Authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
The exaltation of Christ in His Word.
These things may seem obvious expectations to be found in a church, for even the most casual reader of Scripture. Add the Biblically prescribed ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism and you could probably safely assume you have a Christian church.
While such things are often touted on church websites, it still requires giving an ear to an online sermon or engaging in a bit of overt Berean pew-sitting to adroitly determine if what the church touts in the cyber world is actually exhibited behind the pulpit.
(Just a non-absolute clue … if there is no pulpit, and, in its place, you find a table or just a couple of bar stools, odds are you’ve found a place where Scripture won’t be systematically exposited. They’re probably just going to talk at you with rah-rah, it’s-all-about you encouragement … slathered with just enough Scripture to provide perhaps a week’s worth of placebic nutrition, in order to get you back next week, but very little doctrinal nutrition from the meat of the Word to actually help grow you in the faith.)
We’ve all seen the sorts who digitally claim one thing – often, the right thing – but, come Sunday, proclaim something quite contrary to sound, Biblical teaching. It’s why we wonder how faux pastors like Steven Furtick of Elevation, or New Spring Community Church, formerly “pastored” by the coming-out-rehab Perry Noble, can remain approved affiliates of the Southern Baptist Convention. Yet, there they are … listed on the SBC Church Search. No hint that heresies may lay lurking for the unknowing and undiscerning who may be digitally directed to their doors.
Wonder what would happen if the SBC faced the situation currently being “investigated” by the United Church of Canada, who’s woes with worrisome pulpit occupiers may seem only more challenging in degrees, though not in Biblical clarity.
According to The Christian Post, that denomination is trying to decide whether or not to allow an avowed atheist to remain an ordained clergy member within their ranks.
“The Rev. Gretta Vosper, an openly atheist minister, is presently undergoing an investigation by the Church to determine if she can remain an ordained clergy or will be put on the UCC’s Discontinued Service List (Disciplinary), which is tantamount to being defrocked.” (Source)
An. Ordained. Atheist. Minister.
First, she is a woman. That should have been a clue to begin with. If you have a woman in the pulpit it isn’t a church. Such clues, however, even go unremarked upon within the SBC, where women have been known to preach in pulpits and where women preacher/teachers dominate LifeWay, the marketing/media arm of the SBC.
But like the SBC, the UCC isn’t apparently too worried about Biblical authority on that matter. Frankly, whatever other problems the UCC might have (FYI, I am unfamiliar with them, beyond this particular noteworthy headline; it’s clear, though, they are much, much less than orthodox.), this one should not be much a humdinger to deal with. Put it at the top of the denominational “things to do according to the Bible” list and a rapidly dispatched vote ought to be unanimously forthcoming. Ought to. But maybe they’re like the SBC where “according to the Bible” has interpretations that, like our sins forgiven by the Father, can be as far as the east is from the west.
But an avowed atheist? Whew.
Again, it might sound like a no-brainer. Maybe she started out as a “believer” and migrated to the more culturally palatable position of atheism, but what’s that tell you? Right. Not a believer to begin with. How’d that slip by? Somebody call the denominational fruit inspectors, I reckon.
Lest those of us who remain – at least temporarily, perhaps – in the SBC be all too eager to cast doctrinal stones at the UCC for the seemingly obvious decision to be rendered, let us consider that log. You know the log. The one in the eye? Yeah. That one. Since we, as a denomination, are all too eager to tolerate the likes of Furtick, or Noble, not to mention false teachers like Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer, much less our ERLC’s eagerness to lend aid to everyone from Muslim mosque builders to joining ecumenical arms with Catholics, to linking with heretical organizations like IHOP, to … well, this paragraph is already too long … but you get the point. Oh, by the way, don’t forget Russell Moore’s invitation to “Get The Spotlight Off The Bible” Andy Stanley at a recent SBC soiree …
The error of having an ordained atheist woman in a pulpit is no less Scripturally forbidden than allowing a false teacher in one. This likely falls under that Pauline category of doctrines or “teachings of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) Following a false teacher will lead you down the wide path just as surely as will following an atheist, even if that atheist is ordained.
What to do? Abide in my word. (John 8:31) Pray. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Discern. (1 John 4:1)
If you’re in the SBC, just know this … the grass of discerning obedience isn’t likely to be all that much greener on our side of the fence.
But at least the UCC is investigating their problems.
Over here in the SBC?
Well, we prefer to make our problems create a profit. We sell them in our bookstores and invite them to conferences. If it’s culturally relevant and we can somehow make it appear “gospel-centered,” that’s doctrinally sound enough for us.
An atheist woman in the pulpit? Why we’d never tolerate that … unless …
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]