27 June 2010

The Bereans versus The Gatekeepers

updated July 2012

A rebuke in the form of a rant

I am consistently amazed by what I call The Reformed Gatekeepers...

I don't understand why so many weblogs and websites bother with the comments-option, when they will not allow people to engage UNLESS they completely agree with them. If you post something they don't like, your comment is blocked or pulled. I'm not talking about comments blocked because they're crass or rude...they're blocked because of their content.

In frustration after more than a decade I am beginning to publicly discuss some of these ideas. But the moment I think I have it all figured out and won't allow someone else to engage...then it's time to hit the delete button and shut it all down.

I suppose writing a blog could be interpreted as forward, a bit pompous and presumptuous. But what unbelievable arrogance do some of these men exhibit when they won't even allow a conversation? If you don't want to engage, then turn the comments off. But to leave them on and only allow consensus comments to be published...at that point I do have to wonder if it's simply ego.

They stop their ears and shut their eyes....this is faith? or is it fear?

What small minds....do you not believe in the Holy Spirit? You think you can hold the church together with your 'forms'...with your Book of Church Order? What do you get? What do you end up with? Vast congregations full of ignorant people that have no idea why the church believes what it believes, or does what it does.......and whose fault is that? Are you afraid to let someone read the Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? They might not accept your system...they might ask questions. If you're afraid of that...then the Reformation was a complete joke. Baptists are just as guilty of this. This critique is not exclusive to Reformed Presbyterians.

Do you think you can trick people into being Reformed?...I've seen this kind of missional approach first hand. You deceive people by having them 'join' (another tradition)...your denomination (not church)....and then tell them they don't have to submit to the Westminster Confession of Faith (as if any of you actually follow it or keep its original spirit)....but you don't tell them they have to submit to the Book of Church Order, which is administered by men who have sworn to follow the Westminster Confession. How forthright.

What is the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), or so many other denominational groups both credo- and paedo-, but empty form? Why do you think they're falling apart? Why do you think you've got praise teams and rock bands in so many of your churches? Because few in them are actually Reformed. You strangle yourself with your bureaucracy and traditions. You fight over who gets to claim the authentic label, and then drive out those who try to remind you of your past.

If you stand on what you believe you should never be afraid of engaging. Fine there are certainly a lot of crazy folk and troublemakers out there that are obstinate and clog up the works...those you have to deal with. But how many sites won't even allow you to do a 1st Posting unless you operate within their categories! They want your name, location, church membership etc... so that if you're not being respectful enough or toeing the line they can come after you.

Where is the Berean spirit? These men mock it.

That's why I started out anonymous here in the cyber-world. Oh, I know these gatekeepers well. I remember years ago I posted something on an OPC-related site and the pastor didn't like it. Immediately, who are you? What church do you go to? Who's your pastor? I wasn't disrespectful...I just disagreed with him...that's not allowed.

More than once I've had these power-mad shepherds try and sabotage my life and relationships........For Biblical reasons? Not once. Because I'm disrespectful of them? No, because I simply say, "Show me from the Bible...." or sometimes it's over practical matters...I didn't follow their advice. Not that I was sinning either way, but they wanted me to do something their way.

I realize my 'respectful' disagreement might be interpreted as 'disrespectful' from someone else's perspective. I have laboured to keep my discourse civil and to respect office and authority. I usually bring this up during confrontations by saying something like, "Look, I know we disagree here, but I want to make sure I'm not being disrespectful or pugnacious. I don't want this to be about my manner or demeanour, or a question of my being rude."

Every time I have been assured that my manner of discourse is polite and respectful. Are they lying? Apparently sometimes they are. I've had men smile and shake my hand and then when I walk away, start making phone calls. I can think of two OPC pastors who did this to me. I forgive them, but I would have a hard time shaking their hands today. They are creatures of their faction and power structure, lacking integrity and not the type of people I would wish to spend time with or be around.

I am convinced the Gatekeepers like their flocks ignorant, I've even had a couple of pastors admit this to me. Because if you're not, they want you on the Session or whatever term they've made up for the local council of elders. They want you in the government of the church...they do not want thinking people loose in the congregation. I go out of my way to keep my mouth shut, purposefully not engage people on controversial issues, deliberately avoid anything where I would disagree with the Pastor or the Session. Not good enough...in time, discussions with the Pastor or elders bring the view out, placing them on the table...and it's the same thing.

It's like Charlemagne with the Saxons....Join or Die.

I'm not being some obstinate Charismatic-type that's going by feelings. I can lock horns in a friendly manner and engage in a discussion. I have a good friend who is a pastor...who did try and win me over...but when I didn't...he didn't despise me, he didn't try and destroy me. Why? Because of the many men I've met in Reformed Circles, he knows what he's about and he's not factional cheerleader....he loves the Lord. We strongly disagree, but he's not one to play gatekeeper. There are so few like him.

Show me from the Bible....

They don't want to. They're infuriated that you won't submit to their traditions. They covet their power. How else can you interpret it? Being good churchmen? That's a facade for Clerical Gatekeeping...that's not Sola Scriptura....that's Institutionalism.

I thank them for it. Because of these men, many years ago, I began to pause and think...what's wrong here? Why do these men say one thing about the Scriptures and then do something else? I almost joined them. I praise the Lord I walked away.

I came to love Sola Scriptura but then I entered the world of Reformed Christianity and found tradition, faction and canon law.

Canon Law?....Ecclesiastical Legislation that becomes binding and authoritative for the Church. Protestants don't like canon law......

But then they make things like the Book of Church Order which is nothing less than an abandoning of the Sufficiency of Scripture and a Protestant version of canon law.

Away with your traditions, your Book of Church order, away with your clericalism.

What gate are you keeping? It's not the Kingdom of God.

Milton had it right when it came to Presbyterianism...

John Milton (1646)

Because you have thrown off your Prelate Lord,
And with stiff vows renounced his liturgy
To seize the widowed whore Plurality
From them whose sin ye envied, not abhorred,
Dare ye for this adjure the civil sword
To force our consciences that Christ set free,
And ride us with a classic hierarchy
Taught ye by mere A. S. and Rutherford?
Men whose life, learning, faith and pure intent
Would have been held in high esteem with Paul
Must now be named and printed heretics
By shallow Edwards and Scotch what d'ye call:
But we do hope to find out all your tricks,
Your plots and packing worse than those of Trent,
That so the Parliament
May with their wholesome and preventive shears
Clip your phylacteries, though balk your ears,
And succor our just fears
When they shall read this clearly in your charge:
New presbyter is but old priest writ large.

Even in 1646...Milton could see, the Reformation in England and Scotland in many respects, was a complete failure. Presbyterianism was really just a return to prelacy and hierarchy. Presbyterianism just meant a plurality (writ large) of priest-clerics, or to put it another way, Presbyterian was just another word for Priest, writ-large with 12 letters instead of 6.

I started out anonymous because I thought I could infiltrate those circles and start some discussion. I quickly realized there's little interest. The debates over history and theology aren't about truth, they're about politics. Who controls the labels, who can call themselves 'Reformed' or 'claim' Calvin or Westminster. It's about setting the agenda.

Since I don't call myself Reformed anymore and have no interest in participating in those circles... I'm irrelevant. I'm no threat anymore. They're not likely to make trouble for me. They're only concerned if someone like me is operating within their denominational structure. Then they rise up. Outside of that, it's probably easier to ignore people like me rather than engage. You don't peer review non-peers.

Once I realized this, there was no longer any point in trying to remain anonymous.

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