Thursday, October 26, 2017

Correcting False Doctrine Outside of Your Church: Permissible or Encouraged in Scripture?

The major criticism of this blog from what I'll call, 'my own,' is what it might do to 'our churches.'  Pastors might have to deal with the can of worms I open, not when they want to deal with it.  For the record, I don't care what biblical issue someone brings up, that our church might be doing wrong.  I've always thought, the worst thing that could happen is that my church grows or learns or aligns with the truth that is declared.  In other words, I'm not afraid of the truth.

The argument has several parts.  I'm not going to include verses, not because I couldn't, but because I'm judging that you know them or could find them.  One, the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, and that's obviously local, because it has pastor and deacons.  Two, each church is autonomous.  Three, an individual pastor has authority in his church to reprove and rebuke, not outside of that.  Four, hierarchicalism is wrong -- no state, regional, worldwide earthly authority.  Five, writing this blog attempts to bring the truth beyond the church, undermines individual church and pastoral authority, and sets me up as a kind of Baptist pope.  I'm not trying to misrepresent the argument.  I think this is what it is.  If I were to add anything, it would be perhaps to cause schisms in the body, when there are to be none.

I think I understand numbers one to five, I just don't think I'm violating them.  I think there are other teachings that should be brought to this mix, that don't contradict their teaching.  What I'm saying is that the conclusion does not follow the premises, and rather than an example in scripture to show that conclusion or application, it goes the opposite direction. I can show how that these premises don't help the argument.

For three, a pastor has authority to reprove and rebuke his own members.  That doesn't mean he can't outside of his church.  He doesn't have the same authority, because he can't follow through with discipline outside of his church.  Jesus was concerned about the seven churches of Asia enough to warn them.  We should warn other churches.  Later I'll show that other churches, other than our own, should be a concern still.

You start with the truth.  The truth is what's important.  The other points fall in line with the truth.  The Bible is the sole authority.  Yes, that's in the context of a church, the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, but it isn't the truth.  If the church is wrong, the wrong doesn't become the truth, just because the church protects the wrong and propagates it.  The truth is the truth whether that church ever existed.

What happens here is that autonomy and pastoral authority and "church unity" (actually just church agreement) take priority over all other truth.  Those are the three that must be kept at all costs.  No, it starts with the truth.  Autonomy is about the truth, pastoral authority about the truth, and church unity about the truth.  If it's not the truth, then those three are not really those three, but counterfeits or fabrications.  I can see how pastors could become more concerned with their teaching and their church, than they are the truth.

Let's say it's a timing issue.  Other church leaders want their people to know the truth, just not when I write about it, thus causing them to have to deal with it.  I see that as an extra-scriptural consideration, because the Bible doesn't talk about it.  It's a personal preference at the most.  With this, the church is held together by something other than the truth, and the truth is less preeminent than church autonomy and pastoral authority.  The idea, the pastor must be in charge, and that could lose its effectiveness if he is questioned.  The key in this is not being questioned in this situation, so that a pastor can keep it going as long as he wants in the direction that he wants and how he wants.

The church is the pillar and ground, being that it protects and propagates.  I'm propagating.  I'm propagating in my Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.  This is coming from a church.  My church approves.  Our church people like our doctrine being published everywhere.  It is the truth.  I have no authority in another church.  We don't discipline people in other churches, who don't believe like us.  I have no hierarchical authority.  I can't kick people out of a big club or league or convention.  This is like saying that I'm brainwashing or that I'm forcing this on people, the types of charges often used by the world.  They aren't true.

I don't see Jesus or the apostles, ever, holding back on the truth.  There are no biblical grounds for making pastors more comfortable in their retaining of error.  Error should be refuted.  Works of darkness should be reproved.  I don't reveal the names of men and their private errors here.  Everything is public teaching.  If I reveal something public, it has gone through biblical channels already.

In addition to everything I've written so far in dealing with the arguments at hand, I believe there are actual biblical arguments for doing what I do here.  Paul visited Jerusalem four times in his life.  The first time was three years after his conversion (Galatians 1).  The next time was over ten years later when he brought a gift (Acts 11), a short time later with the reconciliation of the Antioch and Jerusalem church (Acts 15), and then his final arrest and so on (Acts 21-28).  In two of his visits, he clashes with leaders of other churches.  Paul had no apostolic authority over Peter or the other apostles in Jerusalem.  Yet, he confronts them in Acts 11 and 15, because they were wrong on the truth.  He reports it in Galatians.

