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When a pastor renounces the faith

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It’s never easy when someone renounces their faith. It’s especially difficult when that person has served as a pastor. 

The news broke (on Instagram, of course) that celebrity megachurch pastor and author Joshua Harris is not only ending his marriage, but he no longer understands himself to be a Christian;

The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.⁣⁣

In addition, he’s decided that he was wrong to hold to and teach the traditional understanding of human nature and sexuality:

‘…to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.⁣⁣

How ought we to respond? 

Remember, God’s Kingdom will endure

The first thing to note is that God’s Kingdom was not built on the shoulders of Joshua Harris.

That Harris has changed his mind and moved on or away from the Christian faith makes little difference.

Sure, he was a persuasive preacher, a decent writer, and for a moment he was a big deal and sold a lot of books.

Those things are, however, pretty superficial. They don’t add up to much in the long run.

Don’t forget to have compassion

Christian internet reactions to famous people who renounce the faith are often shrill. That’s likely because the faith of those denouncing the apostate isn’t all that much stronger.

Whatever you think of him, Joshua Harris is clearly someone who is struggling and suffering. And just as he was certain when he penned I Kissed Dating Goodbye, he’s certain now.

Chances are that before he dies he’ll be certain in another direction.

Say no to proxy wars

Really, what’s happening in episodes like this one is that the life of a famous person becomes a morality play or proxy war used as a prop in a larger ideological struggle.

The narrative that Harris has embraced does just that: I was a sex-averse, legalistic fundamentalist who spent time and energy judging others. I have now become free to love all and have turned my back on my prior ignorance. 

There will be a book to follow. I guarantee it.

Don’t let the veracity of the Christian faith be litigated on the basis of Joshua Harris’s life and faith. It’s not worth it.

For every best-selling Christian personality there are myriads of simple, faithful, orthodox pastors who preach the gospel and love their people.

Look at them, not Harris. Or better, look to the great shepherd of the sheep–Jesus himself.

 

 

Humpty-dumpty church members

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We all know people who are especially sensitive and susceptible to harm. There’s a wonderful term in civil law for these sorts of people: egg-shell plaintiffs. An egg-shell plaintiff is someone who is harmed more seriously by an action that other plaintiff’s might be. They’re like Humpty-Dumpty. If they fall off the wall, they’ll shatter into so many pieces that “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” won’t be able to make them whole.

Humpty-Dumpty church members and Humpty-Dumpty coworkers are part of life in a broken and fallen world. In civil law the fact that you harm someone and they are harmed more by the action than most others would be, isn’t a defense. In other words, you cause the hurt (even if you feel it’s over the top) then you’re liable to make the person whole.

The same is true in the church and the workplace. Harm an egg-shell coworkers and its on you to make it up to them–even if you think their reaction is over the top. However, it pays to learn quickly and well who these people are. 

And once you know, be careful. Make sure the spiritual leaders in your church are aware of who these folks are and develop and plan to intentionally care for them and prepare for the next time they fall off the wall. 

At work, take a similar approach. Make sure to invest in your relationship with them so that next time they come off the rails you have a credit balance in the relational sphere.

It’s impossible to avoid Humpty-Dumpty, but she doesn’t have to ruin your day.

Sunday Sermon – The Way that Leads There

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I had the pleasure of preaching at Immanuel Presbyterian Church this weekend. This is the community we have belonged to for the last couple of years, and a place we have grown to love.

I preached on the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. You can read the bulletin here and follow this link for sermon audio. Here’s the sermon manuscript uploaded with my personal notes:

 

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As conservatives, we have a duty to our ancestors, ourselves, our children, and their children to remember and conserve what must be remembered and what must be conserved. While the West has made more than its share of mistakes—after all, the West is no different than any other civilization, in that it is made up of men and women, some who choose to do good and some who choose to do ill—it has also done some things better than any other civilization, or, at the very least, introduced things to the world that the world than claimed for all of humanity.

Bradley J. Birzer, “What the West has Given the World

Understanding Christ’s Righteousness

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“By his passive righteousness is meant his expiatory sufferings, by which he satisfied the claims of justice, and by his active righteousness is meant his obedience to the law as a rule of life and conduct. It was contended by those who made this distinction, that the purpose of Christ as the vicarious substitute was to meet the entire demands of the law for the sinner. But the law requires present and perfect obedience, as well as satisfaction for past disobedience. The law is not completely fulfilled by the endurance of penalty only. It must also be obeyed. Christ both endured the penalty due to man for disobedience, and perfectly obeyed the law for him; so that he was a vicarious substitute in reference to both the precept and the penalty of the law. By his active obedience he obeyed the law, and by his passive obedience he endured the penalty. In this way his vicarious work is complete.”

William Shedd, History of Christian Doctrine, Vol. 2 (New York, T. & T. Clark, 1863), p. 341.