Just in the past few days both my emails and Twitter stream have contained a few direct questions and challenges. I have had people gloatingly point out to me the story of the death of the latest snake handler to meet his inevitable death, demand my response to the Pope sending Kenneth Copeland a message promoting unity, and ask what I think of Steve Chalke’s article about how he now approaches the Bible. In addition, I have also noticed that David Yonggi Cho has been found guilty of embezzlement from his church on a massive scale.
For a reason that will become apparent in the coming weeks, I have not really had enough time to adequately tackle any of these issues, let alone all of them. But in bullet points, let me make a few quick observations before I get back to what it is that has been distracting me from this blog for a while now.
It is clear than no one can keep up with all the scandals and controversies in the global Church. It is very wrong then as some do to interpret silence as representing agreement with one side or the other in a given matter.
The Snake Handler’s doom
- It is entirely wrong for people to mock at or gloat over the death of someone who foolishly and mistakenly believed they were doing God’s work. Some comments I have read actually seem happy at the tragic loss of a man made in the image of God.
- Having said that, surely there have to be some limits to religious freedom, and handling deadly snakes should be one of those limits. This behavior should be opposed by the secular authorities with vigor. How they do that without affecting other legitimate liberties is a challenge.
- TV should be banned from covering and giving prominence to snake handlers. Without the oxygen of publicity at least some of them may be discouraged.
- I unequivocally reject the ridiculous behavior of these individuals as the selfish, self-aggrandizing, testing of God that it is. Jesus said, quoting Deuteronomy, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Luke 4:12). And theologically that should be enough to puncture these ridiculous practices.
- No charismatic or penetecostal teacher that I respect gives any credence to these beliefs, and I hope that we can all agree that they are far from mainstream.
The Pope and Kenneth Copeland
- It is worth pointing out that in common with many TV evangelists Kenneth Copeland does not appear to be a member of any denomination of family of churches that could offer accountability, and, if necessary, discipline to him. (Happy to correct that if I am wrong). As such he does not represent charismatics or pentecostals, and there is little any of us can do other than express our disagreement with things he teaches or says, like in this case.
- As tempting as it is to be caught up in the media-induced furore over the new Pope, who some are labeling the “Evangelical Pope” there are a number of concerns that we should have.
- “Unity” for Roman Catholics will always mean the rest of us submitting to their Pope. This we cannot and must never do, since Jesus is the only Head of the Global Church, and he has no singular representative on earth. We cannot accept any representations from the Pope for organizational unity without him dissolving his own position and becoming the last pope of history. Mere man should never have dared to claim to be the “substitute” or “vicar” of Christ on Earth.
- Luther’s protest is far from over while indulgences can be offered for following the Pope on Twitter, while prayers are still idolatorously offered to saints, and where salvation remains something that to the Catholic is achieved by faith and works.
- In case anybody was under any illusion, I remain unabashedly, unashamedly, Protestant, and will not submit to the attempts of the Roman Catholic Church to impose their man-made authority on Christ’s Church on earth.
- Having said all of that, I am sure that thanks to the unfailing mercies of God, there are no doubt many Roman Catholics who themselves are saved despite the many doctrines of their church that damage and deny the one true gospel.
- Also, expressing love towards Roman Catholics is a good thing, and there are useful areas we can co-opeate with them on, and even dialogue with them, provided we are holding firm to our convictions and not denying our faith.
Steve Chalke’s article
- A brief read seems to indicate that Chalke has firmly left behind the principles of an Evangelical approach to Scripture. Surely it is time that he and everyone else accepted that he is no longer an Evangelical by any realistic definition. Why is this not being clearly said by everyone?
- Andrew Wilson has engaged Steve Chalke in a series of debates moderated by Justin Brierley. The first is embedded here:
David Yonggi Cho
- I fear that unaccountability may have been part of the problem here as well. Rather than gloating, our response should be to make sure that we, and those who lead us, are part of genuine structures of authority and mutual respect that can help to prevent deviance, and deal with it when it happens.
- One question I have not been able to find an answer for is, will David Yonggi Cho now be deposed as pastor of one of the World’s largest churches, or will he like so many before him manage to keep hold of his ministry despite this epic failure?
- How would your church deal with a such a significant problem in its lead pastor?
- UPDATE: Charisma News are running an article which explains what seem to be some important mitigating factors in this case, but which if correct, leads it to be filed in the “always carefully read documents before you sign them” category.