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I have no question that the best scholar and thinker about Paganism (and a host of other things) is Dr. Peter Jones of truthXchange (Follow that link to subscribe to his excellent work.) In my view, his hallmark teaching is about the battle of whether or not God is transcendent. If, as Paganism demands, there is no transcendent one, then the worldview easily emerges that trees, porpoises, hamsters, and bishops are all part of “the thing” that makes up god. For a true Pagan, there should be no distinctions between God and man, man and woman, or different types of behavior. 

There are two ways to look at this perspective. First, if Paganism is assumed, then the “trickle down” doctrines will naturally be aligned with all the poster slogans of the liberals: same-sex unions, worship of all gods equal, and no authority of Scripture. On the other side, if one looks at the doctrines of liberals to see where they project, the result is a description of god just as Paganism describes – a creation of their own imagination.  

What is missing from those perspectives, rendering them inadequate, is the problem inherent in relating to a Transcendent God. Because God is transcendent, He is essentially “other.” By definition, we cannot know much with surety except by revelation. Happily, God (The actual fellow Who is God) delights in revealing Himself in a whole host of ways: Creation, the Law, the Word, and Jesus Christ Himself, just to name a few. 

 

 

One of the most powerful revelations that comes to Christians is that Scripture which tells each of us that we are a child of God.

 

Paul wrote: 

 

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  (Romans 8:16-18)

Of course, the ultimate revelation is found in Jesus Christ.  

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

These Scriptures are marvelous for telling us what is happening when He (the Spirit) reveals both the Son and our sonship, providing in the Word external confirmation of what we perceive, and even tying it to the truth that in this fallen world, there will be temporal suffering. Such full disclosure provides a profound window into eternal truth, namely that there is pain and suffering even in the midst of the glory of sonship. The promise is sure, however, that we will eventually come to a place without tears, sorrow, pain, mourning, or death (Revelation 21:4).

We can have real confidence in what the truth is only when we have the external verification of the Word. Without that, we are left to our own devices to determine what is truth. Sadly, our human hearts are easily deceived by the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. 

When the Church departs from historic teaching, practice, and discipline, and makes Scripture subordinate to anecdotal experience, there is no way to determine objectively what is actually happening. That truth—what is actually true—is called ontological truth. Rather than relying on established revelation, it is easy to convince oneself that the right course has been chosen, even though it disagrees with Scripture. Usually, people say something like, “It just feels soooo right.” They may think it is truth, but it is not ontological truth. 

That is precisely what has been happening within the Episcopal Church USA. It is why virtually everything that leaders from TEC have been saying following the Primates’ gathering in Canterbury is confident and rebellious. They think they are right. The evaluation grid that they use tells them that they are right. But they are using a ruler of their own design—a “plumbline” that is askew. It doesn’t measure properly. They are not using Scripture. They remain deeply committed, but it is commitment to a mistake. Following the Primates’ decision to discipline TEC, there has been no shred of repentance or humility. 

Here is why this is so very important. The institution has found itself capable of speaking about departures from the faith. True, it was a light rebuke of TEC and others deserved chastisement as well, but it actually happened.  On top of that, the understanding of the Primates was that the deviation was ultimately a departure from Scripture. Of course, some people try to spin the departure into being a forerunner, a matter of stepping ahead of where everyone will eventually go. But the truth is that linking discipline to the Biblical authority expressed in Lambeth 1.10 is critically important. Everything in the life of the Church must be held up against God’s plumbline.  

Years ago, I remember standing in line at a conference behind two ladies who were talking. One said, “I just love our Bishop, Jack Spong. He is so engaging and interesting. At first, I found what he was saying shocking, but then I realized that if he were saying things that were wrong, the church would discipline him.”  It was a prime example of the parable of the frog placed in cold water that slowly is heated until the frog, which would have jumped out had it been placed in boiling water, is, indeed, gradually boiled to death. Whether the anecdote holds scientifically or not, it certainly is a useful metaphor for what happens when people fail to respond to initial warnings of something gone awry.

She started out with her internal gyro going tilt, hearing what he was teaching as being contrary to truth, but she was lulled into accepting Spong’s heretical teaching because of the silence of the Church. We have a responsibility to identify and reject false teaching.  

As I have been traveling to a whole list of Provinces over these last weeks, what I am hearing from them is pretty much the same. They are saying that they were shocked to find out what was actually going on in the Episcopal Church. Clearly, they have said, what TEC is doing needs to be judged according to Scripture. For those of us who have been under the artillery barrages of TEC for years, it is hard for us to believe that people could find TEC’s behavior surprising. TEC and the Anglican churches in Canada, Brazil, and other countries are pursuing the same course. The difference now is that a plumb line has been brought to bear. It has not yet been used to judge everything that is out of order, but the process has started.

Some of the Bishops in other countries have said to me, “Now that the Episcopal Church has been disciplined, surely they will repent.” That is the kind of thing that is said by the youngest and least experienced clergy. In fact, as I have said, there is no indication that TEC will repent. They are too far turned over to their reprobate thinking. Other leaders, usually the battle-hardened older ones who  have seen how far things have gone, are saying, “Of course they won’t repent, but now, in three years time, we will have a much larger and firmer coalition to hold the line as TEC has to walk apart.” 

Many things are still unfolding from the Canterbury meeting. People will offer lots of spin, but I am convinced that something profound was offered to the future of the Anglican way, the chance for the institution to speak the Truth. 

The other positive outcome is that the Archbishops of several Provinces that have not been in GAFCON have indicated that they now want to join. There will be a process for the Provinces to make that move, but there is no question in my mind that they will follow through. Even better, there will be others as well. 

With no repentance, there will be a separation. Rather than having a handful of Provinces walking out, we are going to have two dozen Provinces renewed and committed. Those who leave will be in the same boat as those who left the ecumenical councils…admitting that they are not what we are—not what the Church has always been. 

Is my assessment too rosy? Time will tell.