I’m thinking of starting a new church. I’ll call it the Opt-Out Church. This is just what people are seeking — you can opt out of the parts you don’t want.
Does the church tell you that you shouldn’t commit adultery because the Bible forbids it? Seems rather awkward if you’ve been cheating on your spouse, doesn’t it? That’s ok, this church also tells you it is ok to opt out if you want. See how it works? We’re telling you the truth, it is still sin, but giving you permission to opt out.
You’d hate to think that the church would expect you to read your Bible — but you don’t need to worry, because the Opt-Out Church says you can just discard that part of it. Sure, it is wrong to stop reading your Bible, but it is ok for you to opt out.
If you want to cheat your employer, the Opt-Out Church says it is really your decision. That whole thing about what the Bible says? Well, we’ll say that robbing your employer is sin, but you can still opt out of that if honesty isn’t part of your “journey of faith.”
Giving to the needs of the ministry, and to the poor? You know, some people really just need to opt out of that because there are things to buy. This church will tell you that neglecting those responsibilities is sinful, but if you want to opt out of the whole giving thing, well, we guess that’s ok. The sin doesn’t count for you — you’ve opted out.
Sure, the Bible says that thankfulness is something God requires, and the Opt-Out Church will be sure to let you know He said so, but then say it is ok for you to grumble and complain because your situation is different. Just opt out of that “in everything give thanks” thing. Let’s be real, you aren’t wired that way. This opt out is for you.
Church attendance? That whole “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together” thing is in the Bible, for sure, so God expects you to join together for worship and fellowship, but really, if it’s too difficult, you can ALWAYS opt-out and drop by once every couple of months. Of course, the church will tell you the truth about this, but if you want to opt out of this part, this church is cool with that.
I hope this works, but I’m not sure. For some reason, people think an Opt-Out Church lacks moral authority or credibility. No one thinks it really cares about the Bible. No one thinks they have to listen to that church — if the Opt-Out Church’s own members have been told it is ok to Opt Out of the parts they don’t want, then surely everyone else can opt out of what they want, too.
In fact, if it is ok for church members to just disobey what God says, then the whole story of the Gospel is suspect, isn’t it? Rather than this whole thing about the Cross and the Son of God dying to take punishment for our sins, we can just opt out, can’t we? We can choose to obey the things that come easy for us, opt out of the rest, and we’ll have perfect obedience, right? So that thing about the Cross and the blood of Christ and all that other stuff becomes superfluous, just an inspirational story, really.
By now most of my readers know about the Church of Scotland and the ludicrous “opt out” provision. The Kirk rendered itself a moral joke. They affirm the traditional teaching that sexual relations are only for within heterosexual marriage, but say Kirk sessions can opt out. “It’s sin, but go ahead and opt out if you want.” So you can ordain practicing homosexuals to “the ministry” while still affirming that what they are doing is sin. Opt-Out Kirk.
One LGBT advocate had the sense to say this: “It is not merely an untidy compromise, it is ecclesiastically and theologically incoherent.” Inanity for the sake of “unity,” I guess.
Most of my readers aren’t in the Church of Scotland. About all we can do is shake our heads at the fact that the Kirk worships its own “unity” and institution more than it worships God. So let’s pause a moment, shake our heads at that, and then move to something more profitable.
What about us? Where are we choosing to “opt out” (whether our church approves or not)? Which Biblical commands or prohibitions have we decided simply don’t apply, and we can ignore them if it pleases us?
When we finish shaking our heads over the Kirk, maybe we’d better look at that head in the mirror — we might need to shake it at ourselves. After all, the Kirk’s decline did not start when someone decided homosexuality should be accepted by the Church of Scotland. That decline started way back, with small actions ignoring Scripture, small actions that grew into bigger and bigger ones.
An “opt-out” approach to following the Lord puts us on the same path. We might never support homosexual ministers, but that is not the real sin. The great sin is to decide it is acceptable to disobey Scripture. Whether our “opt-out” is homosexuality or some other sin, it is a direction away from God. That’s a bumpy road with an ugly end.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Jon, that’s the way to grow your congregation, the opt-out way. How grieved must our Lord be as He looks over the landscape of Christianity (I use this term Biblically and not how it is used today to refer to pretty much anything under the sun).
Yes, Brian, I’m sure He is grieved. Even churches which haven’t done as the Kirk have drifted from the Word in so many ways. May He give us grace to remain faithful.
As one brought up in the Kirk, and who was in a church which self-destructed over whether homosexual activity was or was not sinful, this was for me a sad and painful decision by the General Assembly. I believe that the problem is a pretty basic problem, as Jon explained above, of the authority of Scripture. If we can pick and choose which Scriptures we obey and which we ignore, then we do not say that Scripture is The Word of God. Inspired by God, yes, approved by God, yes, but we do not give it the final authority over our lives both individually and corporately that the we ought. While the ‘slippery slope’ argument is often ridiculed by those who wish to push through some seemingly insignificant change, there are always those who would try to take a mile if given even on thousandth of an inch. I cannot remember who said that when you go against two thousand years of church teaching, you are either an intellectual giant or you are wrong. I am not aware of any intellectual giants in the Church who are supporting this move.
Hello, Fred. “Inspired by God, yes, approved by God, yes, but we do not give it the final authority” — you said so much there. We’ll hear these nice theological terms about the Word, but actually giving it final authority is another matter.
The thing is, whether that “seemingly insignificant change” leads to a slippery slope or not, it is the same sin as the “big ones” — rejecting Biblical authority.
Intellectual giants — that reminds me of this: “Mr Bogle insisted his motion was not a delaying tactic but a way of giving the Church more time to move forward together.” (http://www.christiantoday.com/article/church.of.scotland.allows.congregations.to.choose.gay.ministers/32577.htm). I’m not an intellectual giant, either, but I know that the semantic difference between “delaying tactic” and “giving more time” is extremely slim.