I read this, goose bumps formed on my arms, as I was reminded of Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 thesis on the church door. May God’s renewing Spirit continue to lead u & bless u.

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    • mateenelass says:

      Randy, I’m honored by the linkage to Luther, but the real test will be in the response of the church. If we see a new Reformation developing by the Spirit’s movement, then we can all rejoice! Thank you for your prayers and encouragement to this end!

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  4. gsipprell says:

    Great Job Mateen. Rooted in Scripture and the confessions of our professed tradition. This declaration complements the Greenville Presbyterain Church’s call for joining them on August 21st for a day set aside for a Solemn Assembly. Perhaps at August Gathering we might sign up for supporting the ongoing call for solemn Assemblies, the embarcement of this evnagelcial decalaration and I would submit joining the World Reformed Fellowship as three concrete steps towards the walk in the Way of Christ that the PCUSA has departed. Will there be a Twitter site or web site for those connecting at the conference to stay abreast of one another in these concerns? The formation of a distinct evangelical, orthodox Fellowship might be an outcome from the August gathering. Are one of the renewal groups addressing this kind of outcome?

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    • mateenelass says:

      Gene, I love the idea of combining this stand together with the Solemn Assembly as a model for a movement. The questions you ask are insightful and practical, and typically above my pay grade. We need to get your questions before the right people!

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  5. Jim Howe says:

    Mateene you have taken the crust off of the gospel and returned it to it vibrant form so that we can awaken from our slumber. Thank you for your Christ-centered and biblical response. You have put in words what many of us having been trying to articulate. Now is the time to confess this and I can affirm this with my whole heart.
    But is also time for action. I think that it is ludicrous to think that we can take back the denomination through negotiation and process. I would be like negotiating with that which is not to be recognized to any longer to be the church and with those who now stand in power though only Jesus Christ is Lord. Peaceful departure is what I ask liberals to do but they did not leave. What would happen if a thousand evangelical pastors walked out of their Presbytery meetings at the first of the year and simply said we no longer recognize the authority of the PCUSA as it is in error. What if we just began to continue to be the church setting up our own presbyteries and general assembly? What if we clung to Jesus Christ and his mission?
    I confess that the shift has drawn me into its wake. I must have an action that calls us out in order to rebuild. Humility is essential but so is decisive action that obeys the Lord that calls us to act.
    Humbly, Jim Howe

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    • mateenelass says:

      Jim, I’m delighted you agree with this declaration and call to action. There are many steps that we can take, but they will only have effective impact if we do them together as a group of sufficient size. If our eyes are on the glory of Christ, and not our own ends, then I think we will have proper humility and courage.

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  6. Dave Moody says:

    Amen! Hier stehe ich…

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  7. Bill Teague, Langhorne, PA says:

    Mateen,

    Your writing is often so helpful and this is no exception. Bear with me on a long reply and respond if you have a chance to do so.

    With three weeks to go until the Fellowship Gathering in Minneapolis, your clarion call that we speak clearly and unequivocally with one voice is a call we need to hear. Minneapolis will not be helpful should we not speak clearly, should we not speak unequivocally, should we not speak with one voice.

    In ways I have come to appreciate, your writing cuts the chase and clearly identifies issues before us. Thank you so much.

    I have re-read the manifesto and summarize it this way, with the request that you clarify anything I may have gotten wrong:

    The piece begins with an appropriate disclaimer, our recognition that absolute purity in the church is reserved for the church triumphant.

    Then a series of charges are leveled against the PCUSA in its institutional form:

    1. By failing to discipline false teachers we fail at least one of the marks for the true church.
    2. By maligning other Reformed bodies (in conjunction with dismissal and property issues) we have denied catholicity of the church.
    3. By changing our ordination standards we have denied the call to holiness in the church and hence the holiness of the church.
    4. By denying the reality of sin and the need for redemption we denied the need for the gospel and hence the apostolic nature of the church.
    5. By upholding radical diversity at the expense of being of one mind in Christ, we have denied the unity of the church.
    6. By holding to a progressive nature of Truth, we have denied the unique authority of Scripture.
    7. By holding that the Holy Spirit may speak a truth contrary to the truth of Scripture, we have denied the unity of Spirit and Truth.
    8. By claiming that God is unknowable, we have denied the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
    9. By asserting the innate goodness of humankind we have denied the reality of sin and hence the need for a redeemer.
    10. By holding to a doctrine of God’s universal love that is fully accessible apart from repentance and conversion, we not only deny the gospel, but give approval to all others who deny the gospel.

    You conclude with what may be the key challenge before those of us gathered in Minneapolis: do we choose to peacefully reclaim the denomination or peacefully withdraw from it. You deny the possibility of the “live with it” third way.

    Again, thank you for the clarity and the challenge.

    If I have the ten charges in the indictment correct, I don’t disagree with them. If I’ve gotten the only-two-option conclusion correctly, I think you’re right.

    And by the early comments, I’d say your words are much-appreciated fightin’ words, especially for those in the “madder than heck and not going to take it anymore” wing of the evangelical caucus.

    If I struggle with your piece, my struggle is in the adjectives – scandalous, draconian, breathtaking, unholy, scurrilous, complete, universal, defamatory, to name a few. The choir loves the preaching, but does the tone allow us to speak clearly, unequivocally and with one voice to the whole church? I don’t want to see us dismissed on the basis of inflammatory rhetoric alone.

    My concerns are probably more strategy and content directed. What do you think and how might you answer my concern?

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    • mateenelass says:

      Bill, I think you see my thoughts more clearly than I do! Thank you for the thumbnail summary. I agree with how you’ve analyzed my statements. With regard to your struggle over my adjectives, let me point out that you use the adjective “few”, but list 8. I’ll have to go back to my work and see — if 8 qualifies as a few troubling adjectives, there must be an overwhelming number overall!!! But let me address with seriousness your weighty concern with three responses: 1) my primary purpose in writing this was to reach the diffident evangelical going to MN (or passively wondering what the future will hold) with the hope of catalyzing us to unified action; I am not overly concerned with those who might see this as inflammatory rhetoric. I modelled this declaration on Barmen in structure, but the more “colorful” language can be found paralleled (and even more, surpassed) in many of our other Confessional documents. If the charges I’ve levelled are true, then I don’t believe we can rightly be dismissed on the basis of “inflammorty rhetoric” alone. Sometimes the unvarnished truth must be spoken clearly so that we can see through the attractive allure of the lies. I hope that is what I have done here. 2) I heartily believe that the adjectives I’ve used are fully defensible. Some of them are indeed harsh, but the errors and heresies we face are hurtful and destructive to the cause of Christ, and must be unequivocally challenged. These are high stakes. And 3) Nowhere in this document do I wish for the emasculation of these opponents, as Paul does in Gal 5:12….Perhaps I’ve been too gentle…?

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      • Bill Teague, Langhorne, PA says:

        Well, I didn’t say “trifling few” adjectives and politely said nothing about the adverbs.

        I’m thinking that Minneapolis will be 25% “stay, pray, serve,” 25% your second option about withdrawing peaceably (but who said anything about peaceably?), and 50% your diffident middle. It will be a difficult gaggle of cats to herd. I pray that your voice will be among those heard and that 70-80% of us might coalesce in like mind around a workable strategy. And if that were to happen, I think we might come up with all sorts of adjectives to describe it.

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      • mateenelass says:

        Touche! I like your sense of humor; even more your sense of hopefulness regarding MSP!

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  8. Viola Larson says:

    Mateen, do not be bothered by John Shuck. (I read your response.) Not only does he not believe in Jesus Christ, he also does not believe in God. And he makes fun of the saints including you. So nothing he says counts for antthing.
    Thank you for this Declaration I believe it should be a great guide for MN. It does have the spirit and faithfulness of Barmen.

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    • mateenelass says:

      Bless you, Viola, for your encouragement and sensitivity. I’m disappointed in Shuck and those who read his blogs — most often they engage in ad hominen attacks or snide innuendoes rather than debate the merits of any argument with which they disagree. Thank you for your words regarding the Declaration. I hope it proves helpful in MN.

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  9. Ed Boyce says:

    Interesting article. Probably will upset my progressive friends.

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  10. Glenn says:

    Reverand Elass, thanks for your stirring words. Truly a great call to return to the great doctrines of the reformation! There is but one sentence I wonder about: “God through the sacrifice of his Son will forgive every sin but those which we refuse to acknowledge and surrender.” I think I understand what you are trying to accomplish with this sentence, but I fear you are overreaching here. If this sentence is really true, can there be any assurance for any of us? After all, if even for Bible-believing Christians, God will only forgive those sins we acknowledge and surrender, what hope is there for any of us?

    Outside of that quibble, thanks for putting this together.

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    • mateenelass says:

      Glenn, you have pointed out a sentence that lacks good, theological clarity, and I thank you for bringing that to my intention. I take your point completely. Our salvation rests not on the fullness of our confession and surrender, but on the fullness and completeness of God’s electing and saving grace. My intended emphasis in that sentence was not on the notion that God will forgive only those sins we acknowledge and surrender, but on the fact that He will not forgive those sins which we refuse to acknowledge and surrender. By “refuse” I meant to connote willful recalcitrance. But I agree with you that I could have conveyed that much more clearly.

      Thank you for your kind words about the declaration over all.

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  11. Ed Pettus says:

    Thanks, Mateen, well done and well reflective of evangelicals who are struggling with the PCUSA and our options. I will be attending the MN fellowship meeting and look forward to what comes out of this meeting (if anything). As a pastor, I am seeking to help our congregation work through all the issues and all the options before we make any decisions. The MN meeting may be our last piece of the puzzle. Thanks for putting this together as it will help us through! Peace.

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    • mateenelass says:

      Ed, thanks for commenting. That’s my hope as well — that this piece will be of help in getting us to actually commit together to a strong course of action. I hope we cross paths in MN among the herd of 2000 or so!

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  12. V Boesch says:

    This was forwarded to me by a friend, and it says so many things that the people of the church need to know. Our church is now struggling with what the PC(USA) is saying, and unfortunately, many are oblivious to what is going on. They are only looking for unity with no conflict no matter how much the Word of God is being misused. Our apathy in not caring what the higher bodies of the church are voting in to law is going to detroy our church and the many good people who are there. I plan to refer to your words often whenever the opportunity arises to try to get us back on track.

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  13. Dr. James Hedstrom says:

    You have a sharp, definitive, almost historic statement. Randy Schreuis’ “goose bumps” may well be what the Holy Spirit’s witness does when we are in the presence of the Word of a comtemporary God. Just don’t push the middle out of the Evangelical body by restricting our Evangelical identity to only the Biblical inerrancy fundamentalists among us, when some of our strongest Evangelicals are Evangelical progressive and Neo-orthodox churchman whose commitment to Trinitarian and Christological orthodoxy is rock solid, whose dismay at what our denomination has become is almost wholly reflected in your fine manefesto, and whose continuing presence on Evangelical terms would be required to maintain our tradition as a truly ecumenical one. Don’t make the seperatist and Biblicist OPC, PCA, or EPA our model or goal–we’re too good on our best terms for that as comprehensive mainline Reformed churchmen who have lived some of our best days under Neo-orthodox and progressive Evangelical leadership.

    Dr. James Hedstrom

    Liked by 1 person

    • mateenelass says:

      Dr. Hedstrom, I need to learn more of this middle of the evangelical body in the PCUSA about which you speak. I wish to exclude no one whose Christian orthodoxy is rock solid, nor to see us become separatist and biblicist (as an ugly caricature of truly biblical theology and practice). I never pitched my words to biblical inerrantists and fundamentalists (in the popular sense of that word), at least not consciously. Do you see my declaration wrongly excluding anyone? I am open for correction and deeper understanding. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dr. James Hedstrom says:

        Your manefesto is fine, its where people take it that concerns me. A continuing Church on Reformed terms can be broader or narrower, and still be orthodox and Evangelical, as can any lobby group within the PCUSA. Moderate PCUSA people are really not welcome in the separatist OPC, PCA, or EPC.. We have been broader than this and maintain our models in ecumenical figures like Philip Schaff, Robert Speer, and generally in the New School side of the American Presbyterian churches which when merged also included those drawn to a stricter confessionalism embodied in things like the old Princeton theology based on the Westminster standards alone. Our tradition is ecumenical, and any continuing Church or lobby has first to demonstrate that within its own ranks, it is ecumenical by inclusivism on fundamental Trinitarian, Christological, and Biblical confession.

        Although a mainline Baptist, not Presbyterian, theologian Bernard Ramm discussed some of the biblicist issues quite well in “After Fundamentalism” (1983) as the youngest of the Neo-Evangelical “founding fathers” generation. He shows Barth, for example, is with us, not against us, and that nobody quoted more Scripture than Barth, and a lot of people judged him without reading him closely. Ramm is at the same time critical of Barth at points, as we might be with any human theology. [Sociologist Christian Smith of Notre Dame is just publishing “The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture” (Brazos Press, 2011)] Donald Bloesch of Dubuque, one of our ten affiliated seminaries, is another “catholic” Evangelical theologian, supportive of “moderate” Evangelical churchmanship, which does not mean compromise, but better and irenic theological exposition. There is a whole generation of people who gave us leadership during the days of Neo-orthodox dominance in American religion, and they gave us profound Biblical, theological, and historical exposition, which vanished as the Neo-orthodox generation died off and whatever is out there now arose.

        Saying you’re “Evangelical” doesn’t mean anything unless you define what kind of “Evangelical” and broader and narrower versions of the thing abound. As a Reformed tradition of some sophistication and genuine catholicity, we ought to be able to keep all of Christ’s true people together, under a continuing church order, or vision for one, that majors on major Christian identifiers, and is charitable about secondary things, exactly because we are not an Old School Church, nor a New School one, not a Neo-Evangelical Church, or a Neo-orthodox one, but a catholic Church in the Reformed tradition, that is constantly reforming. There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea of a Book of Confessions; there is something profounding wrong with a religious body that can no longer define centrist Christian faith and practice even with such an aid. The problem is with the people in charge who can no longer make Christian decisions, because their own personal commitments have ceased to be centrally Christian, and the culture is driving them, not Bible, not confessions, and not Christ. This has become so clear that a Karl Barth today would have to stand against a vapid liberalism which has placed our Church in cultural captivity, and say “No!” And your declaration does just that.

        Dr. Jim Hedstrom

        Liked by 1 person

      • mateenelass says:

        Thank you, Dr. Hedstrom, for these very helpful and salutary remarks. Should I have any significant role in reshaping a reclaimed PCUSA, I will make sure to remember your guidance about charitable and irenic centrist evangelicalism.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Joe says:

    As a evangelical United Methodist, I am profoundly grateful for your post. My prayers are with and for you.

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Thanks, Joe, for your prayers. We wish the PCUSA was linked with faithful Presbyterian fellowships around the world that would have kept us from falling on our faces, much as the UMC has been spared by faithful Methodist brothers and sisters around the world who will not bow the knee to the Western Baal. We are so grateful for your encouragement.

      Like

  15. Anon says:

    A comment that someone doesn’t believe in Jesus as the Christ or in God only makes one appear judgmental. God is love. We are to love God and love our neighbors. Jesus said so. Anything else — such as passing judgment — is up to God. Period.

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Dear Anon,
      Since Jesus commanded his followers not to cast pearls before swine or give to dogs what is holy (which he did, by the way, immediately after the command, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” he must require of us some capacity to judge who are pigs and dogs over against the rest of humanity. How do you propose to do that without engaging in judgment? Clearly to pass judgment in terms of eternal condemnation belongs to God alone, but to discern between those who truly follow Christ and those who don’t is part of our responsibility as the body of Christ. Would you have told Jesus he was wrong to say of the the Jews who disputed with him, “You are of your father the devil…” (John 8:44), or of the scribes and Pharisees, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” Perhaps you’d give Jesus a pass by according him divine status, saying that he alone has this right. What then would you say to John the Baptist, who met Sadducees and Pharisees with the charge, “You brood of vipers — who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Or to Peter who said to Simon the Magician, “…your heart is not right before God” (Acts 8:21); or to Paul, who filled with the Holy Spirit (according to Luke), excoriated Elymas with these words, “You son of the devil, you enemy of alll righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10), or again to Paul who judged Hymenaeus and Alexander, handing them over to Satan that they might learn not to blaspheme (1 Tim 1:20)? Or to Jude, who condemns those opposing the church? Or to John who does the same thing to the proto-Gnostics prone to deny Jesus was truly human? To judge with no evidence is certainly wrong. But to fail to discern evil or call it what it truly is is also wrong…………Period.

      Like

  16. Ken Thomas says:

    Mateen,
    Thank you for your words of clarity and truth. In my personal evaluation of the PCUSA heresies, I separate the problems into FOUR BROAD MOVEMENTS AWAY FROM THE LORD, and FIVE PRIMARY CRISIS AREAS OF TRUTH.
    The FOUR MOVEMENTS AWAY FROM THE LORD:
    1) SYNCRETISM – The attempts to fuse “Christianity and…” “Jesus and…” “Scripture and….” with other religions. This includes the recent General Assembly pagan-flavored worship practices, as well as the Revisionists’ hijacked term “Progressive Revelation”, which as they employ it is a form of Montanism – which they sadly believe entitles them to ignore Scripture, claiming some “new revelation from God.”

    2) SNOBBERY – The rampant Academic Arrogance among many PCUSA Revisionists, with their false hope that the Bible is but an ordinary collection of religious thoughts, and that Paul and the New Testament community were simply ignorant / backward / primitive / stupid / mean. So the Revisionists feel like they can simply discard all Scripure that they dislike as ‘beneath them’.

    3) SUBSTITUTION – A collary of snobbery, this is the practice of replacing the Truth of God’s revealed will in Scripture with one’s own (or someone else’s) opinion / experience / feelings.

    4) SLACKNESS – The uneven, or totally failed, application of uprightly ministered Church discipline in certain areas of biblically-delineated sin.

    THE FIVE PRIMARY CRISIS AREAS OF TRUTH:
    1) THE NATURE OF GOD – Including those in the PCUSA who continue to espouse the “Re-Imagining Conference” tenets; prayers to Mother Earth, Mother god, etc at General Assembly and in pulpits and presbyteries; and what I call the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” movement of re-labeling the Trinity.

    2) THE UNIQUENESS OF CHRIST – Including issues of “Pluralism,” where Presbyterians are now supposed to invite everyone to church membership “REGARDLESS OF THEOLOGICAL CONVICTION”!!! And Pluralism’s sister Universalism, that claims that “God…REDEEMS and TRANSFORMS all things and all people.” [ both quotes codified in the recent nFOG, but have been around for some time previously]. And Moralism, with its aversion to the Atoning work of Christ. The PCUSA has now circled back to assume the flaccid form of religion Niebuhr targeted, which he described as “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

    3) THE NATURE OF SCRIPTURE & ISSUES OF CHURCH AUTHORITY – Found in the nFOG’s declaration that “governing bodies shall be GUIDED BY Scripture and the confessions” rather than a call to “…a life IN OBEDIENCE TO Scripture.” Included here is the PCUSA-promoted fad of referring to Scripture, “The Word of God, Written” [per our Reformed heritage] as merely “containing” the Word of God, or only “Witnessing to” the Word, with Scripture being read as hearers are enjoined to “listen FOR the word of God” rather that “listening TO” it.

    4) CHURCH MEMBERSHIP – Now clearly open to all, regardless of any willingness to repent of one’s sin; it represents the Revisionists’ heretical divorce between Jesus as “Savior” (for those of the Revisionist ilk who still believe in the need for one) and Jesus as “LORD,” where HE is acknowledged as the authority for setting the priorities and delineating holiness for God’s people.

    5) CHURCH LEADERSHIP – The PCUSA sexual standards for elders and clergy are now officially abolished as of May, 2011. The standard presentions by the Revisionists reveal this as a perversion of Grace (not wanting to make anyone feel bad by calling their sin “sin”), which has resulted in a twisting of Truth.

    – Dr. T, Bethlehem Presbyterian Church, Monroe, NC

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Ken,

      Thanks for this analysis — lots to chew on here! Keep on speaking for the Lord!

      Like

      • Kattie says:

        I agree that there is lots to chew on here, but I’m afraid there is a lot here that was not revealed to him through direct, quality interaction with real mainstream Progressives. Looks like caricatures to me.

        Like

      • mateenelass says:

        I don’t know how much Ken has interacted directly with the thoughts of liberals — I’m not sure who you mean by “mainstream” liberals. But thanks for taking the time to comment.

        Like

  17. Kattie says:

    I guess I’m a bit taken aback by you conflating the term progressive with liberal. I wouldn’t equate them as you did. In fact, I see them as more different than alike. You doing so and not quite understanding the qualifier, mainstream, might explain quite a bit though.
    We can chat more about it over at my place if you would like. I find the whole idea of asking permission to have a comment posted just a bit too creepy.

    Like

    • Kattie says:

      Woops, it looks like I jumpped out of our thread. Sorry about that.

      Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Kattie, I did a series of blogs on progressive Christianity, as defined by The Center for Progressive Christianity. Looking at their 8 central points, it is clear that the fundamental beliefs of progressive Christianity stem from classic theological liberalism. They have just extrapolated the conclusions of liberal axioms far beyond what classic liberals would have considered ethically palatable. The reason I use the term liberal in place of progressive is because the latter term implies that the views of liberalism are leading forward to something better, whereas in fact they are leading away from biblical Christianity and so are better descibed as regressive. I’m curious how you see progressivism in any substantive ways being different from liberalism. If you’d like to see how I reached my conclusions, I invite you to read my series of blogs in the section entitled “Views from the Insane Asylum.”

      Like

      • Kattie says:

        Well, if you based your understanding of what is progressive on the views of The Center for Progressive Christianity, then I think you should back up and actually have some real relationships with the broad diversity of real progressives (be incarnational rather than theoretical). It’s sort of like insisting that anyone who fervently believes in the Great Commission must be an Evangelical. We know that doesn’t make any sense because evangelism happens regardless of one’s theo-political identity. It’s the will of God not man. You need to experience those relationships for yourself; I can’t explain it to you in any meaningful way.

        I think the main criticism I have of your Declaration is that it appears truthy, not truthful. By that I mean you appear to be only preaching to the choir. The rest of us are wondering if you are going to get a real life. I would say the same for what Ken wrote above.

        Like

      • mateenelass says:

        My declaration is meant to preach to the choir — it is a call to the orthodox to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. By your own admission, that apparently does not include you. Your words, “truthy, not truthful,” convey little content to me. Who are you expecting me to preach to? Why would you write such patronizing words about me, “wondering if you are going to get a real life,” when you know almost nothing about me? Are you not hoisting yourself on your own petard (treating me as a theoretical caricature of your own mind rather than taking the time to become incarnational)? You seem to overflow with quite a bit of judgmentalism for one who subscribes to a movement that is supposed to eschew such behavior.

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  18. Kattie says:

    Ah, it’s a call to the orthodox. And just who might they be? I assume you consider yourself one of them and you are attempting to rally the troops. Orthodox; that’s such a nice badge to wear on one’s sleeve. The problem is we tend to only award it to ourselves and our friends. What’s your perspective on the ordination of women to church office?

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Kattie, I’m just not feeling the love. I thought you progressives had at the top of your list love and acceptance for all. Or is that for all except evangelicals? The sarcasm or disdain dripping from your words does not make it easy to carry on a conversation with you. Do you really find it difficult to define the central tenets of Christian orthodoxy? What C S Lewis spoke of as “mere Christianity”? I’m not claiming some special status for myself, only to stand with hundreds of millions of others in the clear and broad stream of orthodoxy as upheld by the church down through the centuries and clarified particularly in our Reformed confessional documents. I am not awarding any badges to anyone, just trying to adhere to the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). As for your question about women’s ordination, I obviously support it or would not be in the PCUSA, out of a sense of integrity. Yet I wonder how ordained liberal teaching and ruling elders, who do not accept the divinity of Christ, the atonement, the second coming, the reality of heaven and hell, the exclusivity of salvation in and through Christ alone, or the uniqueness and inspiration of the Bible as God’s revealed Word, can with any sense of integrity remain in positions of authority in a denomination which officially recognizes these as central components of the Reformed faith. I’m not accusing you of any of these, since I don’t know you or your positions. But I know personallly of others who no longer can keep to their ordination vows in any meaningful way with regard to orthodoxy, and yet they refuse to demit their ordination, which would be the ethical thing to do.

      Like

      • Kattie says:

        Strange, you would call yourself orthodox and claim that you stand with hundreds of millions of others when you know that your stand with regard to women’s ordination clearly places you at odds with those same hundreds of millions. How is it you do not admit to your own progressive stand?

        Like

      • mateenelass says:

        Women’s ordination is hardly a central tenet of Christian orthodoxy. Approval of it or disapproval of it would not determine whether one’s theology is historically orthodox or not. If you are not interested in discussing the pressing matters of my evangelical declaration, please do not waste your time or energy, nor mine, with further comments.

        Like

    • Deborah Milam Berkley says:

      Kattie, there are a couple of things I’d like to ask you about. One is why you think that Mateen doesn’t actually (“incarnationally”) know any actual progressives. Sure, he based his blogs on the views of The Center for Progressive Christianity, but has it occurred to you that that was so that people wouldn’t come at him and say, “Oh, you’re just referring to such-and-such an individual’s views”? Basing his blogs on the views of a particular group does not exclude him from knowing actual progressives. You’ve made a rather large assumption there.

      The other thing I’d like to ask you is to specify exactly what seems “truthy” to you as opposed to “truthful.” It’s easy to make sweeping accusations; the hard part comes in backing them up with evidence. Please produce some evidence to substantiate your accusation.

      And I echo what Mateen said about your “get a real life” comment. What do you know about what he actually does outside of writing this blog? I noticed you didn’t answer Mateen’s question to you about why you wrote that.

      It sure would be great if you would answer these questions!

      Debbie

      Like

      • Kattie says:

        Debbie,
        I bend over backward to try to please your particular sensibilities, mostly without success, so I doubt I will be successful here. Maybe I’ll be surprised.

        I have no responsibility to defend what seems “truthy” to me. I made no accusation, only a personal observation. I am entitled to that.

        As far as the “get a real life” comment is concerned, it is merely a figure of speech, as I am sure you in particular should already know. It indicated that I think he is spending too much time catering only to a select group of people who are already prejudiced toward the narrow view of Progressivism he conveys. In my opinion he convinces no one. I believe his writing would contain more redeeming value if he actually tried to be more convincing to the PC(USA) as a whole rather than apparently acting as a cheerleader to only a faction.

        You said: “One is why you think that Mateen doesn’t actually (“incarnationally”) know any actual progressives.”

        I could simply ask you to prove that I think, or even said anything like that, but I won’t stoop to that. I could assume you were being deliberately misleading by not quoting my phrase “broad diversity of real progressives”, or I could assume you simply didn’t retain that particular bit of information after you read it. It would be kinder to choose the later, so I will.

        He takes his definition of Progressive Christianity from an organization that doesn’t represent anywhere near the breadth of Progressive Christian thought, and uses it as if it does. So, either he is being misleading, or his experiences haven’t shown him what Progressive Christianity really is. I chose what I believed to be the kinder of the two alternatives and suggested that he broaden his relationship experiences in order to expand his knowledge of real Progressivism. In a later comment, I tried to point out to him indirectly that his view of Women’s ordination makes him a progressive in the eyes of, as he puts it, “hundreds of millions of others in the clear and broad stream of orthodoxy as upheld by the church down through the centuries”. I assume he does not wish to consider himself a Progressive.

        I hope this clarifies things a bit for you.

        Like

      • mateenelass says:

        I am asking all who post comments on my blog site to demonstrate respect and decorum for others as they offer replies. It is perfectly proper to attack arguments where they lack cogency or truth. It is not proper to attack individuals, directly or indirectly, by label or by insinuation. Should I deem a comment to overstep the bounds of Christian charity in this regard, I will remove it from the site. Thank you all for your adherence to this basic rule of Christian love.

        Like

      • Kattie says:

        Mateen,
        I will endeavor to comply, but please understand that I have found some of your statements to be unkind, inflammatory, and insulting. I think we all see through a glass darkly. My view of right Christian Faith and Practice most likely differs from yours in only a couple of non-essential ways, but you referred to me in the following way: “I thought you progressives …” You also tried to tell us what a Progressive was, and it hardly fit me at all. Can you really blame me for getting a little hot and bothered any more than you find blame in yourself?

        Like

      • mateenelass says:

        Kattie, thank you for your willingness to comply. If I have offended you, I apologize. I referred to you as a progressive because you identified yourself that way. It is no secret that a major plank of Presbyterian progressivism is “radical inclusivity.” Yet your initial responses to me made me feel anything but included in your circle. Hence my statement. You take isssue with my utilizing The Center for Progressive Christianity as a legitimate source for understanding progressivism, and imply it cannot be legitimate because it hardly fits you at all. That surprises me. Some of the realities that convinced me it fairly represents progressives are the following:

        – one PCUSA minister I knew in his younger days served on the Board of Directors until his death a year ago — Rev. Gary Wilburn
        – one present board member, Jim Burklo, is a graduate of SFTS and served as pastor of Sausalito Pres. Ch. in the first decade of this century. He writes a regular blog for TCPC currently.
        – Listed on their “Blogs We Love” webpage are links to among others Chris Glaser and John Shuck, the latter I understand to be a good friend of yours.
        – Twelve PCUSA churches have publicly chosen to be listed in TCPC’s affiliate directory. One of these is the church pastored by John Shuck.
        – Among those willing to give their name and support to TCPC as honorary advisors are Karen Armstrong, Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong, and John Cobb. I think they have earned their bona fides as spokespersons for progressive Christianity.

