Stop Calling Me “Apostate”

I am tired of the name calling by “Evangelicals.”  Many “conservatives” within the Presbyterian Church (USA) claim that we as a denomination are “apostate.”

Reluctantly, and with deep sorrow, we conclude that current renewal efforts within the Presbyterian Church (USA) are not capable of reversing the denomination’s plunge into apostasy.

– Board of Directors, The Presbyterian Lay Committee  July 4, 2006

Apostasy refers to an abandonment of the essentials of Christian faith.  Basically, they are saying that we in the PC(USA) are no longer Christian.  They are saying that I am no longer Christian.  They claim that the Bible is no longer authoritative for us (me) and that Jesus is no longer our (my) Lord and Savior.  They claim that we (I) have abandoned these essentials of our (my) faith.

Interestingly, these claims of “apostasy” always have come in the form of proclamation, publication, blog, or speech in front of an assembly.  Never once has a Presbyterian “Evangelical” said those things to me personally.  I have sat at dinner, at coffee, and even on long road trips with those who make these claims about our denomination, but they have never said it to ME.  Clearly I am a member of the “mainline” in the PCUSA.  I am not “Evangelical” as they use the word.  (I have been putting “Evangelical” in quotes because it is simply not fair that Christian “Conservatives” — whatever that means — have claimed a word that literally means “Gospel.”  I am “evangelical” in that I am saved, transformed, guided, and inspired by the Gospel.  But they don’t mean it that way…  Still, I’m not willing to give them the word, so it is in quotes to designate a particular use of the word as a self-ascribed title for conservative Christians.)  “Evangelicals” won’t tell ME that I am no longer Christian, but they will say that “the PC(USA)” has plunged into apostasy.

The boogie man doesn’t exist, dear “Evangelical” friends.  I AM a Christian.  Jesus IS my Lord and Savior.  I believe that the Bible IS the Word of God.  And you know that.

So stop calling us names.  Stop writing about “the Presbyterian Church (USA)” as apostate.  Stop making assertions about what we in the mainline of the PC(USA) believe when your claims are false.  It hurts not only us as individuals, it hurts the body of Christ.

There are lots of other Christians who do not believe exactly as you believe.  Jack Van Impe, Rod Parsley, Paul & Jan Crouch, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, and most likely the Baptist Preacher down the road.  And yet I have not seen your vitriol directed at them or their beliefs.  You don’t assert that they are “plunging into apostasy” or claim that they have wrong beliefs.  Sure, they’re not part of the “Presbyterian family,” but they ARE part of Christ’s family. 

And yet you somehow claim that I am NOT part of Christ’s family.  Or at least that because I believe that in God’s sovereignty God can call whomever God chooses to call into ministry (even if it’s not someone YOU would call) you assert that I am apostate (which is only a breath away from saying I am not a Christian).  Or that I am “plunging into apostasy” because I believe that Christ’s death on the cross was sufficient for ALL of God’s children and that it is up to God to choose who to welcome into God’s kingdom (even someone that does not profess faith in Jesus if God chooses to do that).

I can believe differently than you and still be part of the body of Christ.  I can believe differently from you and we can still be part of the same Presbyterian family.

Please, as my brother or sister in Christ, please stop calling me names.  Please stop this abusive plunge into the kind of division of the body that Paul spoke against over and over again… together we are the body of Christ.  As the body we need one another and simply must learn how to behave well with one another.  I don’t agree with your interpretaiton of Scripture, nor you with mine.  But as Christ’s own, we must clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humilty, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…  (Col. 3:12f).

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~ by Jeff P-D on October 2, 2008.

10 Responses to “Stop Calling Me “Apostate””

  1. First off, let me thank you for the disclaimer on the word “evangelical,” which I often like to claim for the same reason you say you can consider yourself “evangelical,” and it very much frustrates me that it has become the “property” of a particular group of Christians with whom I generally disagree on theo-political matters.

    I likewise agree wholeheartedly with your call to people to stop using the word “apostasy.” It does nothing to help an already tense situation, only demonstrating that fault lines which we already are very aware of have been drawn.

    Sadly, I expect that such words will fall on deaf ears when “heard” by those to whom the message is directed. Is there anything we can do to stop such abuse?

  2. Apostasy is a term that is used when people say they believe in Jesus , but reject His ways. Mormonism is an apostate religion, as is Islam. When people conclude that progressives are apostate, it’s because progressives make up their own conclusions about Christ, and reject what the New Testament has to say about beliefs.

    An instant of this ocurred in my Presbytery about a year ago. A candidate elect rejected Biblical authority and would not submit to its authority. She also would not declare Christ as Lord, nor believed that Christ is the only way to salvation. What did Presbytery do? They appointed her to her post.

