Monday, August 17, 2015

The Pursuit of Diversity in the Church: What the Bible vs. Humanism and The Gospel Coalition have to say about taking a Racial Census in your Church


Introduction

Recently, at The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter, an editor for TGC, published an article entitled, Why Increasing Racial Diversity in Denominations Is a Math Problem which you can read, here.

The article's postulate is based on the far too common anthropocentric theology which rests on the bereft supposition that a local assembly or a larger denominational group, is obligated to possess human racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in order for it to be a healthy congregation and Biblical model. This concept, unbeknownst to many in the church, is in reality a tenet of Humanism and can be found expressed in various ways in each of the three Humanist Manifestos (a link to all three is provided further down).

As a sample, here is part of what Carter asserts from the article:

Yet therein lies the problem for increasing diversity in the other denominations. There is simply not a large enough number of black Americans to have both census quota diversity and large, predominantly black denominations.

This is not to say that increasing diversity within denominations should not be a goal. It also does not imply that local churches should use this as an excuse for not trying to increase outreach to minorities. Local churches have the ability to increase diversity in ways that may not be achievable at the denominational level.

But what such rudimentary analysis can show is that we need a more sophisticated way of determining just what diversity in denominations would look like. We can’t assume, for instance, that just because 12 percent of the population is black that 12 percent of our denominations should be comprised of black members. We also can’t automatically take pride in the fact that our denomination may be more diverse than another denominations, since the comparisons may obscure relevant factors.

If increasing diversity within our denominations is a goal—and I believe it should be—we need to come up with more advanced metrics that can help us determine exactly what a realistic level of diversity would look like. That will require more number-crunching and analysis of regional demographics than we are used to doing. But it may be the only way to truly determine both whether a denomination’s minority outreach is effective and whether they are becoming more diverse.

Some Observations and the Objectification of Blacks by Carter's Philosophy, in my View

Racial Objectification - In the first paragraph of the quoted material, I am somewhat stunned that the obvious is not noticed by many readers and is so readily accepted by The Gospel Coalition founders and current directors who are allegedly astute theologians (they have accepted worse so maybe I should not be surprised). Black people, it appears, are pawns for the relief of racial census distresses lest we find ourselves in a congregation of a majority of Korean Christians or what have you.

These members of society aren't to be targeted with the gospel for the sake of their souls and their subsequent edification but to be part of a self-aggrandizing pursuit on behalf of congregational census taking through which its overseers may feel good about themselves for gaining more members who are racially, ethnically and culturally unlike the majority membership, whatever it may be. 

Sure, winning people to the Lord is part of the process but it isn't the expressed primary objective in reaching minority groups or non-majority groups, rather it is as an object of congregational or denominational enhancement by way of their racial, ethnic and cultural properties. In other words, as I see it, ultimately these citizens are objects for what Carter (and apparently others) believes to be favorable ecclesiastical census taking. Wow.

This is, in my view, a fundamental flaw in Carter's theological development which finds its expression in this manner and which I understand to be offensive to the theology of the cross. Ultimately, they (anyone fitting the "they" quota objective - just typing this as something a church does is nauseating) are objectified because of their race, ethnicity or culture and not sought simply because of their lost condition.

Quotas, What Quotas? Did I miss this somewhere in Scripture? - Carter calls for "advanced metrics" to help us meet this "census quota diversity". May God have mercy on such theological flamboyancy in attempting to impose onto the body of Christ this fixation when it is completely absent in Scripture. 

Understand, Joe Carter is not ambiguous here. He plainly states, "If increasing diversity within our denominations is a goal—and I believe it should be", all without batting an eye while he offers absolutely no Biblical directive or implication. I suspect his lack of argument to support that this is something he believes should be a goal, is because he is writing within in organization which accepts this portion of poorly vetted theology and for an audience which has swallowed its poison some time ago. 

Thus, it seems his views are simply conclusions which only those not right with God would oppose (reminds me a bit of the silencing of the climate change debate since it has all been concluded, no more debate permitted) and so, let's just all move on with the program. It should be alarming, however, (to those of you who have remaining inside of you the capacity to be alarmed) that Carter is completely devoid of Biblical references in this anthropocentric diversity fetish.
 
General Response - I realize that within modern culture and modern social philosophy, racial, ethnic and cultural diversity has been elevated to a point of Biblical morality (with the help, sadly, of groups like The Gospel Coalition) so that anyone opposing this on any level (unless you are supporting the apartheid of Native American tribes which require one to belong to that particular genetic/racial/ethnic family before being allowed to be a member, apparently that kind of national apartheid is okay and not immoral) may be viewed as not just unethical or unconstitutional but sinning against God in their thoughts and possible deeds. But human social consensus is not the basis for Biblical theology and certainly not ecclesiology.


Of course, those who grasp Biblical theology without this leaven of humanism understand that no such requirement or value exists in Scripture for the church. This is not to say outside of the church this may not have worth in social institutions but such humanistic appraisals are both relative and wanting with regard to the absolutes of Biblical morality in spite of what people such as The Gospel Coalition, its editor Joe Carter, or anyone else may imply and definitely are not binding precepts for the church.

What Does the Bible Teach about Racial, Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in the Church and Census taking for such Matters?

A racial census is non-existent in the Scriptures as a means of gauging the fitness of a ministry. This is humanism 101 (see Humanist Manifestos I, II and III on the fellowship of man). The N.T. does address diversity, however, and that diversity is one of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4). Hence, if you wish to promote a gauge for ecclesiastical diversity, this is it.

As long as the humanism based theological leaven of esteeming our churches based on an anthropocentric ecclesiastical fellowship philosophy of racial, ethnic and cultural measuring, is given merit, we will forever fail to satisfy an ever changing/morphing humanist model which is being permitted to damage the church.

The great Apostle Paul made clear that (in the context of ecclesiastical fellowship among one another, i.e. spiritual fellowship) such a relationship is based on our being a new spiritual race/species (2 Cor. 5:17). Thus, the fellowship believers have with one another in the body of Christ is based on their common relationship in Christ.


Our fellowship revolves around the person of Christ, first in being regenerated when we believe and then with all of the denominators extended to and in us from Christ which are his Spirit and Word (shared doctrine). Human properties are not part of that equation with respect to our spiritual fellowship. Ours is a shared spiritual DNA, not human DNA (but let me be clear, where our anthropological properties are relevant, such as marriage and family and far beyond, God does intend, by design, that these properties be the basis of relating, but in those contexts).

You are my mother, father, sister or brother in the Lord, not because I am reconciled to or embrace you personally (I am speaking in the human context which is what racial, ethnic and cultural census taking and fellowship measuring is), and not because you or I have been reconciled to one another’s human properties such as the human culture in which we live or the collective expression of our human family whether it be immediate or the larger racial/ethnic whole and its expressions. Such a view is absent in the Scriptures as a protocol for the New Testament church regarding any ecclesiastical/spiritual fellowship and litmus test of health and fitness.

The church is a spiritual body with its members being born into the family of God through faith in Christ and with its value system of fellowship being based on the shared Spirit of God and Bible doctrine. This is how we esteem the church, collectively and individually. Its culture, its race and its ethnicity is that of Christ.

So long as we are not deliberately setting up human based (anthropocentric) favoritism in our churches (I dare say deliberately targeting a racial, ethnic or cultural group with the objective using it as some kind of enhancement for a local or denominational body is a form of favoritism) and are willing to share the gospel and win the lost to all men and arrange ministries based on spiritual gifts, there is no explication or implication in the New Testament that the church is bound by these kinds of anthropocentric measures in evaluating itself.

The race, ethnicity and culture of the church is that of Christ (again, a new spiritual species with a brand new way of thinking which is not of this world, the value systems of this world are not part of that body of understanding which is why we are told “be not conformed to this world but be transformed by having your mind renewed”). Diversity for the body of Christ is rather explicitly presented as something measured by our spiritual gifts. 


However further the concept of an anthropocentric theology of racial, ethnic and cultural diversity is fostered as orthodox doctrine, and as long this tenet of humanism is imposed onto the church as a legitimate gauge for measuring its fitness, the longer it will produce the very fractures those claiming to want remedied, will occur.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Part 4: Must Infidelity be Confessed to a Spouse? A Rebuttal to Questionable Counsel from Russell Moore




My Observations and Considerations

My hope, here, is to more effectively qualify a response to this issue for my readers. I have no doubt that numerous believers face, to some degree, the dilemma of sexual sins of thought, word and/or deed and having read the kind of counsel offered by Dr. Russell Moore, they instinctively come away from his prescription knowing that something isn’t quite right but have not been able to identify and articulate their concerns. 


However, permit me to add that I am certain Russell Moore is both earnest and genuine in his guidance. As well, I believe he demonstrates a seriousness in his desire to orient people toward what he believes is Godly thinking and acting, though I regularly find myself at odds with his theological products and certainly here. Hence, I do not want anyone thinking my objective is a caricaturization of Moore. Nevertheless, his advice on the matter reflects a commonly sloppy and overly pious approach which has inflicted needless collateral damage to the lives of faltering humans and particularly Christians.

Marital infidelity

God is absolute and clear in his Word. Marriage is intended to be that of a man and woman being faithful in every manner possible, to one another. This, especially, includes sexual fidelity. Adultery is shameful and sinful. Proverbs 6:29 states regarding the one that goes to his neighbors wife and commits adultery:


29 So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;
Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.

 
That passage has in view two kinds of suffering from this level of transgressing, both human and divine. Thus, it is clear that not only are there human consequences but divine ones as well. Of course not every single person and every single violation are equal and God deals with each one of us in particular (as do humans). But even so, we will be corrected and reproved by God, even if human disclosure does not occur. Proverbs 3:11-12 states:

11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord
Or loathe His reproof,
12 For whom the Lord loves He reproves,
Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.


Therefore, let me be clear. In no way am I minimizing deleterious effects of this sin and its violation before God. However, how it is resolved with respect to human relationships and to whom we own a confession has an extended Biblical consideration and is not left up to our rationalizations which seem sanctified and spiritual but which may be, in fact, creating further and gratuitous conflict and injury in a marriage.

Prudence

First and foremost, when you commit marital infidelity where the other spouse does not share such knowledge, there is no absolute counsel from the Scriptures or practical Biblical wisdom which demands and treats as the highest order of conduct, the disclosure of such a sin. The book of Proverbs contains a very weighty principle regarding our sins
. Proverbs 12:23 share this wisdom:

23 The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.

Now it is true that revealing an offense is not necessarily equal to blurting it out but the Proverb treats keeping knowledge of something to one’s self as “prudent”. Prudence is the practice of perspicacity regarding what we reveal to others and what we do not. We use forethought and consider how it will affect the person(s) with whom the information is revealed.

When we accept Dr. Moore’s prescription, that we are always obligated to confess infidelity, we do so in the absence of prudence. Prudence considers the damage to the relationship and the spouse, who at the moment may be very contented and who, through this knowledge, may receive an injury from which he or she cannot recover, which brings me to my next point.

Exacerbating the damage through confessing to a spouse

When someone is unfaithful they have damaged themselves. As well, their marriage will experience some by-products of unfaithfulness such as the offending spouse having created an appetite for intimacy with foreign parties. However, the faithful spouse has not received a personal offense. The integrity has failed on one end and needs resolved on that end.

So when a spouse has been unfaithful but repented and returned as a faithful party, while there may be by-product(s), the re-invested spouse will, as time increases, regain matrimonial momentum in their repentance and renewed faithfulness. Thus, the damage may be minor, if not noticeable at all to the innocent party.

Why, then, would there be a compelling interest in revealing the episode of infidelity to the innocent spouse, particularly if one has confessed their offense to God and returned to fidelity with the marriage developing positively as it should? 


The truth is, we often are only furthering the damage of our offense when we confess it to the unknowing party. We are, in effect, generating a greater problem where one need not be. There is no default Biblical mandate to confess our sins of thought, word and/or deed to our spouses, even infidelity, only to God.

