Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Trouble at Wheaton

Last week, I posted this. Later that day, I saw the news about a demonstration at Wheaton College, a Christian college in the greater Chicago area. I mentioned it in a tweet, thanking Wheaton for proving my point so quickly, and urging repentance before any further harm could be done. I was asked for some clarification, so here's my attempt to explain what I think the real problem is.

[I should note that this was written days ago but, providentially, computer problems and other issues delayed the posting. I've had a chance to re-think what I originally wrote; I'll leave that intact, and put an addendum at the end to address some possible questions.]

Rosaria Butterfield was going to Wheaton to talk about the gospel and its effects in her life. She was a lesbian, atheist, virulent God-hater. But she was convicted of her sin and brought to faith in Jesus Christ. She now knows that she is a sinner, fully deserving to receive the wrath of holy God. But Jesus took her sin on himself on the cross, bearing the wrath of God, and having made atonement for sin was raised to life and seated at the right hand of God. Through repentance and faith, her sin is forgiven, and she is credited with the very righteousness of Christ, and will inherit eternal life. More than that, she is being sanctified - transformed ever-increasingly into the image of Christ while she is still alive here, as sin is being put to death and replaced with righteousness. In her case, the most visible transformation has been the redemption of her sexuality - her former sinful lust has been mortified, and a holy marital love has arisen.

While her story may be spectacular, it's important to note that it's not unique or even rare. It's the same story as every Christian past, present, and future. Born in sin. Brought to conviction, repentance, and faith in Jesus Christ. Forgiven of sin, counted righteous in Christ, and sanctified in his image. The particular sins may vary, but the outline is the same. Old sins are put to death, and holiness is brought forth in their place. We cease to be slaves to sin, and are instead slaves to righteousness.

Which brings us to the first group in need of repentance: the student protestors. They are claiming that there is one special class of sin from which repentance is impossible, one sin which places a person beyond sanctification - homosexual lust. They object to the idea that slavery to sin and submission to the lordship of Christ are "oppositional"; they apparently see Christ and their lust as co-lords, or more likely, their lust is lord, and Christ can have the rest. They want to claim the status of Christian, while openly defying Christ, refusing to repent of this sin, and despising the power of Christ, as though the sovereign lord of all creation isn't able to sanctify them.

In effect, they are protesting the gospel, the most basic declaration of Christianity: Jesus is Lord.
It would be one thing if they wanted to make this tragic choice for themselves. But they want to spread the anti-gospel of unrepentable, unsanctifiable sin to others. They want to present this tragic, hopeless message as at least the equal of the actual gospel, the only hope for any man anywhere. That is to say, they are not just lost in their sin and denying Christ, they are false teachers as well. They are trying to deny people the grace that can save them and keep them enslaved to sin, which is the most hateful thing one person can do to another.

Which brings me to the second group in need of repentance - the administrators at Wheaton. While it's a college and not a church, a large part of their purpose is to prepare Christians for life, and particularly for ministry. So while they are not elders per se, surely part of their mandate is to put down false teaching. Instead of silencing the false teachers, however, they are giving them an ever-larger platform. Consider how bad things there must be that a group can come out to protest *the gospel* without fear of discipline or even the slightest disapproval (let's just say it's not surprising this happened at Wheaton). How negligent in their duty must they have been, that an anti-gospel is allowed to flourish under their watch, and the students promulgating it have no fear of being confronted; when they get louder and more aggressive, the administration invites them to talk about it more!

They should be calling these students to repentance, but instead they're affirming them in their sin, and giving them platform to spread their despising of Christ and hatred of people.

So that's it. The students need to repent of their denial of the power of Christ and their false teaching, and the administration needs to repent of their dereliction of duty in allowing such a destructive teaching to flourish.


The first thought upon re-reading is, was that too harsh? Specifically, the assessment of the student protestors as having denied Christ - am I saying that every student who protested is a reprobate? Not necessarily - but the ratio of wolves to confused sheep in that group is likely much higher than anyone would like to admit.

No doubt some of the student protestors are 'homosexual Christians' - those who have fallen prey to the sin, have come to faith, and are now struggling to eradicate the sin. The key there is that they are struggling - they are fighting, and though the sanctification from this sin will be a lifelong battle (as it is for all Christians and whatever sins have befallen them), they will not be slaves to sin. These people are Christians, and they need the same grace and support in their struggles as any of us.

But there are others who are 'homosexual Christians' in that they have completely given up the fight. They wish to take comfort in the name of Christ, while being at peace with their sin. Their attitude can be summed up as "This is the way I am, and God's just going to have to get used to it". It's impossible to stay in this group for long; either the sin or Christ has to go. Sadly, for many the choice has already been made, and they have chosen poorly. The time will come when they can no longer pretend to serve two masters, and then their apostasy will be revealed in full.

While there are most likely representatives of the first group, the latter is the driving force behind this protest. They want people to know that there's another way besides repentance - you can be a Christian, and keep your pet sin, too! There may be naïve, struggling, confused Christians mixed in with this crowd, but the main point of the group is anti-gospel. So while the message may appear harsh, I don't believe it's unnecessarily so. Some need to be helped to maturity, but more need to be called to repentance and faith.

Now a second point - when I mentioned this story to someone at church, he was surprised it happened at Wheaton, given the good reputation of Phil Ryken. Ryken is the recently-installed president, and from what I gather he was a welcome choice. I had forgotten about the recent change, so maybe that answers some of the post. In calling Wheaton to repent of their fostering of this anti-Christian atmosphere, maybe Ryken's presidency is part of the answer. What is apparent is that if he intends to clean things up, he has his work cut out for him. If he intends to make this college one that truly honors Christ again, he will need prayer and support, probably for years to come. If this is the plan, may God bless his endeavors and give him perseverance. Because one thing is for certain - this is but the tip of the iceberg, and it's not going to get any less ugly if he leads a crackdown on the heretics and false teachers among them.

1 comment:

Michael Coughlin said...

Thanks for your stand for the gospel.

I hope you'll consider coming to Columbus to preach the gospel with me March 1st. Contact me if you have that chance.