Thursday, July 11, 2013

Church Discipline vs Gutless Grace

I've sometimes said that no statement is simultaneously more obvious and controversial than "boys and girls are different". So much of current wickedness - being forced to pretend two boys can marry each other, a 6-year-old boy pretending to be a girl and everyone else being forced to play along - comes from fighting against perhaps the most obvious fact of personhood. If boys and girls are different, these things are reprehensibly wicked. If they're not, then... um... you know, I can't even imagine what to put here. The fact that male and female are different is so blazingly obvious, I can't even think of what to use to illustrate what things would be like if they weren't. Yet that's what we're (very selectively) being forced to pretend. Yeah, that'll end well.

But there's another statement that, within the church is nearly as obvious and nearly as controversial. You ready? "You can judge a tree by its fruit". Aside from pretty much being a tautology, you have Jesus directly teaching it, so you'd think that would settle it. But you'd better have a strong backbone if you try to teach it, or worse yet, act like you believe it. Prepare for the onslaught of "you're confusing law and gospel!" protests, and all manner of assaults from the Gutless Gracers, who seek to exalt grace by insisting that it does nothing but provide fire insurance. I never cease to be amazed at how hard people will work to denounce the thought that a new creation will somehow be new.

I was thinking of this recently as I read some texts on church discipline, Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5. I seriously wonder how someone who holds to Gutless Grace would handle those passages. That position maintains that there is no necessary connection between your profession of faith and your ensuing life - you can be justified without subsequently ever experiencing even the tiniest bit of sanctification. You can become a good tree while still producing nothing but poisonous fruit and thorns; Jesus is your savior but Satan remains your lord.

Now read those passages, which address how the church is to deal with sin. Notice first, the one being disciplined is one who claims to be a brother - he professes belief in Christ. Second, the discipline is brought on by his actions - in one case sin which he refuses to repent of, in the other case sin which is especially vile. Finally, the last stage of punishment is to put him out of the church, to hand him over to Satan, to have nothing to do with him (such as sharing the Lord's Supper with him), to treat him as an unbeliever.

Put it all together, and here's what you get. Based on his actions, the church is to deny the validity of his profession of faith. The church is to unite and say that he is not one of them, to deny him any form of fellowship, which is only appropriate if he is an unbeliever. Which is to say, because of his conduct, they are to have no confidence that he is a brother in Christ. If a man's belief doesn't affect his actions, the church is to regard it as no belief at all. If he claims Jesus as savior but not as lord, the church is to contradict him and disassociate from him.

So how does the 'Jesus as savior only' position deal with this?

5 comments:

Michael Coughlin said...

Well said, good writing.

jmb said...

One way is to say: "But we all sin, and all sin is bad (and sometimes we continue certain sins), so what right do we have to impose discipline on anyone?"

J. E. Smith said...

Basically the "church" is really just an endless series of regularly scheduled public evangelistic meetings with some "go out and bring more in to be saved" exhortations sprinkled in.

J. E. Smith said...

Church Discipline is bad because you might run someone off that might eventually, you know.."get it" after 10 or 12 years.

J. E. Smith said...

Oh so now you're like the judge of someone's personal relationship with God.