Thursday, July 8, 2010

Where Have All the Wolves Gone?

It’s becoming more and more common for churches to say “we just want to welcome everyone no matter what they believe.” I recently read about a church which is open to all. The reporter says the pastor “doesn’t bristle at the thought of people not believing in God. He just wants them to come to church.” One of the members says “It’s such a welcoming atmosphere. There are people there who aren’t believers and when they start questioning, you really have to look at things. Questioning our faith, our Bible, is OK there. And that’s so freeing.” The pastor said he “wanted to build a church where we can do life together, where we can say, ‘Here are our beliefs but if that’s not where you’re at, that’s OK.’” He continues, “It’s not my job to make people believe in Christ. My job is to introduce people to Jesus.” I’m glad churches want to be inviting and welcoming to seekers but what happened to the role of the pastor as a “protector” of the sheep and a “guardian” of true doctrine?

Paul told Titus that “many are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” (Titus 1:9, ESV emphasis mine) Peter warned of “false teachers among you, you will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1). Heresy is not heresy anymore it is now simply questioning the faith—and that’s OK. What are we supposed to do with 2 John 10: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting”? Robert Yarbrough in his commentary on the Epistles of John explains:
“[John] has in mind aiding and abetting people who are undercutting apostolic doctrine and leadership as represented by John. . . In John’s house-church setting, to receive opponents of Christian belief into your home meant granting to them and their doctrine the honor and respect that are due only to true Christian faith and practice. John’s point is that they stand for something else. What they stand for calls for different treatment. . . . He insists that flagrant opponents of the gospel who arise inside the church be graciously but firmly disbarred from normal involvement until they make a turnaround. How much more reasonable and necessary is it to prevent wolves presently on the outside from exercising their predatory wiles inside the (oikia, household) of the faithful?” (351-352)
This kind of language is politically incorrect and offensive to someone who is “just asking questions.” I’m all for asking questions but ask enough of them and ask them often enough and the faith of young Christians can quickly give way to unbelief. The trend today is asking questions with little regard to really finding answers. The fun is in thinking of new questions. The entire notion of “harm” coming to someone because of “beliefs” is entirely foreign to those in this mindset.

Consider these words from Ignatius to the Trallians:
"And so I entreat you (not I, though, but the love of Jesus Christ) not to nourish yourselves on anything but Christian fare, and have no truck with the alien herbs of heresy. There are men who in the very act of assuring you of their good faith will mingle poison with Jesus Christ; which is like offering a lethal drug in a cup of honeyed wine, so that the unwitting victim blissfully accepts his own destruction with fatal relish.”
“Not that I suspect anything of the kind among you; I am only trying to protect you in good time, because you are dear to my heart and I can foresee the devil’s snares ahead. So let gentleness be your weapon against them; take a fresh grip on your faith (the very flesh of the Lord) and you love (the life-blood of Jesus Christ), for there must not be any ill-feeling between neighbours. You must give the heathen no loophole, for fear the devout majority are brought into disrepute for the thoughtlessness of a few; for woe to him who makes anyone blaspheme my Name without a cause.” (The Epistle to the Trallians 6 and 8 Quoted from Early Christian Writings, Penguin Classics)
Here we find a pastor who writes out of love and care for this people. He “foresees the devil’s snares.” Beliefs have consequences and playing with heresy is like playing with poison. These thoughts and concerns are seen by many as primitive and antithetical to true community.

Jesus said “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matt. 7:15) How would some of today’s pastors respond to this? Would they say, “It’s ok. They’re not even clothed like sheep anymore because they’re not really wolves. They’re just asking questions. Why, we’re even free to question you and things you said.”

I suppose many would say I’m over reacting. I don’t think I am. I think we’ve read a little too much pop psychology and not enough of the New Testament.

The Wolves and the Sheep by Wenzel Hollar (1607 - 1677)

No comments: