UNITY V. TRUTH IN THE APOSTATE CHURCH
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” –Matthew 10:32-33The minister at Toronto’s West Hill United Church, Rev. Gretta Vosper, does not teach her congregation to recite the Apostle’s Creed. She does not believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit or born of a virgin. She does not believe that Jesus rose again from the dead or ascended into heaven… or most of the basic tenets of Biblical Christianity. In fact, when her congregation sings famous hymns, the references to Christ and God are removed. Yet, Ms. Vosper calls herself a “Christian.” She posseses a Master of Divinity from Queen’s Theological College in Kingston, Ontario and pastors a major church in Canada’s largest Protestant denomination.
Ms. Vosper was keynote speaker at the four-day Common Dreams conference for religious progressives held in Melbourne in mid-April. As founder of the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity, Vosper works to provide support for folks who believe Christianity is more about living a good life than about serving a living Savior. The title of her 2008 book With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe says it all.
Theology student Jenny Burns attended the Common Dreams conference, and recently expressed the purpose of religious progressives, writing:We are called to be light in the world. People of differing theological viewpoints are called to stand together, motivated by their faith, to work towards creating the kingdom of God here on earth. What we do is more important than what we believe.Unfortunately, growing groups of Christians are buying into the idea that unity is more important than truth – because they do not take the Word of God seriously.
Ms. Vosper believes that all that stuff about resurrection and miracles and the forgiveness of sins is something the Christian Church has to get past in order to make it in the 21st Century world. To her, the essence of Christianity is about loving your neighbor. She therefore follows some of the teachings of Christ – according to her preferred interpretation of those teachings. The rest of Jesus’ message, about dying for our sins, rising again on the third day, and being one with the Father, those are things she just ignores.
It’s The Truth That Sets Us Free:
Yet, the things Vosper denies are the most important teachings in Christianity, teachings for which there is a great more evidence than the Vospers of the world realize. Religious progressives are missing the real point – and dangerously so.
Jesus did not come just to teach us to be nice to one another, like preschoolers sharing graham crackers. The Son of a holy, righteous and love-saturated God came to save us from our sins and from well-deserved judgment. He allowed Roman soldiers to mercilessly beat him and mock him and nail him to a chunk of wood because he came to sacrifice his life for us. Then! Then he conquered death by rising from the grave! Then! Then he sent his Spirit to work through us and fill us with God’s love. Without that truth, Christianity is just a be-ye-nice club. The power of Christianity is the reality of a living God working in human beings to change our lives both now and into eternity.
The Canadian Anglicans:
On the other hand, signficant numbers of Canada’s Anglicans are holding fast to the Bible, despite a trend in the Anglican community toward “progressive” thinking. The General Synod (the chief legislative body) is meeting this week, and is trying to get the focus of their discussions off of homosexual issues, which have caused major divisions. The Anglican Church of Canada has remained committed to not ordain homosexual ministers or recognized same-sex unions, yet a number of individual dioceses have started to bless same-sex unions.
In 2008, famous evangelical theologian J.I. Packer cut his ties with the Anglican Church of Canada because a significant portion of its liberal leadership had become heretical. He has not been alone in his concern. A number of more conservative Anglican parishes have protested the gradual acceptance of homosexuality within many Anglican dioceses. The divisions are not just caused by sex issues. A chasm has steadily grown between those who hold conservative, Bible-based beliefs and those who affirm more liberal, man-centered views.
Packer still believes the Bible is the absolute authority on divine truth. “I’m simply being an old-fashioned mainstream Anglican,” Packer said in 2008. He hasn’t changed – and the Bible hasn’t changed – just because portions of the Anglican leadership in Canada have.
Division Is Not New:
Since the days of the apostles themselves, Christianity has been full of division. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for being divided among themselves, for some saying, “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Cor 1:12). He encouraged them to be “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10).Psalm 133 describes how desirable unity is. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard…”
Yet, Jesus himself warned that he did not come to earth to bring peace, and that he would divide even families (Matt 10:34-36). Christianity exists because Judaism was split into two camps – those who followed Christ in the New Covenant, and those who clung to the Old Covenant.
We are to seek unity, to speak in humility and love, to be peaceable and gentle in wisdom (1 Peter 3:15; James 3:17-18). Our love for one another is something that is supposed to demonstrate to the world that we are Christ’s (John 13:35). Yet, when the choice comes down to unity or truth, truth must always win. Unity can never be more important than following Christ himself.“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me (Matt 10:37-38).”Church leaders are to know the Word of God, so that they may “be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9).
Rev. Gretta Vosper is wrong about the future of Christianity. Biblical Christianity that is full of the Spirit of God will never become outdated. It might be scorned by the intellectuals who consider themselves wise, and it might be rejected by those who seek the praise of man over the praise of God. But, the Spirit of God is always at work in the hearts of men, giving life to human spirits by the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:2-5
• Reconciling Preachers’ Split Identities – Eureka Street
• Anglicans in Canada Favor Dialogue Over Debate on Homosexuality – The Christian Post
• Common Dreams of the Kingdom of God – Insights
• Famed Theologian Quits Anglican Church of Canada (2008) – The Christian Post
• Strategic Trends 2009 Volume 1-MP3 Download – Koinonia House