Friday, June 30, 2006

Controversial Things

Last week I offered an open thread for things to discuss. I will now weigh in on those things.

Church Conflict

Josh suggested, "Some people aren't happy without trouble and controversy in their church because that kind of activity is the only thing that passes for "life." What does it mean if a church member is looking for strife?"

Honestly, Josh, I've not really known those people yet. But I would punch them in the face and deny them the sacrament.

And that's why I'd be a great priest.

But seriously, I wonder if that's one of the pitfalls (keeping in mind that this is a human brokenness thing for a start) of an ultra-democratic church polity. In my experience of Baptist life, for instance, there's almost no practice of a binding spiritual authority saying to someone, "You don't get to do what you're doing. Stop it or there will be serious consequences for your life in Christ's Church." I think that's a problem.

Mind you, one would have to be pastoral - seriously. People who do that are messed up and need healing, and I do believe that this is to be found in the fellowship of Christ and his Church - but it is the urgency and reality of the healing that insists we cannot let people behave however they wish.

See also my thoughts on excommunication.

Doin' the Limbo

Robbie suggested, "what about babies in limbo? People get freaked out when you say they don't go to heaven."

Robbie is referring to common Roman Catholic conjecture on the fate of unbaptized babies, rather than the popular party game. While this is surprising to some Protestants, it has never been an official doctrine of the Church, and Benedict XVI has recently moved to push it out of the picture in a formal way. The official teaching of the Roman Church is that unbaptized babies (along with all those who have not heard the gospel) are commended to the mysterious ways of a merciful God. The bottom line is, "we don't know, but we know that God loves us very very much." And when you really believe that God loves people, I think that can be good enough.

You can find some media coverage here:

NPR Audio: Catholic Doctrine on Limbo and Baptism Revisited
Kenneth Woodward, Wall Street Journal: Stuck in the Middle No More (HT: TitusOneNine)

Protestants, Gremlins, and other supernatural creatures invented to frighten children

Ben asks about "Christians, particularly protestants, who seek or claim to seek unity yet divide and multiply more than Gremlins."

Hmm. That one's outside my experience. I never met a Protestant very interested in unity. Hee hee!


Chris offered, "Toilet paper rolls with the initial sheet hanging on the inside or outside - nothing quite fires up a crowd like that one!!"

I have no idea what the difference could possibly be, or why anyone would care. Anybody else?

Anyway, the floor is open on all of the above...


J Hearne said...

That was hardly controversial. Deny something important! Over-simplify some difficult concept! Make a crude joke about something sacred!

By the way, toilet paper is best when the initial sheet hangs on the outside.

There you go.

#Debi said...

After years of scientific research, conducted by myself in my own lav, I concur with Mr. Hearne...

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Your thoughts on church discipline (excommunication) interest me.

If sinners need healing, then we need to keep them within the fellowship of the Church, where they might find it.

On the other hand, some sins would seem, by nature, to put one outside the fellowship of the Church. (You allude to the obvious example, the instance of incest discussed in 1Co. 5.) Excommunication merely makes explicit a breach that occurred when the individual sinned.

But this amounts to a dubious sort of bad cop / good cop routine. The good cop says, "Hang in there with us and we'll work through the issue with you." The bad cop says, "Live like a Christian or we'll toss you into the gutter where you belong."

They are completely contrary options.

My own suspicion is that excommunication is ineffectual, if the goal is to provoke someone to repentance. In fact, I'm not sure what *is* effective in inducing repentance.

Jim said...

One of things that really led to my leaving Baptist life was that idea of the ultra democratic way of life and the unfortunate (unnecessary?) consequence of this idea of mutual accountability. Because everyone is "mutually accountable" to one another it really seemed to become that no one was accountable to anyone at all. You don't try to correct me and I won't try to correct you. Bring in whatever crazy ideas and teachings you want, after all it's not like you're required to hold to any creeds or confessions (except the ones that say you will abstain from alcohol....anyone remember agreeing to that church covenant hanging in the front?)

As for excommunication, I think our natural tendency is to not like it because we want to "save" that other person. I just question whether an extreme action like that was intended to save the offendiing person or to protect the Church. Could this in some way be a method God has chosen to protect his people? Could it accomplish both at the same time?

Now to the controversial subject. Anyone with common sense (i.e.- owns cats) knows that after the kitties are finished in the bathroom they discover that the toilet paper roll makes an excellent plaything. Therefore, in the interests of not coming home to a pile of de-rolled paper on the floor every day, the initial sheet must hang on the inside.

Let the controversy continue....

Katey said...

Kyle, you just left! You just left and didn't say bye, or give people that you'd been living with hugs or anything.... you poop.

Naw, I'm just playing. I do hope that you have a good time at you new place with "the Jesse" and all.

Love & Peace

Kyle said...

Josh and Debi, I concede to the experts.

Though Jim makes a good point about the kitties. And the other stuff too. Welcome, man, and thanks for contributing!

Katey, it's not like I'm leaving!

Stephen (Q), I agree with you wholeheartedly that "If sinners need healing, then we need to keep them within the fellowship of the Church, where they might find it."

I also hope that excommunication as I tried to talk about it doesn't amount to that "good cop/bad cop" routine. If it does, I certainly need to rethink it!

Excommunication ought not to be punitive, but carry with it the clear message that the subject belongs in the fellowship of the Church. I'm not talking about additions, or mental illness, or even many habitual sins - I'm talking about flagrant abuse of others in the community for which one is unrepentant and continues to perform.

Parents who kick out a pregnant daughter? That's a matter for pastoral counseling, like most things. The goal is to move with people past such flagrant sins against the community, but it is a sin against the community, it is destructive to human life, and the new life that God and the Body of Christ seek to nurture. To continue in cruelty is a dire matter, and in dealing with something like that, (or maybe a wife-beater?) must keep excommunication in mind.

Could we justify "hanging with someone" indefinately while they continue in behaviors that are malicious and deliberately destructive of other people?

And yes, unless everyone pays a price for belonging and pays a price for someone's leaving, excommunication is ineffectual and is not consistant with our corporate formation.

Does that make any more sense?

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Thanks for clarifying. I certainly agree that someone who is abusing others in the community would have to be removed from fellowship.

I also appreciate your emphasis on communicating that these folks belong in the community.