Sunday, December 04, 2005
The Origin of Schism
ONE POWERFUL ARGUEMENT against the separation of the PSW from the ABCUSA (and by extension, the regions and churches that would follow over the next few years) is that such an action is schismatic and unnecessary. It is schismatic in that it breaks the unity fellowship we have in Christ; it is deemed unnecessary because either the ABC is indeed reforming (as seen in the passage of the Indiana Inititive--at least in its skeletal form) or because the issue of homosexuality is such a peripheral issue that breaking fellowship over it seems peevish and well, homophopbic.
THE PROBLEM WITH THAT ANALYSIS is that it misses two critical points. The first is, as we have always said, the real issue isn't homosexuality. It's Biblical authority. Does Scripture speak to us even when it runs up against our current cultural preferences, or must it yield to the Zeitgeist of the moment?
THE SECOND PROBLEM is that this view fundamentally misunderstands the nature of schism. I am currently working through 1 John in my preaching (I write my sermons about two months ahead). The ecclesiastical situation that John writes to is that a section of the church has asserted that they are more advanced than "common" believers. (What we have here is Gnosticism in its earliest forms.) The holders of false doctrine (and false practice) are the schismatics. As a matter of fact, the fact that they have perverted the apostolic teaching makes them schismatics.
SCHISM DOES NOT ORIGINATE in an action to separate. Was Luther a schismatic? No, the Roman church was the schismatic; Luther was the one groping his way back to Biblical orthodoxy. The same could be said for generations of believers sincerely making their way, as best they know, to the robust soul-satisfying richness of the testimony of Scripture.
SO, SHOULD PSW separate, are they--are we, since in am in the PSW--schismatics? I say no; schism in the ABC goes back generations to the embrace of false unbiblical and sub-biblical beliefs, values and practices. In manifold ways, none perhaps as bold or current as the address William Herzog gave to the Roger Williams Fellowship this past summer at the Denver Biennial. The theological perspective of Mr. Herzog--its arrogance, condesending attitude, its bold break with clear Biblical teaching disguised as "deeper knowledge" is remarkably similiar to the schismatics John grapples with in 1 John. We are not the schismatics: those at war with the manifest teaching of Scipture are.