Pastor Letter #2

How should we view other Christian denominations?

I have participated in a number of Christian denominations.  My parents were originally Plymouth Brethren.  Growing up, we attended Southern Baptist, Independent Baptist, Independent Bible, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Integrated, and Presbyterian churches.  We experienced a broad vision of various expressions of Christianity.  I have preached at Church of God, Baptist, and Assemblies of God churches.  While I respect and value my brothers and sisters in other expressions of Christianity, I have settled in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).  As a pastor, this comes with the territory of my chosen vocation.  The question we examine here is whether such exclusivity is proper for a non-ministerial Christian.  When choosing a church should a Christian exclude all other expressions of Christianity that do not fall within their chosen denomination?

I must begin by confessing my bias towards exclusivity.  Naturally, since I have sworn fidelity to the OPC, I must argue for the superiority of the denomination.  No just observer would conclude that I could do anything other.  If I did otherwise, I would make a lie out of my ordination vows.  That being said, my argument will not focus on the superiority of my expression of Christianity or the orthodoxy of my denomination.  Instead, I will argue for the importance of truth, the pursuit of the purity of truth, and the significance of truth to worship.

The importance of truth has fallen on hard times in our world today. Truth has taken a back seat to the more critical question of whether a certain theory works.  Pragmatic factors have trumped truth.  The Bible counters this contemporary spirit by saying that the reason a theory works is because it is true.  The gospel meets the pragmatic needs of society because of its correspondence with the world as it truly is.  It is God who reveals to man the true nature of reality and along with that knowledge transmits to man the practical rules to guide him through life in that reality.  In this revelation, truth does not become the handmaiden to pragmatism, but truth grounds the knowledge of reality and thus defines how man must live within reality’s constraints.  The truth claims of the Bible are integral to the reality of Christianity.  Without the truth, no conception of God, the universe, or man will ultimately succeed in presenting a theory that works.  Any Christian expression must deal with the truth revealed in God’s word.

Secondly, every expression of Christianity involves a mixture of truth with error.  Because of the effects of sin upon the mind of man, none of us can escape into perfection.  Thus, all our theologies will include a modicum of error.  That does not give us the right to leave the theological enterprise any more than it gives us leave to abandon the moral pursuit.  We can no more abandon the pursuit of truth than we can abandon the pursuit of holiness.  Indeed, these two pursuits are correlative.  We only progress in our moral obedience as we advance in our true knowledge of God and His revealed will.  We must ever be concerned with how the expression of Christianity we adopt expresses the truth of God’s revealed word.  Fidelity to the Bible, above all else, determines the authenticity of the expression of Christianity.  As the final infallible authority, it alone provides certainty and veracity.

Finally, we should strive for theological purity especially when it comes to worship.  When we make decisions about our regular church attendance, we are choosing a spiritual diet.  We should no more choose a regular diet of cotton candy than we should choose a denomination that places a premium on emotionalism instead of truth.  However, a truth-telling church without an emphasis on the Spirit and personal piety is as useful as trying to eat a frozen steak.  Choosing a church that not only values truth but also does so with passion is not only proper, but necessary if we are to obey the commandment of scripture.  “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (I Peter 2:2-3)  The evidence of our regeneration is our desire for revealed truth.

While we ought to appreciate every true expression of Christianity and occasionally experience those expressions, we must understand the importance of fidelity to the truth of God’s revealed word.  If we have come to the conclusion that our denomination expresses the message of Scripture more faithfully than any other expression of Christianity, that truth must bind and constrain our conscience and our behavior.  If we simply prefer our tradition because of habit or taste, we have no excuse for exclusivity.  Others may find our doctrine erroneous.  We make no pretense to perfection, but we believe that we have the most excellent word of truth.  Unless we are persuaded by the scripture or plain reason, our conscience is captive to the Word of God.  To contradict conscience is neither right nor safe.

 

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Sunday School: 10:00am
Living Christian in an Unchristian World

Morning Worship: 11:00am
John

Evening Worship: 6:00pm
Ecclesiastes

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