When you read Galatians 2, you can see there that Paul was concerned about the partnership he had with other churches.  That partnership for the gospel would be ruined by false doctrine.  This was not partnership in the church, but outside of the church.  That is also my concern as I write here.

I want the truth believed and practiced.  Sanctification comes through the truth.  We don't want good churches to be ruined through capitulation to error, and thus becoming ineffective in the gospel.  We want churches in other places where even our family members and family members of our church members can worship God and practice the New Testament.  We could spend a grueling and extensive effort in the start of a new church, only to have five churches destroyed with false doctrine.

If our church is strong, because I keep all this truth within the confines of our membership, good for our church.  If I get the truth to other churches, that will help preserve those churches.  The truth doesn't hurt a church.   It helps.  The Apostle Paul was working in Troas and became discouraged in his work there, walking away from an open door, because he was so concerned about the degradation of the church at Corinth.  We support evangelism abroad and the start of new churches.  A church like Antioch could go down to Jerusalem for the preservation of that church.  We can see that Paul saw this as related to partnership in the gospel and the beginning of new churches.  If one church is destroyed because of error, that could have been stopped by the intervention of another church, that is also the preservation of future propagation of that existing church.  This is worth it and can be argued from all over the New Testament.

Since what I'm doing here is scriptural, then the opposition is unscriptural.  Why?  It's not scriptural, so what is it?  It can be protection of turf, keeping buddies, and being lazy.  A pastor wants capitulation to what he says.  That's fine if it's the truth.  Heresy or schism is about error, not the truth.  Someone is not causing disunity by bringing the truth.  Disunity comes from error.  I write here.  Someone questions his pastor.  A pastor is angry, this guy heard something that disagrees with him.  If it's simple to swat away, just do it.  It gives strength to a biblical argument, if I'm wrong.  If it's about dealing with a situation when it is convenient, there is no basis for that.  Deal with it when it must be dealt with.  Kicking that can down the road never helps.  Never. 


Anonymous said...

Bro. Brandenburg,

I learn a lot when I read the blog, and the gist of this post is something I agree with. Good blogging can be a blessing to the Lord's churches.

I do have some questions, though:

(1) You said, "The argument has several parts. […] One, the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, and that's obviously local, because it has pastor and deacons. Two, each church is autonomous. Three, an individual pastor has authority in his church to reprove and rebuke, not outside of that. Four, hierarchicalism is wrong -- no state, regional, worldwide earthly authority. Five, writing this blog attempts to bring the truth beyond the church, undermines individual church and pastoral authority, and sets me up as a kind of Baptist pope." Then you said, "I believe one to five, I just don't think I'm violating them." Surely this is a typo or something, right? The article is clear that you do not believe that "writing this blog … undermines individual church and pastoral authority, and sets me up as a kind of Baptist pope." Maybe you only meant to say you agree with numbers one through four (or even part one of number 5)?

(2) You said, "The church is the pillar and ground [of the truth], being that it protects and propagates." Are you saying, perhaps, that pillar = means of protection of the truth and ground = means of propagation of the truth? Maybe there are other posts on your blog that develop / exegete the meaning of the phrase "pillar and ground"? On the surface of the text, I see pillar as something that holds up a structure, and ground as something that provides stability, a place of "anchor", shall we say. Those words pillar and ground don't immediately seem to me to be speaking of protection and propagation, unless lifting something up and supporting it (i.e., pillar) means making it widely observable. If the way I read it is what you meant, do you have time to comment on pillar = protection and ground = propagation?

Thank you very much, brother.
E. T. Chapman

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hello E.T.

Sometimes I don't edit at all and other times barely edit. I think I started that sentence with something in mind and then ended it like I had said something else. I tweaked it, based on your critique. Thanks for the careful reading.

Regarding protection and propagation, I don't know if I've written about 1 Tim 3:15 here, but I've taken pillar and ground as protection and propagation, but not as if each of those terms means each of those two, more like combined, they mean that.

Pillar and ground speak of protection, housing it, so that it will continue. A pillar lifts it up, like a pedestal, so it can be seen, witnessed. It is a display. The ground can't be seen, but gives the structure stability, so it won't move, so the truth will be safe.

That's the idea.