Wednesday, October 22, 2008

George Will on the Crisis in the Episcopal Church

This article by Washington Post columnist George Will is one of the better ones I've read in the mainstream media regarding the division in the Episcopal Church. Will accurately explains the primary cause of the crisis, namely the Episcopal Church's official departure from the truth revealed in God's Word on a whole range of essential matters including but reaching far beyond human sexual behavior...Here's an excerpt:

The Rev. Robert Duncan, 60, is not a Lutheran, but he is a Luther, of sorts. The former Episcopal bishop of Pittsburgh has, in effect, said the words with which Martin Luther shattered Christendom and asserted the primacy of individual judgment and conscience that defines the modern temperament: " Ich kann nicht anders" -- I cannot do otherwise.

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh recently became the second diocese (the first was in Fresno, Calif.) to secede from the U.S. Episcopal Church since, but not entirely because of, the 2003 ordination in New Hampshire of an openly gay bishop -- Gene Robinson, a classmate of Duncan's at General Theological Seminary in New York in the 1970s. Before the Robinson controversy, other Episcopalians, from South Carolina to Southern California, had disassociated from the Episcopal Church and put themselves under the authority of conservative Anglican bishops who serve where the church is flourishing -- often in sub-Saharan Africa, where a majority of Anglicans live.

It is not the secessionists such as Duncan who are, as critics charge, obsessed with homosexuality. The Episcopal Church's leadership is latitudinarian -- tolerant to the point of incoherence, Duncan and kindred spirits think -- about clergy who deviate from traditional church teachings concerning such core doctrines as the divinity of Christ, the authority of Scripture and the path to salvation. But the national church insists on the ordination of openly gay clergy and on blessing same-sex the whole thing

I should add that Will is incorrect with regard to Martin Luther's stand. He did not "shatter" Christendom on the basis of an appeal to the "primacy of individual judgment". Rather he shattered the idea that the Church and the Bible possess equal weight and authority.

Luther appealed to the principle of "Sola Scriptura": the bible--as the only infallible or inerrant source of divine revelation--is the supreme source and measure of truth and the standard by which Church teaching, and all thoughts, inclinations, and behaviors must be tested and weighed. Far from asserting the "primacy of private judgment", Luther argued that when God speaks with the intention of communicating to his human creatures, he does so clearly and plainly so that human beings can understand. The bible is clear or "perspicuos" in all essential matters. This does not mean that there are no difficult passages that are hard to understand, certainly there are. It does mean that anyone who diligently studies can understand what is necessary to believe and to do in order to be justified and saved.

This principle of "Sola Scriptura" means that you do not need to believe everything that the Church teaches simply because the Church teaches it. The clerical collar I wear does not give me or anyone else infallible authority. You, as a believer, have a responsibility to test my teachings and the teachings of the Church in light of what the bible teaches. This is what the Bereans were commended for in Acts 17:10-11

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

It is trust in the truth God's Word--that the bible supercedes the teaching of the church--that makes dissent from and opposition to the teachings of the Episcopal Church with regard to homosexual behavior(Romans 1:25-28; 1 Cor 6:9) and the uniqueness of Christ (John 14:6) not only important, but a necessary and essential Christian duty. We must do so, not only to remain faithful to Christ and his gospel, but to help clarify, by the grace of God, the truth about these matters for those who are being decieved and led into the darkness, further from Christ.

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