        Perhaps if TCPC declarations do not fit you well, then you are not really a progressive. To my mind, that would be cause for rejoicing. But in any case, I am grateful for your input, and hope that my future words will not come across as unkind, inflammatory, insulting or in any other way demeaning to you as a person. No hard feelings, I pray.

        Like

      • Kattie says:

        Mateen,

        I like John Shuck, he is friendly and treats me well on his blog. I personally think his theology is way off base as do others who comment there. Some of my best friends are quite conservative in their theology. I am actually quite traditional, and just because I might present a particular point of view doesn’t mean I actually believe it is true.
        When I presented the Luther translation of Leviticus, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy I did so not because I necessarily believe he got it right, but because I believe no one has actually proved he got it wrong. I would say the same concerning Tyndale’s translation of those same passages (same as in King James).
        You wrote that I identified myself as a Progressive. I don’t believe I used that term to describe myself on this blog at all. There are times that I do identify with a progressive conclusion on a particular issue, but that hardly makes me a Progressive in total. It seems to me that you keep trying to describe some generic progressive (maybe to be a strawman?), and I keep trying to point out the futility of the exercise particularly if you want to place that label on me and not place it on you. I’m afraid you’ll continue to be insulting to me and probably others too if you persist in that manner.

        Like

      • mateenelass says:

        Kattie, I must confess that I jumped to the conclusion that you would embrace the descriptor “progressive” for your views, rather than waiting for you to use that word of yourself. This was the basis of my thinking:
        – You accused me of preaching to the choir in my “evangelical declaration,” and then said “the rest of us are wondering if you will get a real life.” I took that to mean you were exempting yourself from the “evangelical choir” and aligning yourself with those in opposition to it (the progressives).
        – Prior to your first comment on this blogsite, John Shuck had posted a bilious reaction to my declaration on his blogsite, falsely accusing me (and evangelicals) of numerous things. Having never heard of you before, I read comments you posted there (Aug 2): “It really is just homophobia on their part. I noticed Elass’ blog is attracting the usual flies.” “Now, I’m not sure if he’s including me as one who made ad hominem attacks or snide innuendoes or not, but really, who cares.”
        – Three days later (Aug 5), Shuck focused on my words again, and you had the first comment: “Elass is making my job easy.” Your job, apparently, as you go on to state: to make those “conservative, faithful” delegates from your church attending the Fellowship gathering in late August “turn their noses up” against this movement. All of this I read before your first comment appeared on my blog (Aug 6). Perhaps you’ll excuse me for jumping to the conclusion that you would see yourself as a progressive.

        All labels are a bit imprecise, because people are bigger than labels. But labels are helpful in defining movements and adherents of those movements. Hence, “evangelicals” agree to certain world view which has reasonably clear boundary markers. “Progressives” likewise have a world view with its own boundary markers. You haven’t given the public much to go on as to your views, but what you’ve revealed so far doesn’t fit so well in the “evangelical” descriptor, and aligns more favorably with the “progressive” label.

        I am not trying to insult you, but I am curious as to why you won’t fly your colors publicly as to what you believe and why.

        Like

      • Kattie says:

        One other thing,
        I voted in favor of 10-A at our presbytery meeting. I believe that the old Fidelity and Chastity clause violated basic freedom of concience principles. I cannot state that I would never vote in favor of the ordination of a GLBT person. Is that sufficient in your mind to lable me a Progressive? Is that sufficient to label me not Orthodox?

        Like

      • mateenelass says:

        From the facts that you voted in favor of 10-A and that you could conceivably vote to ordain a practicing GLBT person, I would say I don’t have enough information to label you a Progressive or “not orthodox. (It certainly would mean that you are not Orthodox (as in the Eastern Church)!” Knowing only these two facts about you, I would hazard a guess that you would be in the Progressive camp. but you could instead be an ignorant or misguided evangelical/orthodox Christian. Ignorant meaning — you aren’t aware of the pertinent biblical and polity issues involved in the decisions; misguided meaning — you swallowed faulty arguments and let them sway you to decisions that are opposed to the Reformed faith.

        The Scriptures clearly teach that sexual relationships are to be reserved for the heterosexual covenant of marriage. Necessary corollaries from that are sexual fidelity to one’s spouse and sexual chastity in the non-married state. Freedom of conscience applies for Christians as the liberty to obey Scripture when others would seek to impose unbiblical behaviors/beliefs upon us, not the liberty to do what our conscience might tell us in opposition to God’s Law. How do you see the fidelity and chastity clause violating “basic freedom of conscience” principles?

        Like

  19. Kattie says:

    Do you think GLBT ordination or our view of GLBT relationships is “a central tenet of Christian orthodoxy”? If so, how do you argue that in a way that doesn’t become hypocritical with regard to, say, the role of women in church leadership?

    Interesting comment concerning pressing matters Mateen, considering the Kenyon decision, which deals with Women’s ordination and the notion of Freedom of Conscience has been so closely tied to the discussion of Amendment 10-A. You don’t seem to want to go there, why would that be?

    One of your stated paths is to “withdraw peacefully”. To where would you propose going? The EPC seems to be making room for our breakaways, what do think of that option?

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Kattie, let me try to offer succinct answers to your good questions. I do not believe that the question of the ordination of practicing homosexuals belongs to the essentials of the Christian faith, per se. However, the matter of repentance for sin as an element of being in right relationship with God is an essential of the faith. Since what Presbyterian liberals are demanding presently is the unconditional affirmation and acceptance of a lifestyle as God-approved that the Scriptures and confessional documents clearly define as sin, they are arguing that as a leader of our church one need not repent of that particular sin in order to serve God as a deacon, elder or minister. Such a stand contradicts an essential of the faith, and as such is unacceptable to those who embrace the essentials.

      With regard to women in church leadership, it has never been a sin to live out one’s womenhood, as it is to live out one’s homosexual proclivities. Hence a woman has nothing to repent of concerning her actions and status as a member of the female sex. It is true that Scriptural texts are in tension over the question of women in positions of leadership, but we have enough evidence in both Old and New Testaments of women actually holding leadership roles among the people of God that one can make a solid case for ordaining women to such service. With regard to homosexual activity, however, in every place where such a practice is mentioned, it is regarded as a sin. Further, when one considers the creation narratives and the blessing of marriage in God’s plans and the declarative will of God that sexual relations are meant to occur within the context of male-female marriage, and Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching concerning marriage and sexual sin, it is clear that all non-marital or extra-marital sexual activity (whether homosexual or heterosexual) is out of bounds. As such, those who act on their homosexual inclinations and are not willing to repent of such sin, are ineligible to serve as leaders in the church. I would argue the same about those engaged in heterosexual sex acts outside of marriage who are not willing to repent of their sinful behavior as well. I hope this helps you understand my mindset.

      On the question of freedom of conscience, I would invite you to read one of my recent blogs dealing with our Book of Order language on that phrase. Freedom of conscience as understood in our confessional documents has to do with our freedom over against the dictates of secular or religious powers seeking to impose a non-biblical belief or action upon God’s people to nevertheless hold ourselves captive to the Word of God. It is the freedom to disobey other authorities in order to remain faithful to God’s will. It is not a freedom to oppose what the Bible teaches.

      As far as peaceable withdrawal, I believe if that is the course the orthodox, evangelical movement in the PCUSA chooses to take, the destination will have to be chosen together, as much as is practically possible. Several options are being considered. The EPC is one. My experience with the EPC has been very favorable, and I personally would have no problem becoming a part of that Reformed denomination. My preference, however, as I’ve stated numerous times in various settings, is to stay and reclaim the PCUSA for orthodoxy in belief and practice, cleansing it of those who by their heterodox beliefs and practices have led us to the precipice of disaster. Of course, if any from those groups should wish to amend their beliefs and ways to align with our Reformed theology and practice, they would be most warmly welcomed back and embraced by the renewed denomination.

      Kattie, I’ve noticed that in each of your posts you’ve singled out things I’ve said in response to your questions in order to bring new challenges. As you can see, I’m more than willing to try to do justice to your questions with thoughtful answers, whether you agree with them or not. But I’ve also noticed that you have not addressed any of the questions I’ve put to you. Would you be willing to put as much energy into answering them as you have put into questioning me?

      I understand you plan to be up in MN for the Fellowship Gathering later this month. What is your hope for attending that meeting? Are you going merely as an observer, as a participant hoping to help the rest of us rightly discern the mind of the Spirit, or as someone with an agenda other than what the Fellowship proposes to offer? Perhaps our paths will cross during those two days. I will pray to that end. Until then, all the best.

      Like

    • (Sorry if I chose the wrong “reply” link. This is meant to be a reply to Kattie’s comment of 8/10.)

      Kattie, my questions to you are not based on sensibilities of any kind, as you suggested they are. They are based on my experience with academic argumentation. In that context, one first states a premise and then backs it up with evidence. Your premise (you don’t like the word “accusation”) was that Mateen’s declaration was “truthy” rather than “truthful.” You did not support that premise in any way, just stated it. I was asking for support for your premise. If you think that constitutes sensibilities, then I wonder how you survived in academia, as your bio seems to suggest that you spent time there.

      It sounds like you would prefer to make observations, get all the credit for making grand accusation-style observations (because an observation that sounds like an accusation is still an accusation), and then say you don’t need to support them. We only have your word that you don’t have to support them. Why don’t you have to? Because you say so. What makes you the authority? I’m not going to make statements about what you say without supporting what I say. It would be more honest of you to support your statements. Please let us have some honesty from you.

      All right, when you say “I think you should back up and actually have some real relationships with the broad diversity of real progressives (be incarnational rather than theoretical)”, I guess that’s ambiguous. You might think Mateen knows some individual progressives. But still, the question remains. Since you don’t know Mateen, what makes you think he doesn’t personally know a broad diversity of individual progressives? You’ve still made a large assumption.

      And you’ve also made a large assumption about how he spends his time. What makes you think he spends most of his time “catering only to a select group of people who are already prejudiced toward the narrow view of Progressivism he conveys”? You are not only making an assumption about how much time he spends on writing his blog and how he spends his time outside of writing this blog, but you’ve also couched your opinion of it and of who (besides you) reads the blog in derogatory language.

      Yeah, Katie, I don’t feel the vaunted progressive love either.

      Like

  20. Kattie says:

    Of course being a woman is not sin any more than being homosexual is sin, but Paul is absolutely clear (indisputably by my reckoning) about what actions by women are disallowed in the church. I believe Paul would consider it sinful for women to violate those prohibitions. As I see it, the Westminster Confession tells us that the clearest texts help us to understand those which are not as clear. I understand that there are passages in scripture that speak about women taking an active role in the church, but none of them specifically address what a woman should be allowed to do in the church, therefore they can not be clearer on that subject than Paul’s statements are. Paul wins. Now, as far as GLBT behaviors are concerned, all of the texts that folks say prohibit same sex sexual behaviors are in question (legitimately I believe) for one reason or another, and there is no mention at all concerning sex between loving, faithfully committed same sex adults. For instance, Martin Luther translated the Leviticus 18 and 20 texts, and the 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy texts to be about sex between an adult male and a male child. This particular translation has survived for hundreds of years intact in mainline German speaking churches of multiple denominations. There appears to be a long standing, legitimate disagreement as to the meaning of these texts, with no end in sight. Those facts are indisputable. Westminster settles the issue by telling us that it is a non essential one for anyone’s salvation. As far as adding to scripture what wasn’t originally there is concerned (through some sort of consistency or tradition argument), Westminster appears to be clear that we shouldn’t do it. The kinds of same sex behaviors that the Bible seems to be talking about, from my perspective, are fundamentally different than the ones the pro GLBT ordination camp are considering to be Okay. The consistency argument I believe falls flat on its face.

    As far as the MN meeting goes, I’ll be there with a contingent from my church. We’ll be playing it by ear and trying to discern if this is the kind of group we want to align with and endorse. The Fellowship is on trial as far as we are concerned. We did join the Confessing Church movement several years ago, but we didn’t sign the boilerplate declaration. We attended meetings of the New Wineskins, but many of us felt the group lacked some of the fundamental qualities of faith described in Scripture, so we walked away even though we had close friends there.

    Our congregation is very diverse theologically and politically, and we manage to be what I believe to be a model for what the PC(USA) could, maybe should be. As far as where I fit into the mix of our membership; I have enjoyed the honor of serving on our Conservative, Evangelical Pastor’s Worship Team for the past five years (three years as a member of Session, two of them as moderator), and served on our officer nominating committee for the past two years. Getting on the nominating committee, I had the distinction of being nominated by one of the most conservative members of our congregation last year, and by one of the most progressive members this year. We overlook our differences as we endeavor to be missional and incarnational. Our Pastor has stated on several occasions that he will not walk away from the PC(USA), and I respect him for that as well as many other things.

    Maybe our paths will cross, we’ll see.

    I pray for the Church, every day, and I am heavily involved in and committed to worship, new church development, and evangelism.

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Kattie, thank you for taking the time and effort to share a bit of your life and background with me. That is helpful.

      Thank you as well for sharing your take on Paul’s understanding of women in ministry and of the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality. I think your desire to justify the lifestyle has caused you (and others) to strain for readings that are alien to the text rather than seeking the plain meaning of the text. I know, of course, that you will disagree. It interests me that you cite Luther’s translation of 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10 as instances of his understanding of homosexual relations between adults and boys. Do you know German and Greek? I’ve looked at both texts and would say that Luther accurately translated the original Greek into German — but the question remains what Paul meant by the terms. When I get to the office tomorrow, I’ll check to see what comments Luther may have made about these passages in his lectures. If there is anything substantive, that would make clear his understanding of Paul. One thing is for sure: Luther believed that homosexual activity (of whatever kind) was a serious sin. It took me about a half hour to discover these two texts from his lectures on Genesis 19:

      I for my part do not enjoy dealing with this passage, because so far the ears of the Germans are innocent of and uncontaminated by this monstrous depravity; for even though disgrace, like other sins, has crept in through an ungodly soldier and a lewd merchant, still the rest of the people are unaware of what is being done in secret. The Carthusian monks deserve to be hated because they were the first to bring this terrible pollution into Germany from the monasteries of Italy.“(Luther’s Works, Vol. 3, 251-252)

      (With reference to the immoral behavior of the residents of Sodom, he describes it as) “…extraordinary, inasmuch as they departed from the natural passion and longing of the male for the female, which is implanted into nature by God, and desired what is altogether contrary to nature. Whence comes this perversity? Undoubtedly from Satan, who after people have once turned away from the fear of God, so powerfully suppresses nature that he blots out the natural desire and stirs up a desire that is contrary to nature.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 3, 255)

      If I discover anything further on Luther’s perspecfive on homosexuality in the Bible, I’ll let you know. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with me.