This is not to say disclosure is never necessary but it unquestionably should not be assumed as essential any time a Christian is unfaithful. What benefit comes from pulling a spouse into such a matter, particularly when there is no real threat of disclosure by other parties? You actually rend the marriage further and enlarge the bruise which I dare say may be a sin, in and of itself.

The Purpose of Confession and using your Spouse as your Personal Priest

While I may be pressing this point with multiple references, I believe it warrants emphasis. What is the ultimate purpose for confessing marital infidelity to a spouse who does not know about it and likely will not know about it? It surely cannot be for their sake, particularly if they are happily invested in the marriage. As Russell Moore suggests, it is to somehow restore integrity to the relationship (my paraphrase) and to complete one’s repentance. However, the truth is, the irreconciliation only failed one way and only needs corrected on the end where it failed. I believe that frequently, such a confession is a selfish act to relieve a person of guilt by using their spouse as a personal priest instead of turning to God for absolution. 


Moore refers to the removal of the guilt which is present when one is unfaithful. His view is that this guilt cannot be relieved unless the innocent spouse is informed and offers forgiveness. Your spouse cannot forgive you unless they know about your infidelity and unless they know about it, they are not injured. In other words, until you disclose your infidelity your spouse is not offended, they are innocent. Only you are the injured party, injured by your own sin. Your remedy is repentance before God and a re-commitment to your marriage.

Bearing your own Burdens

As Christians we ought to learn to bear our own burdens. We should not draw others into our internal and private failures and demand absolution and unconditional love as if they are God. In my view, the selfishness of this kind of approach is understated.

It is the child who uses other people to assuage their guilt when disclosure of personal failures and a guilty conscience are not needed. It is the adult who accepts the conscience which comes when they commit offenses and it is the adult Christian who believes God’s promise of forgiveness (when they name their sins) and moves on in life.

Are you saying there never is a time to confess to others, particularly marital infidelity, to your spouse?

I am not suggesting that we never have to confess our sins to others; this would violate what I pointed to in James. However, context and its variables are part of the consideration and as we see in James, Matthew and in the passage in 1 Corinthians, these have to do with people denying sins of which they are being confronted by others. For a few specific cases, but not limited to these, I offer two concrete occasions where I believe it would be unprincipled to fail to disclose infidelity to your spouse.

First, in the case that the innocent party is very likely to have this information shared to them by a party outside of the marriage. This is when we should use wisdom and control the event of the disclosure to the innocent party and offer whatever information is necessary. This is a prudent confession and cares for the innocent party so that they are not blindsided by the information from transient parties and humiliated.

Secondly, we must confess our offenses if our actions produce consequences of which our spouse needs to know because it will directly affect the marriage such as getting another person pregnant, getting an STD or an affair which will cost the offender his or her employment and so on. Again, this keeps the innocent spouse from being blindsided, humiliated and even further injured.

Concluding Comments

In most cases of marital infidelity I believe there to be few absolutes which can be broadly prescribed when it comes to admitting unfaithfulness to a spouse. Some spouses can handle such admissions, forgive in a timely manner and move on to a renewed and healthy marriage. Others, however, would be crushed and permanently debilitated by such a discovery, even though it may have been a single and isolated event and many years ago.

Treating your spouse with the assumption that he or she can deal with this information, will be willing to forgive you and that your marriage will become stronger and healthier than before is an assumption no one, particularly a Christian, can afford to make. Every case has its own set of variables and everyone is different. This may seem like obvious advice but it appears to me that the obvious escaped Dr. Russell Moore in his broad and indiscriminate prescription of confessing infidelity to an unknowing spouse.  


Qualifier - I do wish to be emphatic here. I have no desire to prescribe to anyone's conscience before God the idea that it is foolish and weak to offer such a disclosure to your spouse. It can be, in some of the instances I have pointed out, but if your conscience is inconsolably torn and you find yourself with no sufficient remedy to your betrayal other than confessing this to your spouse, forbid me from being the dictate of your conscience. 

