Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I have noticed the following three excuses for Dean Salmon’s inexcusable invitation making the rounds.
Excuse 1: What harm could one sermon by a false teacher do to these orthodox seminarians? It’s hard to know where to begin. The premise seems to be: it’s okay to invite false teachers to preach if we’re relatively sure that no one will be influenced by what is said.

First: How do you know no one will be influenced? Can you read minds and hearts? The fact that according to the Dean there are three seminarians attending Nashotah who requested this invitation does little to support the contention that the student body is beyond corruption.

Second, the New Testament instructions with regard to false teachers are clear and direct: they must be completely repudiated. Who are you to decide that these instructions do not apply to seminaries? Where is this seminary exception clause found in the New Testament?

Third, it is interesting that when you actually read the New Testament instructions for dealing with false teachers and the examples of the way the apostles themselves dealt with them you do not see this sort of results-oriented American pragmatism. Nowhere do we find Paul or Peter or John writing something like: Do not welcome a false teacher unless you are relatively sure that no one will be led astray. Certainly leading people astray is a central concern since that is what false teachers do. But the worry seems to be broader and deeper. It’s not only that this or that congregation might be harmed, but also that the teacher’s ministry will be legitimized and promoted and his claims to be a Christian teacher affirmed. Maybe no one in the household to which John writes in his second letter would be swayed by the false teachers he warns against but welcoming them is to participate in their false ministry. It adds legitimacy to their work. The promotion and acceptance of a heretic by a solidly orthodox body tells the watching world that the differences between the two really aren’t all that important and that perception is precisely what Hell strives to instill.

Excuse 2: Nashotah House chapel is located in a seminary. It is not a regular congregation. The New Testament instructions are given to congregations. Therefore the passages you cite are inapplicable.

First, most New Testament letters are written to specific congregations or groups of congregations but it does not follow that the instructions are only for those congregations and no one else. So when John writes,“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7), he’s writing to a specific set of people but the instructions are, obviously, applicable to all Christians everywhere. And, in the same way, when John writes “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” (2 John 1:10-11) we righty apply these instructions beyond house churches in the first century. The principle could not be clearer: give no aid or comfort to those who lead the Lord’s little ones to hell.

Second,  can you imagine what Paul might say to this kind of hair splitting? The Galatians respond to Paul’s letter: Dear Paul, you wrote that the Judaizers are accursed and eternally condemned and that we ought not to listen to them because they teach a gospel that damns…but how about we let them preach to our pastors in training? Is anything more absurd? Christian leaders do not put heretics behind any pulpit anywhere for any reason. It’s unbelievable that anyone has to actually say that. We do not let servants of Hell preach from our pulpits. Is the logic difficult here? Is the reasoning obscure?

Excuse 3: You’re overreacting. If people pull their funding and diocese stop sending students we risk destroying a venerable orthodox institution over one little sermon.

No one is overreacting.

First, The Dean of Nashotah House has, in direct violation of God’s word, invited a heretic to preach from a pulpit set apart for the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The difference between what Bishop Salmon has done to the pulpit at Nashotah and what King Ahaz did to the Temple in Jerusalem is only one of degree. Both have taken something set apart for the glory of God and the gospel and given it over to the worship of idols.

Second, the Dean’s invitation is itself a sermon, a lecture, a course in surrender. Through it, future Christian pastors are taught that handing over their pulpits to ravenous wolves, allowing lies to be spoken to people under their care, is not only inconsequential but beneficial if it might result in “peace” and increased financial support.

No right thinking bishop or pastor should want to expose his seminarian(s) to a Dean bent on that course of instruction and no Christian would want to support an institution offering such a course financially.

Overreaction? Hardly. The response has yet not been as strong as it can and must be. But hopefully, it has only just begun.

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