      Like

      • Kattie says:

        Mateen,

        I am quite familiar with the texts you site, and to be brief, because I need to get to work, I will only respond to the first at this time.

        Over time, and after much consideration, I have come to the realization that to take the position that Luther believed Homosexuality didn’t exist in Germany prior to it being introduced as a lifestyle by some Carthusian monks doesn’t do justice to the obvious intelligence of the man. I believe Luther is speaking here of a particular blight within the church, much like the abuses we see today.

        Do I believe Luther believed Homosexuality was a good thing? No, I don’t.

        Like

  21. Viola Larson says:

    Mateen,
    I think it would be helpful for everyone if you would write an article using the material you just quoted. This, ““I for my part do not enjoy dealing with this passage, because so far the ears of the Germans are innocent of and uncontaminated by this monstrous depravity” certainly helps clarify some of the arguments that occurred around the translation of the Heidelberg Catechism. There was one paper, I don’t remember its title or author that suggested that homosexuality was not used in the original because of that reason, the innocent and uncontaminated ears of the culture of the day.

    Like

    • Kattie says:

      Viola,

      Luther’s statements that are attributed to being about homosexuality, by some, don’t center on the meaning of 1 Cor 6:9-10. The Heidelberg Catechism debate, on the other hand, does. Luther certainly did not translate 1 Cor 6:9 as “homosexual perversion”.

      Like

  22. Jim Berkley says:

    Kattie,

    I see that you have divulged some information about yourself, finally. Please indulge us by giving us a little more, specifically:

    1. Is Kattie Coon your real name or a pseudonym? It appears to be a pen name that is masking who you really are. Am I correct? When we go to Minneapolis, will we find a Kattie Coon registered from Huntsville, Alabama?

    2. If Kattie Coon is not your real name, what is your name? What name will be on your nametag, if we meet in the hallway in Minneapolis? After all, you know Mateen’s, and Viola’s, and Debbie’s, and my names.. Why should we not have the same privilege of knowing who this real person is with which we have been communicating?

    3. Is your home church that you will be representing Covenant Presbyterian Church in Huntsville? If not, what is the congregation you serve as elder and worship leader?

    4. Do your fellow church members who are going to Minneapolis know the scorn and disrespect with which you hold the Fellowship, such as you have written on your blog and John Shuck’s blog, or are they under the false assumption that you share with them an evangelical desire to respond in some way to the travesty of Amendment 10-A? (Surely your church wouldn’t have become a Confessing Church and have attended New Wineskins–which you termed “the whiners”–and now the Fellowship if it were not seriously considering making some kind of stand against progressive encroachments against the PCUSA’s orthodoxy. That’s a whole lot of investment for a fence-straddling, middle-of-the-road church to do!)

    5. Did you have a More Light Presbyterians meeting in your home in Huntsville, or host it elsewhere? Are you a member of MLP?

    Your revealing some of these things about yourself would be an authentic thing to do. You know similar things about all of us who write you, because we’ve been transparent and honest with you. Can you do the same, now that you’re on a roll?

    Jim Berkley
    Bellevue, WA
    Minister-at-Large, Presbytery of Seattle

    Like

  23. Jim Berkley says:

    Kattie,

    And so you hide.

    You get to parry with real people who are honest and open and stake their reputation on what they write. We parry a shadow and fraud, who is unwilling to put her real name on what she writes and thus can say whatever she wants with impunity. You have set up a pretty sweet deal for yourself.

    Have a little integrity and come out from behind your cowardly mask! Until you do that, you have forfeited any credibility or respect.

    Jim Berkley
    Bellevue, WA

    Like

    • Kattie says:

      Jim,
      No jim, I didn’t set that deal up for myself.
      You may think whatever you want, but as I see it you’re violating Mateen’s request from yesterday, big time. I can only hope he will recognize that and follow through.

      Like

      • mateenelass says:

        Kattie,
        You sent me a personal email, asking me not to pry into your background to discover your real identity because your employer would prefer it that way. I assured you that I would not. Now I discover that you have been delving into my background (which is fine, because it is available for all the world to see), but you are doing it for the purpose of trying to demean me in the eyes of others so that you all can feel smug about writing off my arguments that challenge your views. I discovered your words from Aug 8 in a comment on Shuck’s blogsite:

        I didn’t realize it until now, but it all makes sense. Elass is a board member of the IRD, and his previous call was as Senior Pastor of an EPC Church. I wonder if he ever actually moved his membership.”

        By your innuendo, you have led Shuck into another screed, blinding him even further to truth. What causes everything now to make sense to you, after discovering that I serve on the board of The Institute on Religion and Democracy, and that for 7 years I pastored a wonderful congregation in the EPC? Were my arguments before this discovery somehow opaque to you, but now they make sense? Did it seem incredible to you that a PCUSA minister could hold Reformed, evangelical beliefs so strongly, until you discovered you could put me in a box as an IRD, EPC unthinking zombie?

        You have asked us not to discover who you are, and yet you seek to find out who I am, at least enough to encourage others to dismiss my writings? Do you not find something wrong with this picture, especially as you protest so strongly that you are being insulted and mistreated by comments on this site?

        Let me share a bit more with you about myself, so that you can have more complete facts on which to base your judgments. I was raised in Saudi Arabia in a secular Muslim home. I became a Christian at age 20, during my college years at Stanford University. My seminary training was at Fuller Theological Seminary where I earned a Master of Arts in Biblical studies and theology, and a Master of Divinity degree. I was ordained as a teaching elder in the UPCUSA in 1982 and served as such in the PCUSA until 2000. From 1990-1994 I worked on a Ph.D. at the University of Durham, serving in a URC church on the side. My degree was in New Testament studies, under the direction of James D. G. Dunn, one of the globally preeminent scholars in this field. In 2000, I was called from the PCUSA church I then served to a congregation in IL which happened to be in the EPC denomination. At that time, I transferred my ordination into the EPC and experienced a wonderful fellowship among those brothers and sisters. In 2007, God called me back into the PCUSA (I was not looking to move), to the church I presently serve. My ordination was transferred back into the PCUSA in 2007. In 2005, a book I wrote entitled “The Holy Spirit”, written at the behest of the GA Office of Theology and Worship as part of the Foundations of Faith series, was published by Geneva Press. My theological views have never been characterized by the mainstream of the denomination as aberrant, erroneous or right-wing. Indeed, they line up very well with the central doctrines and documents of the Reformation. I find a bit odious your insinuation that my arguments can be dismissed because you discovered two facts related to my work history. Please deal with the substance of the arguments offered, rather than seeking to parry them with mindless bias.

        Let me set you straight on the EPC as well regarding ordination standards. Had you done a bit more research, you would have discovered that in 1986, updated again in the 1990s, the EPC put out an official position paper on homosexuality, in which they say, among many other biblical statements: “Unrepentant homosexual behavior is incompatible with the ordination vows for the offices of Deacon, Ruling Elder and Teaching Elder.” They are on record as refusing for biblical reasons to head down the road that the PCUSA has been driving pell-mell.

        Like

  24. Jim Berkley says:

    Writer who goes by the name Kattie:

    We didn’t hear that. We don’t believe in ghosts.

    Jim Berkley
    Bellevue, WA

    Like

    • Kattie says:

      Like I said on John Shuck’s blog. Mateen will make my job easy. Discernment will be a snap. Our contingent in MN are all friends of mine who might have been inclined to allign with the Fellowship had you guys not acted so badly toward me here. Good going Jim. I guess maybe you don’t want us.