However, this is precisely why I have written this four-part response, because sometimes a person's conscience is fraught with guilt based on false concepts. My encouragement and instruction is a Biblically perspicacious handling of such failures and a conscience which is strengthened by truth, not weakened by errant absolutes.

Maybe you believe it is noble to make such confessions but you may do more damage than good and there is nothing noble about that. It may end up being a greater act of love to keep such indiscretions to yourself and bearing this privately, before God, as a failure but one in which God has forgiven you instead of dumping this onto your spouse to deal with. Keeping them innocent may be the greater virtue.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Part 3: Must Infidelity be Confessed to a Spouse? A Rebuttal to Questionable Counsel from Russell Moore




Part 3: Third Section of Moore’s Advice

Having said that, I want to say to you be prepared for the consequences of your sin. And I think that you need to make it very clear when you confess this to your wife that she is more important to you than the risk that may come along with your confessing this to her. And so you need to own your sin. You need to communicate this to her as a sin, and do not give any indication that you blame her at all.

And I would also say don’t take her first reaction to be necessarily her last reaction. She is going to feel betrayed. She is going to feel outraged…and let her express the grief and the anger that comes out of this. You have been carrying this sin with you now for several years. It could feel to you almost as a relief to get it out in the open in front of her. But this is the first time she is hearing about this, and so, you can’t expect her to forgive you immediately, reconcile with you immediately, move on. She has to grieve this, and she has to express the sort of anger that she has. Let her do that, and then wait patiently for her to forgive you. Don’t expect that she owes you some sort of immediate reconciliation. You are going to have to spend in many ways the rest of your life in your marriage rebuilding the trust that is there, even when she does forgive you.


Consequences

This final portion of Russell Moore’s prescription for whether or not to disclose marital infidelity, contains some concerning idealizations regarding the process as well as a wrongly assigned consequence. He states that when one discloses their adultery to their spouse that person needs to, “be prepared for the consequences of your sin”. Actually, what follows is not a consequence of the sin but the consequence of having divulged the matter. If the wife, in this case, never learned of the offense there would be no such consequence.

The actual consequence of the sin is the sin itself and any of its direct products (which may include divine initiatives of discipline toward the offender). Admitting infidelity to one’s spouse is an indirect consequence, at best, and one that is not a default repercussion. It is up to the offending party whether or not to involve their spouse which then, they must be accepting of its consequences.

Owning sin

Dr. Moore directs that the offending party needs to “own” their sin. I agree. However, by pulling an uninvolved spouse into the matter we need to be clear, we are now requiring her share the wound which up until now, she was not sharing in the injury. In other words, what Dr. Moore is actually directing the guilty party to do is to pass the injury around and extend its damages to his spouse, not owing and bearing it himself.

Assumptions about forgiveness
 

Here, Russell Moore suggests, regarding the reaction of the now injured spouse, that it will take time and that the offending husband should not take her first reaction, “to be necessarily her last reaction”. He then goes on to describe what he anticipates to be a processing cycle with the wife eventually forgiving him but warns that, “You are going to have to spend in many ways the rest of your life in your marriage rebuilding the trust that is there, even when she does forgive you.”

The rest of your life?

My initial reaction is one of astonishment that Moore believes every spouse can handle such knowledge and more so, that it will always eventually result in forgiveness (though not stating this directly his weakly qualified counsel assumes this outcome). But even then, the kind of forgiveness Russell Moore seems to be relating to us is one that is conditional, where the rest of a marriage is spent rebuilding a trust. Frankly, if it takes the rest of a marriage to rebuild a trust then the marriage is destroyed, in effect. Moreover, I would never teach any spouse that they have the liberty to force their offending spouse to spend the rest of their marriage enslaved to a point of failure in the marriage.

But to the earlier comment Dr. Moore makes, that her first reaction may not necessarily her last. Right, it might not be but what if it is? The marriage is destroyed and when not disclosing this information and possibly bearing the burden of the offense within one’s self, alone, and receiving the forgiveness of God, may have been the solution that kept the marriage together instead of destroying it. This leads me to my own observations which I will share in Part 4.