Thursday, May 18, 2006


Who Then Is My Brother?

Yesterday, Challies responded to a post by Joe Carter on Andrew Sullivan and concluded with these words
As I understand it, then, because of Sullivan's unrepentant behavior, and because he has deliberately avoided placing himself within a true church, the proper context for all believers, I feel that we have no obligation to assume that he is a true believer. Of course this does not necessarily mean that he is unsaved. By God's grace he may be. Neither you nor I can know for certain. But neither do we bear the obligation of assuming that he is a brother in Christ.
Then as I undertsand it, I have no Christian brethren whatsoever.

Consider the two criteria that Challies has established. First, unrepentant behavior - who amongst us does not at this moment practice some sin in a completely unrepentant fashion? Truly that sin may not be as spectacular as Sullivan's blatant homosexuality, but is the measure to be merely spectacle? If there is an issue with Sullivan as a Christian brother, it is not his unrepentance, but rather his defiance - his attempts to change the biblical standard. But is even that enough to discharge him from the "brother in Christ" designation?

Think about your particular unrepentant sin. How many rationalizations have you used as you repeat that pattern of behavior day-after-day? How many times have you told yourself, "Oh that's not really what that scripture means"?

If you ask me, unrepentant sin, even defiance, is part-and-parcel of Christian brotherhood, and not an excluding factor. Two scriptures come to mind
John 8:7 - But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him {be the} first to throw a stone at her."

Matt 23:13 - But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
As to Challies second criteria for disqualification from brotherhood, participation in a true church, I hardly know where to begin.

Challies agruement is based on the fact that Sullivan is Catholic and Catholics do not hold to the solas. I am getting pretty sick-and-tired of people that do not think Catholics are Christians. I don't agree with Catholics on a lot of things, I don't agree with their theology, and they have historically made some enormous boo-boos, but so what? I haven't found a church yet that wasn't somehow flawed theologically and historically. Obviously I am not Tim's Christian brother because while founded on Calvinism, such is pretty hard to find in the PC(USA) these days, and you want to talk about historical mistakes! - we've made some doozies - Heck we're making them RIGHT NOW!
Rom 14:9-13 - For to this end Christ died and lived again that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.
Andrew Sullivan could not be more wrong, but then neither can the rest of us at some point or another. When I have been so wrong, it has been being part of the brotherhood that gave me correction and restored my faith. Excommunication would have only left me to wallow in my wrongness.

I remain amazed every time I read the gospels. Christ reserved His harshest criticisms not for publicans and sinners, but for scribes and Pharisees. I think there is a lesson in that - don't you?

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