      Like

      • mateenelass says:

        If your contingent is going to base its discernment of whether the Spirit is leading the Fellowship movement on the basis of how you feel you are being treated here, Kattie, I’d have to say its process would be rather shallow and vapid. Wouldn’t you agree that the issues and problems involved are much more momentous than your ego? I hope the other members of the team from your church are tuned in to the major questions being debated and the major options being considered.

        Like

      • Kattie says:

        Mateen,

        “If your contingent is going to base its discernment of whether the Spirit is leading the Fellowship movement on the basis of how you feel you are being treated here”…

        This is the only option you examine? I don’t think they’re going to like that either, neither would our Session. Strawmen usually don’t go over very well. You haven’t bruised my ego, ego has nothing to do with it. In fact, … my cup runneth over…

        The issues are important, and that’s where I wanted the discussion to remain. I just thought after your comments about civility, you might apply it to more than just me. To me it’s a matter of integrity.

        I notice you have made quite a few comments to me today. It’ll take a while for me to digest it all and prepare responses. I’ve got a busy weekend planned centered around the Church.

        To those concerned about my identity, I’m currently negotiating the terms of my coming out (of a sort). Right now the ball is not in my court.

        Till then, Peace

        Like

      • mateenelass says:

        I haven’t set up any straw man argument. I was simply responding to your statement attempting to lay blame at the feet of Jim Berkley and others:

        Our contingent in MN are all friends of mine who might have been inclined to allign with the Fellowship had you guys not acted so badly toward me here. Good going Jim. I guess maybe you don’t want us.

        These were your words, not mine. Now you add the implied threat that because I voiced the hope that your church’s contingent would focus on the issues at the Gathering rather than on how you feel abused by comments here, your church’s session isn’t going to like that either. I will restate my concern: If your contingent (and now your session as well) is going to base its discernment of whether the Spirit is leading the Fellowship movement on the basis of how you feel you are being treated here, then I wonder how serious they are about discerning what God intends to do with this denomination. I hope they are looking at the big issues facing us all, not myopically focusing on comments from one blog site, though I am content before the Lord with how I have interacted with you.

        Like

      • Kattie, negotiating the terms of giving information about yourself needs to have some something in the negotiation that is potentially acceptable to both parties. Otherwise it’s not a negotiation, it’s just an ultimatum. You can’t propose that the other party do something unacceptable to them and then say, “Do this and I’ll do what you want; if you don’t do it, then it’s your fault I won’t do what you want.” Rather, the other party just hasn’t found your unsolicited ultimatum acceptable. They’ve never done or left undone a thing, so nothing is their fault. (For the record, it’s not me that Kattie is “negotiating” with.)

        Like

    • Kattie says:

      So Mateen,
      This is the kind of stuff you want to talk about instead of getting back to the discussion on Luther? The diversion with Jim and Debbie was fun, and gave you lots of time to study on it. So, what additional information did you uncover pertaining to the translation?

      Like

      • mateenelass says:

        I’ll try to have a new post tomorrow on what I discovered with Luther. Too much material to cover in this thread.

        Like

      • Kattie says:

        Great Mateen, I’m looking forward to it.
        Particularly the part concerning the translation or Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10. Also the part about the Carthusian monks being the carriers of homosexuality to Germany should be fascinating.

        Like

  25. Mateen, I have stood in the shadow of the stadium watching the interchange between this commenter who uses the name “Kattie” and you, along with other seeingly like-minded individuals.

    I feel that I must commend you for consistently displaying the most sincere grace of our Lord in your replies to her. (Since we don’t know who “she” is, do we even really know “she” is a “she?”)

    You have permitted her to have a very wide birth of freedom to express her views. You have very patiently absorbed the duality of her insights, as characterized by her celebrating her victory over you and your views on another blog. Knowing your commitment to be, in all ways, an instrument of Christ’s love, I am not at all surprised by your steady, consistent, witness.

    In the world of Talk Radio, we refer to people like “Kattie” as “seminar callers.” Rather than an insult, this is a badge that some wear proudly. They, too, celebrate their ability to invade the air space of a particular radio show and turn the intentions of the host aside in some way that will trivialize the host’s point of view. Some hosts handle these seminar-callers with more finesse than others. A few hosts even possess a sufficient amount of grace to deftly deal with the heart of the seminar-callers’ intent without insulting the callers.

    In every case, these callers purport to be smarter, more clever, more careful, and more wise than the particular host. This is, of course, seldom the case.

    Since “Kattie” has chosen to remain a bit in the shadows, at least as far as her identify is concerned, we cannot take the measure of who her biography would indicate she might be. But, unless her posting on this site is pure fiction, we can certainly weave an image of what she says she believes, and thus, who she is. (She may well rebel at the idea that she could be “known” by anyone. I suspect she may even prider herself on being “unknown.”)

    If, as she implies, “Kattie” will go to the upcoming meeting as part of a contingent of evangelicals from her church without actually being one of them, that very subtrefuge speaks volumes about who she might be. It seems unlikely to me that everyone in her contingent would come to the gathering with a hidden agenda like “Kattie’s.”

    In any case, I commend you for clearly showing patient love toward someone who seems bent on dismissing your views. Of course, you are simply obeying the Master. But, since obedience does present such a challenge to most of us, and especially to me, I am always grateful to God when He sends another example my way.

    If I could choose to have a circle of close friends—who have a single-minded devotion to Christ that binds us together, so that we might faithfully serve The Great King—I would choose to have them be more like you, Mateen, than “Kattie.”

    Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for modeling the Living Christ. Please, do not become weary in well doing.

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Dean, I’m embarrassed by your kind words, knowing my own heart as I do. But thank you very much for your encouragement to show the love of Christ to all, including Kattie.

      Like

    • Kattie says:

      Dean,
      “I suspect she may even prider herself on being “unknown.” “? “hidden agenda”? “contingent of evangelicals”? “not actually being one of them”? etc. etc. etc. Wow, is there anything else you would like to make up while you’re at it? I guess I don’t get to be embarrassed by your kindness.

      Which of his views have I dismissed other than his strawman definition of Progressive?

      Like

  26. Bill Reisenweaver says:

    Mateen,

    This is superb! I will be proud to stand with you and this declaration!

    Bless you.

    Like

  27. Dave Moody says:

    Mateen,
    You’ve shown significant patience, in what can only be described as a really weird thread. I’d LOVE to hear about your time with Dunn, and your thoughts on his work with Paul, 2nd Temple Judaism, etc…. Perhaps 8 days after Easter?

    But, in reading through this thread I couldn’t help but think of a line from Kiplings’ “If”–

    “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,”

    Thanks for keeping your head. Light shines and the darkness hates it, but it does flee. Here’s the rest of the poem, just because.
    Grace & Peace,
    dm

    If, Rudyard Kipling

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

    If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with triumph and disaster
    And treat those two imposters just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breath a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

    Like

    • mateenelass says:

      Dave, I remember Kipling’s poem from when my son had to memorize it in high school — it was burned into my memory at the time from so many repetitions! But I’d forgotten the line that you quoted particularly. That seems to be a general summary of much of the way the evangelicals are treated by liberal antagonists — but I’m sure the same happens in the other direction, unfortunately!

      I’d love to chat with you about Jimmy Dunn — my work was not in the “new persepctive” or “partings of the ways”, but I’d enjoy the opportunity to talk theology with you — next April!

      Thanks for your encouragement, Dave.

      Like

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