The Idolatry of Holiness and the Pharisaic Impulse
Claiming that holiness can be made an idol when Scriptures enjoins holiness (1 Pet 1:16) and perfection (Matt 5:48) raises eyebrows, especially among the holiness herd. Yet, I stand fast. God has many attributes. And just as His grace and mercy cannot be made excuse to sacrifice His righteousness and justice, neither is the opposite true. Likewise, one can be so dedicated in the pursuit of personal virtue, one attains nothing beyond an insufferable rectitude, to which Cato the Elder (a.k.a. Censor) became famous and infamous in the pagan world.
Idolaters presume that they know what holiness is. Thus, the Pharisees castigated Christ for violating Sabbath laws, drinking alcohol, and keeping company with the moral trash. But behind this veneer of lofty rectitude, lurked a murderous hate towards Christ. A similar disdain is subtly and subterraneously evident among the pastors who wish to eradicate Darrin Patrick from the presence of The Journey Church.
Idolatrous pursuit of holiness stays behind the manicured boundaries of gated cultural communities. It fails to pursue the salvation of other men’s souls, because interaction with those may besmirch their own rectitude. “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor 15:33). Yet the Great Commission enjoins such intermingling. In a passage that many misconstrue and some ritualize (John 13:1–20), Jesus washes only the feet of His disciples, because they have already been made clean by His blood. However, in trudging through the filth of the world in the cause of that Great Pursuit, our feet will invariably be muddied more than otherwise would be the case.
Idolatrous pursuit of holiness mistakes suffocating moralism and theological purity for spiritual vitality. Such chase away the often troubled, but most learned, intense, and passionate about Christ. Such become more offended by the words that are used to describe them than in the aptness of the description. Such often pride themselves as prayer warriors. But if one is unwilling to be the sacrificial conduit in the fulfillment of those prayers, those mumbles are but one long and tedious liturgical blasphemy.
I am wearied by those whose eyes are aghast at “weak” brethren who unabashedly enjoy alcohol; who mistake business attire for virtue and competence; who perceive the CBC and PBS as venues of hard porn; who think that Andy Stanley’s “Guardrails” is a fabulous means for gospel outreach to the local downtrodden. I kid you not. Such things still exist even in metropolitan areas.
I would rather cavort with the Falstaffs and flaming queens of the world than the proverbial church ladies. The former are certainly more entertaining. They wear their souls on their sleeves and are far more generous of spirit. Is it not interesting that The Lesbian, otherwise known as Jodie Foster, showed more loyalty to arch-Romanist Mel Gibson than those New Calvinist scumbags who couldn’t disown Mark Driscoll fast enough!
Besides, dark ale tastes far better than orange pekoe. But alas, my own problem is that the moment I open my literate mouth, I alienate.
High Standard for Elders
In the midst of the Driscoll scandal, I acquired several church documents from the Mars Hill website, one of which was titled Church Discipline in the Bible. Be it true, although I really don’t know, that Mark Driscoll is overbearing. Be it true, and this we do know, that Mark Driscoll possesses licentious lips. And be it true that his book Real Marriage was a sad travesty; not because of the sixth chapter on sex, which is not significantly different in in the particulars from the LaHaye’s The Act of Marriage (1976); and less because of the use of publicists to pump up phantom sales. The greatest sin was in exposing the sexual tastes of his wife, when women cannot fully and unashamedly ravish their lovers (Prov 5:18–9) without dwelling in the psychological safety of confidentiality.
Nevertheless, Church Discipline in the Bible was the best barometric indicator of what was wrong with Mars Hill. Perhaps because of high vision, a vice from which I too suffer; the philosophy of church discipline exceeded scriptural grounds and blasphemously usurped the role of the Spirit in order to whip, whack, and thump Driscoll’s fellow elders and members into shape. Like ancient Spartan society, those who fail to make his holier-than-God grade were quickly run under the bus.
Scriptures are clear. Whether in the Old (Deut 4:2) or the New Testament (Rev 22:18–9), we are neither to practicably add nor subtract from the balanced word of God with regard to those things that the church may discipline its members and elders. To transgress scriptural boundaries results in toxic psychic suffocation, sclerosis in innovation (and yes God enjoins innovation within the boundaries of His Word, especially in the ongoing and never-ending battle with the nefarious forces of this cosmos), and schism. To timidly fall short leads to latitudinal ideological and ethical chaos and wolves swarming into and conquering the Commanding Heights of that church.
The motto High Standard for Elders becomes practicable excuse for violating strict adherence to the Word. In subjective and capricious application of those general principles in First Timothy 3 and Titus 1, moralist wolves, usually donning conservative and nowadays feminist attire, are able to overthrow spiritual vitality in the church. The pursuit for gracious holiness gives way to toxic rectitude and creedal orthodoxy. The church becomes no safer than the tooth and claw rat race in corporate and governmental circles. The development of independent, mature Christian minds as “shrewd as serpents” (Matt 10:16), surrenders to a derivative conformity. (Case in point, the April 17, 2016 sermons at the six The Journey churches, four of which, so far, were labelled “In the Storm.”) Arrogant, strident, vengeful, and unscrupulous clerics are able to lawyerly exploit the surfeit of anthropogenic rules and regulations to denigrate and eradicate their perceived adversaries.
Limit church discipline to that specifically designated in Scriptures. Leave the rest to God.
Is Moral Failure Less Evil and Harmful than Horrible Counsel?
It is no secret to my very, very limited private circle that I often think that modern seminarian training summarily and automatically disqualifies a seminarian from the pulpit. As one seminarian expressed to me when I gave thought to the idea of attending, students are merely required to regurgitate the current, often anthropogenic and corrupt, orthodoxy of the day. Unlike the well-rounded knowledge and wisdom of many a 17th century Puritan, the narrow focus, the necessary conformity to current ecclesiastical cant, and encouraged censorious restriction to Christian sources of knowledge, makes these seminarians often worthless. If there exists a seminarian who is otherwise, it is in spite of his training, not because of it.
I am and have always been committed to the supremacy of Scriptures. I have practicably taken biblical inerrancy to a degree well beyond what these guardians of orthodoxy feign; and thereby have become an iconoclast in a sea of theological and ecclesiastical corruption; even a heretic to these heretics In being acquainted with secular sources of knowledge, I realize how much the Scriptures specifically speaks against the ideas that emanate from those sources. Indeed, many Scriptures only become alive because of this external knowledge. In such engagement, my faith has become so thoroughly enmeshed that I could not lose it without totally losing my mind.
But in the ignorance and imbecility of our modern seminarians, horribly bad counsel abounds. And those who actually practice faith; that is in predicating their lives upon the truths that they subscribe to, often suffer from deep spiritual and psychological tumult as consequence of predicating their lives upon bad counsel. So which is lesser of the two evils; good counsel given by a pastor while in a drunken state, or the sheep shit that is condescendingly pontificated from ivory tower seminarians of highest rectitude?