Confronting Error - Part of Our Spiritual Warfare
I was intrigued by Rev. Kuyvenhoven's editorial in The Banner of April 17th. Some of you might recall that Banner. It has four women on the cover. And in his editorial entitled "The Unavoidable Debate, Women in Church Offices," he called for the restoration of a Christian style of argument.
Now, I entirely agree with Rev. Kuyvenhoven that every discussion that Christians are engaged in should be engaged in in a Christian style. And I think it's helpful that he reminds us of that.
But then it is interesting that when he offers examples of those who have failed to engage in a Christian style of argument, the one example he offers is those who call their opponents liberals. I'm afraid, beloved, that that's you and me.
He says, "It's just not right to call people liberals who love and believe the Bible." And he's right. And there are people who love and believe Bible and still, for reasons obscure to me, think that women should be in ecclesiastical office. And we shouldn't call them liberal. They're not liberals then. They're wrong, in my judgment. But they're not theological liberals, in the traditional sense of that word.
And so, if we've been guilty of that, we should recognize it and be instructed on that point.
But Rev. Kuyvenhoven doesn’t seem to have been able to think of any other groups that have been guilty of proceeding in an un-Christian style of argument. Is it un-Christian to call our point of view " reactionary," "old fashioned," "unthinking"?
To dismiss us as if those on our side of the aisle have never given any serious thought to the question, have never tried faithfully to exegete the Scriptures, have not tried to live according to the Scriptures-is that kind of dismissal that we have often received, (even in the periodicals of our church), is that a Christian style of argument?
There was a poem in that issue of The Banner. It talked about how women have been silenced in the church by brocaded, barren, old men. Was that a Christian style of argument? Did that advance the cause in a kindly manner?
It seems to me that, while the general principle that Rev. Kuyvenhoven was articulating was entirely correct, that under the surface of that editorial came that same old charge that we are troublemakers in the church. And while we must avoid being troublemakers, we must recognize that kindness to depart from the revelation of God and the truth of God. That is not gentle and kind instruction, that is serving the lie.
And if we want to confront those in the church, we must do it in a fair, a loving, an accurate, and an honest manner-according the Word of God. And if people are engaged in folly we must tell them that.
Not all division is wrong. Because what does Paul say in that very verse in which he warns against division? He says, if there are troublemakers who are divisive, what you should do about that is turn away from them, separate from them, do not associate with them. So there is a kind of division that is appropriate, if it is a division according to truth.
Now that other kind of problem that needs to be confronted in the church, says Paul, is the problem of false teaching. And Paul gives us even further instruction about that in many of his letters. And look what he says just here for us. What is the character of false teaching? He says such men (verse 18) by their smooth and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
He's making two points here. The first is that the fundamental character of this untruth (that he warns us against) is that it is deceptive. In the whole history of the church, I can't think of a single heretic who stood up and said, "I'm a heretic. I'm in error. Watch out for me. I'm the dangerous one." They don't do that. Rather, they speak in smooth and flattering and plausible words. They argue their case, and insinuate their case, and seem to make it correct.
Paul says of them in 2 Timothy, "they are deceiving and deceived." What he means by that is not only that they are leading the church astray, but often they don't even know it. They are sincere. That's part of the problem. They really think they are right.
Paul directs us to think about the church and the kind of untruth that can arise in the church. For those of us who are Christian Reformed that means we have to look at our own church. We must ask ourselves, "What are the problems which, contrary to the Word of God, are coming up in our own church?"
We can see them on many hands. We see them in the current debate on evolution and the origin of man and creation in our church. We have seen it in recent years on the doctrine of election and reprobation in our church. We have seen it ad infinitum almost on the question of women in office in our church.
Example of Error
I suppose I really must pause here to offer an example to you of how I think error needs to be confronted on this issue, because there continues to be a great production of misguided, and ultimately, deceptive arguments on that issue.
In what is rapidly becoming my favorite issue of The Banner, April 17, there was another example of exactly that kind of problem in the article by Dr. Cornelius Plantinga entitled, “Slaves, Women, and Biblical Liberty". Now I have no doubt that Dr. Plantinga is a good and sincere man, and I am not calling for a moment into question his Christian commitment.
But in that article, in my judgment, he is a deceiver. That article teaches contrary to Word of God. And it is a whole line of argumentation that is dangerously seductive in the life of the church. And so, as an example or confrontation, I'd like to respond to some of the points that Dr. Plantinga made.
He begins with a rather old argument, namely, that the situation of women and that of slaves is parallel. Since the Bible used to condone slavery, but we no longer do, the Bible's condoning of the subordination of women also can be ended by us.
What he does not take adequate account of at all in the whole discussion, going beyond creation, is that Jesus raises women to full partnership in marriage. Well, now it sounds like not only I Timothy 2, but Ephesians 5 has gone in this "redemption, a new game." And we must ask in all seriousness of Dr. Plantinga, "are these really the compelling, biblical grounds that Synod in 1975 asked for, were the offices to be opened to women?"
What if we should use Dr. Plantinga's suggestion that redemption is " the new game" and apply it to another issue? Let's think about the issue of taxes. That may be on the minds of a lot of you these days. Taxes are a form of slavery. Taxes are the act of the government taking from me what is rightfully mine, and using it (in some instances) for things of which I do not approve, and with which I would not cooperate, left to myself. Taxes aren't from creation. Do you read anything about taxes in Genesis I, 2, or 3? And even if taxes were from creation, there aren't going to be any taxes in heaven. So let's stop paying taxes to express our redemption here and now. Let's do away with taxes (and maybe with quotas along the way) and be free.
But you know, it's a little bit interesting to me that in the April 17th Banner, in "Corner Kick," A.K. talked about taxes. He says, "It's tax time again and I don't much like it, because the government does things with my money that I don't approve of. But, says A.K., "reluctantly I'm going to pay them. Since both the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul paid taxes we'll do it too. I keep their words and examples in mind." I'm delighted to hear that.
But, both the apostle Paul and Jesus, by their words and examples, didn't have women ministers. Is brother Kuyvenhoven going to keep those words and examples in mind? (Don't lose that April 17th Banner. It's a treasure.)
But you know, I think Dr. Plantinga really may be on to something here. He really may have the solution to our problems. (Remember, Kuyvenhoven talked about "the issue that won't go away. ") Well, let's take this "redemption, a new game" approach and apply it to the whole phenomenon of ministers. There weren't ministers in creation. I don't read anywhere that there's going to be ministers in heaven. Let's become more "redemptive" now and do away with ministers altogether. We won't have to fight then as to who is going to be a minister at all.
Isn't that an application of the principle? It's a principle, you see, that just doesn't work.
No, you see, I think if we look at it historically, Dr. Plantinga's argument comes from a rather typically Methodist/Pentecostal perspective on the Scripture and on the church. Now, there are a lot of good Christians who are Methodist and Pentecostals, in my judgment. But they are not Reformed. And the line of argument we find from Dr. Plantinga is not Reformed and, in my judgment, not biblical.
First published in Christian Renewal, June 1989.
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