Today I am (in part because I slept in, and in part because we like it) going to Grace Presbyterian Church. This group split from the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) over a few liberal issues: mainly around the issues of women elders and, following that, toleration of sin within the church. They are not that fashionable and old school. One son enjoys them: the other has not attended.
I am having to be pragmatic here. There is no perfect church, and no perfect denomination. Paul, writing to Timothy, writes to us all. My main interest here is that we worship God. My secondary interest is that the boys grow up to love God, and continue in his faith. Both will attend the seeker friendly Presbyterian service we go to most weeks. That serves milk. But I am a carnivore: I want meat.
1 TIMOTHY 3:14-4:10
14I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, 15if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.16Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great: He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.
1Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. 3They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; 5for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.
6If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness, 8for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. 10For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
1 CORINTHIANS 3:1-9
3And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
When we say the Nicene creed, we say that “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church”. If you substitute anything for universalism you are falling into error, for the Church is Christ’s and it exists in many places and in many different congregations. And within every congregation there are those who will move it into error.
For we all have our own sins: we all have the effects of the flesh working within us. We live in a fallen and promiscuous society, and that affects us: Christ saved us but we are not perfect. Which means, that although this is true, the Christian Left have an error: tolerance should not include acceptance in evil. The personal is not political, but it gets in the way of us training for righteousness.
Now, within the church, we have a few duties. One of them is to say what we ought to do: not what we do, but what we ought. For whenever we turn to the word we find, again and again, that we are confronted with our sin: we are fallen.
Therefore we must not fall into the trap of the Belgian fascists: considering that one life is worth more than another, or that certain people are disqualified from our consideration.
No one is: including the pagans, the anti-christian progressives, the Islamics who want to kill us, and those enslaved by substances or their own lusts.
But — we need to tell them that there is error: without the church, within the church. We ourselves are fallen, and that has led to us losing moral authority: we need to repent.
For the Christian, correct theology matters. One has to carefully consider scripture. One has to pray. One has to seek the guidance of those who are accountable for you. And one has to balance the need for unity with the need for correctness: within the reformed, this all to often leads to schism, and in the Liturgical theological conflict between the liberals and the traditionalists.
So, what are the qualities of good teaching? Well, Mundabor is fighting a good fight for the Romans, and he has this to say.
What can Francis learn from texts like this one? Let us see:
1. No hot air anywhere. NO “walking here”, and “meeting there”, and “go to the crossroads”, and “smell like a sheep”, and all the other nonsense that does not explain the main thing: whether one will be Catholic once he has come to the crossroads, or will simply say “look at me: how social, inclusive, and smelly I am”. No childish comparisons, either. A stern and crystal clear language.
2. Truth administered without hesitation, and without compromise. Already the statement: “it is frightening to behold new apostles eagerly attempting to do better by a common interchange of vague idealism and civic virtues” makes a massacre of 99% of Francis’ utterances since that fateful day almost one year ago.
3. The clear statement that you start from the Truth and use it to judge whether the slogans of men are or are not valid. If, on the other hand, the premises are wrong, then the entire thinking will be wrong. The result?: “A mere verbal and chimerical construction in which we shall see, glowing in a jumble, and in seductive confusion, the words Liberty, Justice, Fraternity, Love, Equality, and human exultation, all resting upon an ill-understood human dignity”. Francis has his fundamentals wrong. He is full of an earthly (populist, and rather resentful) ideology and tries to adjust Catholicism to it. He makes exactly the mistake Pope St. Pius X is lamenting.
4. Statements written for adults. Longish periods, rich in subordinates. Statements requiring one to think rather than emote. A writing style that makes clear the reader has the responsibility to attentively absorb what the Pope is saying, rather than showing the reader how well the Pope has absorbed the stupidity of the world. Can you imagine the author of the statement above saying “who am I to judge” when confronted with a sodomite as close collaborator?
Mundabor goes on and says that no Pope has an excuse when it comes to error, for he has the writings of Godly men who went before him to study. He’s right in part: some of those men have institutionalized errors. And the academic theologians delight in argumentation over what exactly Calvin, or Aquinas meant: when the good doctors of the church were struggling not with that but what Christ meant. It is very easy to fall into error by the study of theology — something any person can confirm by spending a few hours in the senior common room.
I prefer the words of Joshua. “But for me and my house, we will serve the LORD“. Or the practice of Calvin — stick close to the source: to scripture. In these fallen days, living that way is witness enough: for you will be confronted and you will have to defend it.
1. Thanks to June and Hearthie, who put the images on their facebook pages. Facey has some uses.
2. The scripture is not blockquoted, as this allows the formatting to remain intact.