    Now, you may not call that apostasy, but as far as the first Christians were concerned, it would. If we want to get back to Ancient basics and follow Christ’s code, then we need to accept that there are, as has happened in every generation of Christians, apostates in the church.

  3. Mark, thanks for your comments. Funny how Biblical words can become “property,” huh? But it does do ME some good to remember what “evangelical” or even “born again” really means, and re-embrace those terms in a more full way than the narrow ways they are typically used…

    Stushie, I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to say. I have no disagreement about the definition of “apostasy” or the fact that there are instances of apostasy. My post has to do with those disenchanted with the PC(USA) calling our denomination “apostate.” By doing so they are calling ME apostate, and that is simply not the truth. It is a tactic that tries to demonize those with whom there are disagreements. I wonder if your note isn’t a less-than-subtle way of taking a shot at me — I am assuming you would refer to me as “progressive.” I have no clue what you mean about “progressives make up their own conclusions about Christ, and reject what the New Testament has to say about beliefs.” What I would say is a word of caution… if you want to go down the road of “rejecting what the New Testament has to say about beliefs” we would have a great deal to talk about — I don’t know many who have sold their possessions or rejected their mother and brothers to follow Christ. Or do we get to “pick” which parts of the New Testament we will “reject?”

    As to the candidate to whom you refer, I don’t know what that candidate said or didn’t say. If it is as you say, then the Presbytery probably was in error to approve the candidate for ordination. I wonder how well you know our Presbyterian polity, though — Presbyteries don’t “appoint” people to “posts.”

    Just my reflections as the conversation continues…

  4. thanks for your post, jeff. very well said. i couldn’t agree more.

    and, i wondered what “post” stushie was referring to as well.

  5. This is painful to read. Bitterness from the left, bitterness from the right. Where is the healing supposed to come from?

  6. OK, Jeff. If you disbelieve that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one gets to the Father except through me,” and if you believe that Jesus is YOUR Savior, but I can reject the Gospel and still go to heaven, then you, Jeff, are an apostate. How’s that?

  7. Kozak,WHAT?!? This is absolutely the point of my post. What have I written that would lead you to assume that (as you write) I might “disbelieve” John 14:6? And how could I possibly know the mind of God regarding your salvation?

    The tone of your comment is troubling to me. It reads as though your assumption is that I believe certain things that you find objectionable. It’s as though you are trying to find fault with me. It is as though you WANT me to be “apostate.” Boy, that frightens me… that doesn’t seem to be the way the Church is supposed to behave with one another — whether we agree on theological and Biblical issues or not…

  8. Arg! This is why e-mail isn’t as good as face-to-face. You said all the “apostate” naming is general, but no one says it to you, so I did. Too snarky, obviously. Sorry. Paragraph 3 from the bottom suggests that you disbelieve John 14:6. If not, great. But we have to ask, where’s the line? No, I’m not trying to find fault, and no, I definitely don’t want you to be apostate. I do want you to understand that mutual tolerance has to have a limit somewhere. Mormons tell me they’re Christians, too, but they are beyond the line. Apostasy, heresy, etc. isn’t ever about people rejecting the Gospel. It’s always people interpreting it gradually away from the center,and over the line. Protestant seminaries are full of profs who disbelieve the Resurrection. Are they apostates? How about a post on where you personally draw the line? BTW, I’m in the ELCA.

  9. I hear Jeff as saying we need to respect each others words and not the intention or interpretation we read into them. I believe Jeff is seeking to have conversations that don’t arrive at one person condemning the other/s like Peter with Ananias but echo Jesus’ instruction that when others aren’t against us, they are for us and also the one about picking specks out of others eyes.

    By that I mean if we agree on the core issues: God the creator, sin, Jesus is Lord and Savior, Biblical authority, trinity, death, burial and resurrection, indwelling of the Spirit…then why are judging others over theories of atonement, biblical authority, or limits on salvation (to name a few). Is it really our right or duty to declare other Christians apostate? Could we instead challenge them and explain our positions? Will the western church condemn the Coptic, Orthodox or Catholic Churches? Does unity in Christ demand uniformity? I don’t believe so and I appreciate Jeff’s comments and attempt to create a space where we can talk without the condemnation. Peace, David

  10. Hi Jeff:

    I am coming late to the game on this. I didn’t know this was happening at this time. (2008?) I heard something to the effect that the PC was becoming divided, but no details. I am SO sorry that you have had to deal with this….. I think it is one of the hardest issues to deal with in a church or denomination. I certainly had to struggle with it myself when I decided to make the move from the UCC to Unity Church. Nobody said this directly to me either, although I have the feeling that some of my more conservative friends strongly believe I am “lost” from the faith. To the contrary, I feel I have found a greater depth and breadth to my faith than I had before. It must pain God so to see people do this to each other. My thoughts are with you, if this is still front and center for you.

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